Happy new year everyone! The last month of 2012 passed me in a flurry of activity and before I could catch my breath, a new year had snuck up on me. Transition is never easy. While we look forward to new beginnings, new hopes and dreams in the new year, we also mourn the things that have yet to be achieved and the hopes that are yet to be fulfilled in the past year. Maybe that’s why we make new year resolutions, because it makes us feel better knowing that we are trying (at least!) to do something about the things we failed to do in the previous year.
What are your new year resolutions? To be honest, I’ve yet to formulate mine. But I do know one motto I want to live by this year with regards to food: eat simply, but well. To me, a good bowl of tomato soup with freshly baked bread is way more satisfying than an elaborate ten course Chinese meal with expensive delicacies. We don’t have to eat a lot, or spend a lot, to be healthy, happy, human beings. What our bodies and souls need, is to be filled with the right things. And for me, that means simple, honest, gimmick-free food that tastes good and is good. This new year, I hope to share more recipes that abide by this philosophy so that you too can experience the joy of simple eating.
For the first recipe of the year, I decided to share a bread recipe. Why? Because bread represents life in a very profound way. Wheat must first die, before its seeds can be made into flour. Flour is then mixed with yeast (leaven) to make bread dough, which is alive. In fact, the term “proofing” bread means to prove that the yeast, and hence the dough, is alive. This living dough, then dies once again in the oven, transforming into a loaf of baked bread which gives us life when we eat it. To me, that’s what life is… a jumbled mix of death and life, joy and sorrow, hope and surrender. If you found that somewhat inspiring, you probably want to watch master bread baker Peter Reinhart in this TED video which made me cry. Yes, that’s right… hearing him talk about the transformational process by which wheat becomes bread moved me so much I cried. Ok, quit laughing. Watch it and you might too.
This is a very simple soft dinner roll recipe which I coated with a mix of white and black sesame seeds. You can leave it plain, or top it with pumpkin seeds or coarse sea salt too. I made these for friends over Xmas and New Year’s Day and they loved it. I suspect it’s because it’s one of those things that ain’t fancy but just plain and simply good.
Sesame Bread Roll
Yields: 10 rolls
300g bread flour
5g instant yeast
10g milk powder
35g butter, room temperature
130ml water, warm
1. Scale everything except butter into mixing bowl. Using a mixer with dough attachment, knead at low speed for 3 minutes.
2. Turn mixer up to medium speed and add butter in. Knead for 6 minutes, then mix on high speed for 2 minutes.
3. Transfer dough into a bowl slightly greased with oil. Clingwrap and leave in a warm place for ~ 90 minutes until it has doubled.
4. Transfer to floured work surface and punch down bread. Then divide into 10 portions of 55g each.
5. Roll each portion into a round ball. Brush top of the roll with some water and then dip in a mixture of salt, white and black sesame seeds.
6. Place on tray and let it proof in a warm place for ~ 1 hr.
7. Bake at 320 F for ~ 12-15 min.
8. Cool, and enjoy with butter!
With that, I leave you with Peter Reinhart’s baker’s blessing for the new year:
May your crust be crisp, and your bread always rise!