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My name is Lucy and I have never blogged before. Well that's a lie. I have, but it was this one, and I neglected it for a little while... I live in a commuter town outside London having moved here about a year and a half ago after making some pretty big changes in my life. I share a beautiful little cottage on the Grand Union Canal with 1 crazy beautiful little girl and an equally crazy cat called Bandit (appropriately named as he now lives in all the houses on the street and steals...). Lawyer/working mum and it would appear, terminally single (I've reserved my spinster plaque already) I was fortunate to escape the evil commute about a year ago but seem to have less time than ever.... If I entertain you, make you laugh or fume (or make you have an emotion of ANY description) then my job is done. Enjoy x

Friday, 20 January 2012

Please rise!

This Christmas morning, having opened all of our presents and waiting for the little one to slowly (painfully slowly) work her way though the mountain of presents her grandparents had bought her, my mother-in-law called us for breakfast.  What greeted us was an enormous tray of enormous pumpkin cinnamon rolls.  They were hot (fresh from the oven) sticky, sweet, gooey and incredibly naughty - the kind of treat that makes you gain about 5lbs simply by smelling them.

Point is, they were crazy good.

I said before my mother-in-law is a good baker, well that doesn't stop with cakes.  She's also particularly good with breads.  I, however, am particularly rubbish with breads....

Bread: A catalogue of failures:

1.  About a week ago I made a very nice bit of broccoli soup for my dad and sister and attempted to make some foccacia with it.  We had a packet of foccacia bread mix (the "just add water" variety) so I figured it would be pretty tough to muck it up and the end result would be me looking like the perfect little housewife.  Things did not go to plan.  I made up the mix and put the dough in the airing cupboard to rise.  I came back an hour later and NOTHING had happened.  Being my usual impatient self I just shoved it in the oven and hoped the heat might kick start something.  It didn't and whilst it smelled really good it was like a brick.  When I served it I said it was unleavened bread and they appeared to buy the little white lie (it still tasted good).  On closer inspection I later discovered that the packet said "Best Before June 2010" so this may have been the root of the problem.

2.  On another occasion I attempted to make french baguettes.  I bought a great pan from William Sonoma my favourite store  (oh my god they deliver to the UK now, girl clap!), got very excited and set everything up to do some baking.  They looked good, they rose, they smelled good but then I tasted them.  Salt.  Lots of salt.  I have no idea what happened to this day but all I know is that the bread tasted like an overly salted pretzel.  It was still edible but wasn't really what I was aiming for.  I was going for a "du pain, du vin, du boursin" type moment and instead got a "hoo-ee y'all it tastes good with Heluva Onion Dip" type moment.

These may be just 2 examples, but I already had the fear in me about my bread making abilities.  The problem was that the husband loved the pumpkin cinnamon rolls and with his birthday fast approaching (and as previously mentioned rather strangely he doesn't like cake) I knew they would be a good thing to make as a substitute birthday cake.  However, I sucked it up and decided I'd try it.  I'd also shot myself in the foot and bigged it up at work promising to bring some in so the stakes were now pretty high.

Again, this is one of my M-i-L's recipes and she would prefer me not to publish it so instead of rambling on like I did last time with the cookies I figured I'd talk through the process.  I also took a bunch of pictures when things started going right as I was so excited about it (I am fully aware of how pathetic that sounds).  And I guess revealing certain ingredients isn't against the rule, I mean everyone knows bread has yeast in it!

Step 1 - mixing the ingredients to make the dough and first proving 
I have an amazing Kitchen aid mixer however its American so has an American plug.  Even using a step down we have had a couple of casualties with our American electricals, big ticket items too, including my beloved Dyson and our PC (smoke actually came out of the back of the PC).  I am now terrified to even attempt to plug my Kitchen aid in.  Anyway, the whole point is that I had to mix by hand and was paranoid that it wouldn't mix well.  The dough was quite sticky because of the sugars and pudding mix (this usually helps keep whatever you're baking stay moist - no giggling please!) so was difficult to mix by hand but it finally came together (mixing was also tricky with my 2yr old "helper" who wanted to help pour ingredients in whilst providing a running commentary).  With great trepidation I put the dough in the airing cupboard and held my breath for an hour and a half.  I have to say, I was almost hoping that it wouldn't rise so I could add it to my list of bread failures but...
Ta daaaaa!
Step 2 - Rolling out the dough and second proving
It was going well!  Now I was paranoid that I'd knock the air out of in in the rolling.

I punched the dough down and freaked out that the dough was too sticky but chucked a load of flour on the board and hoped for the best.  I then attempted to roll the dough into a rectangle of sorts, brushed melted butter all over the rectangle and sprinkled a mixture of cinnamon and sugar all over it.  
Yes, this does look like dough with dirt sprinkled all over it
(nothing but the best for my family!)

Starting at the back long side (don't ask me why I didn't start from the front, looking at it here that clearly seems more logical) I rolled the dough into a log (next time I do make the rolls I'm going to roll the dough out on baking paper so I can just pull the paper forward to help roll the dough more easily).  The recipe said to pinch the edge to seal the dough but the flour really didn't want this to happen to it didn't work great.

Next I cut the log in half and then each half into 3 pieces.  I placed the pieces in a buttered dish and reintroduced the dough to the airing cupboard.  Having decided that this time they definitely wouldn't rise I was again pleasantly surprised....

After spending time with the towels

Step 3 - off to the oven!
Then it was off to the oven whilst I set my hands to the cinnamon icing and resisting the urge not to just eat the bowl of icing.  The icing was more of a spreading consistency so as soon as the rolls came out of the oven I spread the icing all over the rolls.

Step 4 - Lick the icing bowl, the whisk, the spatula and eat an enormous piece of cinnamon roll
And there you have it, ooey, gooey and going straight to your hips!

The verdict was pretty good all round - husband ate them, Posie ate them and the guys at work ate all but a corner of a piece from the tray I took in.  So its official, I CAN make bread.  Maybe I'll try iced buns next?


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