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befriending yeast

September 28, 2011

Not too long ago, I would take on any baking challenge… as long as it didn’t involve yeast. I was terrified of the stuff. It seemed too needy, too particular about its environment, and too prone to not acting the way it was supposed to. I liked the reliability of a recipe that didn’t ask more of me than having baking soda or baking powder on hand. I admit, I was pretty comfortable with my “I don’t do yeast” stance for a great many years. But then a funny thing happened to change all that. His name is EJ, and he loves bread. That he is getting more accomplished by the day at providing for our daily bread intake with the homemade variety, could be the end of the story, because I’ll admit to being perfectly content that he is developing this skillset for us. Beyond bread, however, is his love of a particular type of Danish roll that we both grew up on. Called simply “boller” (rolls), we both have fond memories of the cardamom variety being ever-present for afternoon or evening coffee/tea. When I uncovered that little nugget of information in 2009, I vowed I’d master those darn cardamom rolls, yeast be damned. With mom’s help (and an old Danish recipe), I conquered my fear of yeast (and baking in a foreign language), perfected those boller, and wooed him with perfectly risen rolls. I’ll admit that it is sometimes stressful to follow recipes in my second language, and infinitely moreso when I’m baking at a time of day when I can’t just call home for guidance. The Danish recipes have a tendency to assume a higher level of proficiency than many of their American counterparts. They won’t, for example,  caution you against heating your milk to too high a temp lest you kill the yeast, or that the sugar should be added to the yeast mixture instead of with the dry ingredients. That, apparently, is where mom’s coaching (and a lifetime of watching her do it) comes in. That it all happens in a mix of Danish and English is something I’d love to record, if only I could get over my reluctance to hear my own voice.

The biggest upside of that early boller-win? I’ve not only been more and more willing to delve into the world of baking with yeast, I’m more (apologies in advance for this) hungry to master the recipes from the Danish cookbooks I’ve been collecting since college. So willing, in fact, that just yesterday I took on a recipe for carrot bread. We’d never had it before, but we had some carrots left over from the weekend’s market haul, and the picture of them in one of our new “Karoline’s Køkken” recipebooks (Thanks Anna!) looked amazing. So…. Carrots. in bread. that isn’t sweet. and doesn’t have cream cheese frosting.  I’m happy to report the yeast didn’t fail me, the recipe was great (though I’d add seeds next time I think), and we have an entire batch of rolls to go with the leftover squash soup for tonight’s dinner.

Edited to add the recipe (translated & with substitutions for ingredients we can’t get here, but still in metric measures. I tend to not transpose to American measures as my stove, kitchen scale and measuring cups are bilungual, but I’ll certainly give it a shot next time around.)

Carrot Rolls

  • 50 grams butter
  • 4 dl milk
  • 1 dl kefir
  • 50 grams yeast (cake yeast)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 150 grams shredded carrots (2 – 3 medium sized carrots)
  • 50 grams wheat bran
  • 800 grams flour*
  • 1 egg, beaten

Baking time: About 20 minutes at 200°C (approx. 400°F)

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add milk (heat only until the chill is just off the milk). Pour mixture into a mixing bowl and add the kefir. Stir the yeast & sugar into the butter/milk mixture. Add the remaining ingredients together and knead until all of the flour is incorporated. (I cheat here and use the kitchen aid with the dough hook attachment. work great). It’s a fairly sticky/wet dough; do NOT give into the temptation to add extra flour to made it more smooth. Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a dish towel (or greased plastic wrap), and set it someplace warm for approximately 1 hour (until it doubles in size).  Take the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it well.  Divide the dough into 20 pieces and shape them into small rolls. Place them on a parchment covered baking sheet, cover and let them rise again for approximately 20 minutes.  Just before you put them into the oven, brush with egg. Bake at 400° (in the middle of the oven) for approximately 20 minutes.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2011 7:45 pm

    Next challenge: sourdough. Right? You should publish the recipe for the cardamom rolls; they sound wonderful. And maybe translate the carrot bread recipe too? (Am I asking too much?!?)

    • September 29, 2011 9:30 am

      Thanks Gretchen! I updated the post to include a translated recipe. Let me know if you try it out. The cardamom recipe is definitely on my list to share, it’s too good to keep to ourselves. (as for the sourdough… I think I’ll let EJ tackle that one. I’m still trying to transition from using friendly cake yeast to the somewhat persnickety dry variety.)

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