Saturday, April 08, 2006

Just the Flax, Ma'am

Saturday, April 8, 6:00 AM. Surveillance indicates that the suspect, though obviously tired, is heading into the kitchen to bake. Despite recent protestations that she hasn't baked bread very often this year, she appears to have developed a compulsive habit in recent weeks of starting the weekend with a batch of yeast dough.

Suspect boils water, sets out bowls and ingredients, starts to measure. A closer look reveals that she has her cookbook open to a recipe for Rosemary Garlic Focaccia, but she does not appear to be following it to the letter. This, too, is a recent change in her baking behavior.

She mixes local whole wheat flour, ground and whole organic flax seeds, salt, dried thyme, and an unmarked dried herb (later investigations reveal this to be dill from her garden) in one bowl and adds organic olive oil and hot water. In a smaller bowl she mixes yeast and Sucanat with boiled water that has cooled to lukewarm. She retires to the living room for breakfast while the yeast proofs.

6:30 AM. Suspect returns to the kitchen, adds yeast mixture to flour mixture, stirs, adds more wheat flour, stirs, sprinkles flour on the counter and turns dough out. She kneads the dough vigorously for 7 or 8 minutes, pats the dough into a boule, covers it with a towel.

7:45 AM. After doing other chores around the house, suspect returns to the kitchen to wash dishes. Notes size and consistency of dough. Washes dishes quickly, dried plastic dough cutter, presses down dough, cuts it into 8 pieces. Suspect pulls out baking sheet and dusts it with local cornmeal. Shapes dough into small boules, sets them on sheet, coats them with olive oil and dusts them with cornmeal. Turns on oven, cleans counter.

When oven is ready and dough has risen slightly, suspect puts rolls in to bake for 30 minutes.

8:45 AM. Suspect has removed rolls from oven and set them to cool on rack. Moments later, she pulls a saucer from the cupboard, breaks open one steaming roll, drizzles it with golden olive oil, eats, smiles blissfully.

(Surveillance report was terminated at this point as the detective on the case was invited to partake in the baked good in question, thus compromising objectivity. Clearly this disturbing pattern of making homemade bread constitutes a potential threat to consumers' equilibrium as well as to the economy and should be monitored closely. That is to say... er... hmm, this is good bread. Perhaps the suspect should be charged with not making these rolls more publicly available...)

Herb Flaxseed Rolls

The memory of the delectable thyme-scented loaf that the incomparably sassy Spicyflower brought me at Christmas has lingered on, so I decided to take my old favorite, Rosemary Garlic Focaccia (found years ago on an Internet discussion list for vegetarians), and modify it to add a little more crunch (flax) and some different herbs. Thyme, dill, and celery seed all have mild savory flavors that work well together, but you might try combinations like basil-oregano, thyme-orange peel, or mint-chive.

1 T yeast
1/2 tsp Sucanat
1 1/4 c warm water
1/3 c ground flaxseeds
1/4 c whole flaxseeds
1 c unbleached bread flour
2 or more c whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp celery seed
3 T extra virgin olive oil
some cornmeal for dusting the baking sheets
more extra virgin olive oil

Mix the yeast and Sucanat into 1/2 c warm water and let stand until foaming.

Mix flax meal and seeds, unbleached flour, half of the whole wheat flour, salt, and herbs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the yeast free water and olive oil and mix well. Stir in the yeast mixture. Add remaining flour and knead on a floured countertop until stiff and resilient, about ten minutes. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let rise in a warm (not hot) area until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough and knead for about a minute, then cut dough into six to ten pieces, depending on how large you want your rolls. Shape pieces into round balls, tucking the edges underneath.

Lightly grease a baking sheet with extra virgin olive oil, dust with cornmeal, and place rolls on sheet. Very lightly coat the dough with more olive oil, dust with a little cornmeal, and let rise until doubled again, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake 30 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Makes 6-10 rolls


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