Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Recipes from Fish Camp: Don's Broetchen

Has anyone ever met a carbohydrate they didn't like? Certainly not anyone in my family, and my uncle Donald is the king when it comes to making tasty, yeasty, yummy treats. Each Thanksgiving at least one person burns their fingers on his rolls because they grabbed them straight from the oven, and for the past two years his contribution to camp cuisine has come in the form of broetchen. "Broetchen" rhymes with "Gretchen," which gives a clue as to the treat's German origin. They're "little bread," or rolls, and they are tasty, good with jam or meats or any other way you want to use them.

Now, my uncle has been baking bread from scratch for years and years, so it's hard to communicate the "feel" of bread dough that is properly ready. That comes with experience, but in the meantime we have his rambling recipe to help us along. I've boldfaced the ingredients to help you pick them out.
  1. Begin with two cups of warm skim milk
    • I actually use powdered milk and enough of it (usually almost 1 cup) to make almost a quart of (reconstituted) milk, but in only the two cups of warm water; result: extra rich milk
  2. Add 1 package dried yeast  (or about 1½ tsp. dried yeast if you buy it in bulk, as I do)
  3. Let yeast stand in warm milk base for 5 minutes (or lots longer, for that matter)
  4. Add 1 teaspoon (or slightly more) salt
  5. Add 2 Tbl sugar ...... mix well, and then you are ready for flour
  6. Add approx. 3 cups bread flour; mix well (until you have like a thick slurry)
  7. Mix in 2 Tbl oil (corn or canola or olive or grape or whatever .... the batches I made for vacation in the UP even had a tiny dab of cod liver oil)
  8. Add  2 more cups of flour ... work it in as well as you can ... turn the mass out on counter top, kneading in more flour (up to maybe a cup more) until dough is is softly pliable, a mass which won't stick to your fingers
  9. Let rise for an hour (or longer; it doesn't matter)
  10. Punch the dough! Then cut the punched down mass of dough in half, and the halves in half, and those quarters in thirds ... until you have lumps of dough about the size of an extra-large egg (there should be about 12 of them)  
  11. Shape it into a very small loaf.
    • It's the feel of doing this which I can't give you.... You use the palms of your hands like a backdrop for shaping the dough-lets and your fingers to tuck the outside edges under and in; in shape they will be something like a miniature, misshapen football ... put them on a cornmeal sprinkled cookie sheet....let rise until double in size.
  12. Take a knife and gently, delicately mark a slash longitudinally ... bake at 340 degrees F,  about 30  minutes ... take them out, see if you can resist eating one on the spot.*
*Especially if you have one of Don's home-made jams to go with it! I can speak from experience.

An additional note: These little treats do just fine if you freeze them, then thaw them in a microwave for 20-30 seconds or so. Don brought dozens and dozens to camp, and we made regular inroads on his supply until they were exhausted and we were looking around forlornly for more.

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