Many years ago, I tried making cinnamon-cardamom rolls and killed the yeast. You could say they were delicious because it’s a great recipe, but they were small, hard little things. My friend, ever the loyal person, ate at least one. I think I ate two, trying to convince myself they weren’t ruined. We agreed they had a great flavor but were an unmitigated disaster in terms of yeast.
It was not the first time I had bad results with yeast. The story I told myself after that experience, and weighed down by a few yeast failures, was that I couldn’t do yeast. Ever. I’m good in the kitchen in general so I was ok having that one thing that I just avoided, but I still found myself looking at recipes that included yeast and even printing them out now and again. Somewhere I must have wanted to get better. Still, I didn’t try again to see if I might have a different result. Until a conversation a year ago about resolutions turned into an idea – make something with yeast every month in 2016 to try to get over my phobia.
Here I am in December making my final yeast item – the same roll receipt from years ago. I’ve had a good time with this challenge and I can say I am no longer phobic. I’ve made mistakes along the way, but mostly it’s been a year of successes. As I was starting the rolls, I was thinking to myself that no matter how the rolls turned out, it was fun to do the challenge.
That said, I’m delighted to report they turned out. Twelve months and13 yeast challenges (2 in November, because Thanksgiving….) finished!!
Having made a variety of recipes this year and having made some mistakes, I can see now where I likely went awry with this sweet roll recipe. It calls for both heated milk and melted butter. I’m guessing now that my milk was likely fine but the butter was too hot and when mixed together, the mixture was much hotter than 105-110 degrees. I have melted butter a hundred times in my microwave and over done it, so I’m sure I did it that time too. This time I only melted the butter until about half of it was melted and the rest was soft. When I added in my warm milk, I was sure to use a thermometer to check the temperature. My mixture was just under 105 degrees, so I went ahead with the rest of the recipe because one of the things I’ve learned is a little too cold is better than too hot.
One of the questions I got was if I had a plan for what I would make each month. Honestly, I really haven’t. At the start of the year I chose low-yeast, slow-rise recipes because they started with cold or room temperature water so I knew I couldn’t kill the yeast. They were recipes that took a long time, but I had great results and they felt like easy wins when I needed to win to keep going.
After a few months of those, my friend gave me a recipe that had so much yeast in it that it was pretty unlikely it could be killed. Or some of it had to survive. I was so impressed by that recipe, even though I kind of felt I had messed it up the first time, that I made it twice so it took up two months of my challenges. To be honest, this may be one of my favorite bread recipes of them all. It holds up well for several days and it makes really, really, really yummy toast. In fact, I might be making some of this this weekend. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of weeks…
Mostly, I was motivated either by ingredients I wanted to eat (olives, cornmeal, cheese, figs) or ingredients I needed to use (buttermilk). It was fun to explore different recipes and ingredients to see what was possible. Most of the time, it wasn’t the yeast that was my problem. High in the list of issues I had was not reading recipes all the way through. In some cases, I didn’t have all of the ingredients to make a recipe I wanted to try, but I started anyway and then had to redirect myself and my recipe in the middle of the process. Or I missed a comment about dividing ingredients – some in earlier, some in later. In my defense, I will say that lots of internet recipes do not practice good recipe writing practice and you have to dig deep sometimes to figure out what you should be doing. That said, the internet was invaluable in this quest for recipes, though I have become more discerning.
- March: Olive bread
- June: Buttermilk yeast bread
- July: Cornmeal yeast bread — quite possibly the craziest of the experiences, all due to my own issues — nothing to do with yeast!
- August: No-knead cheese bread
- September: Raisin rolls (krentenbollen)
- October: Gooey Butter Cake — my LEAST favorite of the year!
- November: Fig-walnut no knead bread AND bonus yeast, Amish potato rolls for Thanksgiving
- December: Cardamom-cinnamon rolls
I did not intend for the sweet rolls of December to be the last recipe, partly because it seemed a cliché idea given my history. I had intended to make these rolls back in October when I made the St. Louis Butter Cake, but I got derailed by two things: my time, even on the weekends, was really limited so I needed something less fussy, less time consuming AND I happened to see Martha Stewart make the butter cake on tv. It looked really delicious and I made it successfully, but I have to say I really did not love that recipe. The first piece tasted good. After that, it was just too gooey, too sweet, too much. I will never make that recipe again and I don’t think I’d recommend it either. Still, at the time, it was fun to make and it was certainly easier than making cinnamon rolls.
By November I knew I was going to do two challenges: fig-walnut bread (because I was craving figs and a fig-infused roll from a Portland bakery I almost never get to go to because of distance had been in my mind for days and days) and bread rolls to take to Thanksgiving dinner at my parent’s house.
Despite the cliché, I couldn’t fathom ending the year without making the “failure rolls” as part of the challenge. Worse than making them my last challenge would have been never to have made them as part of the challenge. Who wouldn’t want to exorcise a ghost of yeast failures past? Since it didn’t happen in October or November, they had to appear in December. I’m very glad I made them again and it felt good to see them fully risen and ready to bake. Redemption!
One challenge of this recipe is it makes 2 dozen rolls. I did not have a large gathering planned so I took a tip from the recipe and froze most of the rolls once they were rolled up. You put them on a baking sheet in the freezer and once frozen solid, you can easily put them in freezer bags. I tested out two last night by putting them in muffin tins and leaving them in the oven overnight. By this morning, they weren’t as puffed up as those I made immediately, but they baked up fine and were still delicious. Now I have a little over a dozen left in the freezer for other mornings.
All this year, I often made my yeast stuff right before each month ended. December was no exception. Ever the procrastinator, it will be nice to move forward without a timeline and just “do yeast” when I feel like it. It’s reassuring to move forward knowing that I will feel like it. Maybe often. Maybe soon.
Thanks to Angela for helping me put this resolution in motion!