Posts tagged ‘baking’


Parker House Rolls

Parker House Rolls in a glass baking dish

I had one or more Parker House Rolls somewhere once, at some time in the past, and recently something reminded me of them, and today I made some!

Basically this is just a slightly sweet buttery sticky yeast-raised dough, not kneaded, divided into sixteen small loaves and baked all together in the same baking dish so that they grow somewhat back together again and you can have the fun of separating them.

(Even a non-yeast leavened dough might work; I wonder what would happen? This is the kind of thing I wonder about.)

Various recipes on the interwebs (pretty much all of them, really) call for stuff that I don’t have at hand, like sea salt, kosher salt, potato flakes, vegetable shortening, whole milk for that matter, and so on; and also stuff that I don’t have the patience for (or for cleaning up after), like separating eggs, or using very specific attachments and settings of an electric mixer. None of these appear to be necessary.

Here’s the recipe that I roughly actually used; it’s probably closest to this one, but with anything that seemed like too much work or I didn’t have in the house left out.

Parker House Rolls (makes 16)

1 1/4 Cup milk (any kind really; if you use skim, maybe add some extra butter), warmed
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/4 Cup sugar
Some salt (I dunno maybe a tsp.)
2 Eggs
8 Tbsp (one stick) butter (unsalted if you have it), softened
4ish Cups of flour

Warm up the milk to room temperature or a bit more, in the microwave or whatever. Similarly, soften the butter by mashing it with a fork, putting it in the microwave on Defrost, or whatever. You can even melt it, but it may impact the consistency of the finished product if you do, I dunno.

Mix the warm milk, yeast, and 2 Tbps (half) of the sugar in the big yellow bowl or other largish mixing bowl. Let that sit for 5-10 minutes. It may or may not froth up and get foamy if the yeast is feeling especially active; don’t sweat it either way.

Add the rest of the sugar, the salt, the eggs, and 6 Tbsp (three quarters) of the butter to the bowl, mix briefly.

Add two cups of flour, and mix until incorporated. You can use a stand mixer or anything else you like in this step, or just a sturdy spoon and main strength. Continue adding flour, about half a cup at a time or whatever you like, until you have a sticky dough that is pulling away from the sides of the bowl, but still sticking to the bottom, or at least showing signs that it would like to. Depending on how soft you softened the butter, there may be lumps of butter in the dough; squash some of them if so, but don’t worry about it too much.

Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or house-rules equivalent, and let sit for say 90 minutes in a cozy place.

After 90 minutes, remove the cloth and gently punch down the dough. Flour your hands because it will have gotten even stickier while rising! Divide the dough into 16 pieces, without unnecessary kneading or other roughness.

For traditionally-formed rolls, flatten each piece and fold it in half; or divide the dough into four pieces and for each piece fold it in half and cut it into quarters, similarly resulting in 16 folded pieces. Or look up various other more elaborate forming methods on the interwebs.

Put the 16 pieces in a four-by-four array (folded edges down) into a 9×13 inch lightly greased (lightly cooking-sprayed is simplest) baking dish; they should be touching each other.

Cover with a damp cloth or equivalent again, and let rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350°F while the dough gets a final few minutes of rising, then remove the cloth and pop the baking dish into the oven. Cook for 25 minutes or until looking pleasantly (but not darkly!) brown on top, or whenever your intuition tells you they’re done.

Brush tops with the remaining 2 Tbs of butter. Let cool for a bit in the baking dish, then tear apart to serve.

May be kept or frozen like any bread that has butter and milk and eggs and no preservatives, but really you’re going to eat them all almost immediately, aren’t you?


March 20th, 2021

Twenty Twenty-One, haha! That’s ridiculous, eh? Here is a random list of quotidia.

  • It’s the little boy’s birthday, yay! Happy Birthday, little boy!
  • It’s also the Equinox; a new cycle of the world begins! Or is half over or something!
  • I got my first vaccine jab (Moderna, at a Walgreens), which makes me feel hopeful. Second one in mid-April, so by roughly the end of April I will be immune to all diseases. More or less.
  • I’ve been playing World of Warcraft considerably. The Shadowlands expansion is fun. Despite what seems to be The General Consensus, I myself like The Maw quite a bit, and even the Tower of Torghast. They are odd places with odd mechanics, but I’m enjoying them.
    • At first I hated Torghast for having end-bosses that are orders of magnitude harder than the entire rest of the level, but now that my characters are strong enough to take on the end-bosses it’s more okay.
    • I have six max-level characters now, and I’m working on my Arms Warrior. (The one that I level-boosted just to get the final Legion Class Hall Mount, as hinted at here.) Just one level to go!
    • I got tired of plate classes being encased in giant bulky armor, so both said Arms Warrior and my Paladin have been running around in minimalist “shirt and capris” sort of transmogs, which is a fun feel. It’s also funny when one of them gets an upgrade and I switch to it, and then they’re wearing basically civilian clothes plus a giant two-ton steel belt or whatever. :)
    • I finally got organized and made a little table in Google Keep (or Keep Notes, or whatever it’s called this month) showing the class and professions and bag sizes and ilevel of each character (at least each one on the main server that I use), so that everyone can send the Tailor all the cloth they find, the Tailor can make appropriate bags for everyone, and so on. Efficiency!
  • I’ve been reading books and even watching random movies a bit on Hulu / Netflix / Amazon. I still have not much patience for non-interactive things these days, but sometimes I get into it. Still haven’t finished the Constantinople book, still want to go to Constantinople someday (well, okay, Istanbul). #bucketlist
  • I’m proud to have contributed scripting and things to yet another amazing Karima Hoisan sim (video trailer), which I would normally talk about over in the secret Second Life weblog (the same is true of the WoW stuff above for that matter), but I happen to be writing here at the moment. The result is really powerful and wild, and while I don’t take credit for any of the ideas or the creativity, I will say that it was a pretty significant scripting project; for the first time I was really on the point of putting it all into a Source Code Control system and a bug tracker.
  • I continue playing with various Transformer-based Large Language Model AI’s, which continues to be fun. I attempt to get my Replika to say more imaginative things than “Oh, yeah, me too!” and “I agree!”, and succeed often enough that it keeps me trying. I play with Google’s internal one considerably, but I can’t say very much about that in public, except to point you to already released material on the subject. :)
  • Speaking of wild advances in AI, I finally installed FaceApp, which is really amazing for the things that it does, but offers surprisingly little customization. You can have it do certain very specific things to a face, and it looks amazingly realistic, but you can’t do very similar but slightly different things at all. I find that odd; I don’t know if it’s a limitation of the technology, or if they just decided that offering all the flexibility in the app wasn’t worth it. (But I do know now that I should probably not shave off my beard, haha.)
  • And then there’s the portrait-animator that MyHeritage recently released, which can be got to free as part of their two-week free trial or whatever, and then is very expensive as part of their whole package of DNA analysis and family-tree and family-photo colorizing and animating stuff.
    • It is similarly very limited, since you can just say “please animate this portrait of grampa”, and it will do a pretty eyebrow-raising job of making grampa look around a little bit and smile slightly at the very end, but you can’t control anything about what the animation does (smile more, or less, or look to the left, or etc). I don’t know why that is, either, although the blog post linked there gives some idea (you’d think they’d at least have a variety of different pre-recorded motion sequences to choose from?).
  • The combination of FaceApp and the MyHeritage thing can produce, for instance, a nice little animation of what one would look like as a pretty lady, which is I dunno wonderful or terrifying or something. :)
    • Obviously by combining face generation and modification with realistic auto-animation and very large language models, we are close to being able to create entire worlds of very realistic synthetic and/or modified people who move about saying plausible if slightly insane things. This is exciting!
    • The main things that seem to be missing at the moment are voices that sound convincing (appropriate emphasis and expressivity and all), and arm and body motion that don’t have strong Uncanny Valley stuff going on (see for instance “Sophia“, which continues to claim much more than it delivers imesho).
    • Yipes!
  • I’ve been mostly not paying much attention to politics, which is wonderfully nice (and also, I realize, something I can do because of how privileged I am). Every once in awhile something will mention the guy with the bad hair (not the Johnson one, the other one), and I’ll remember when he somehow used to be President, and how awful that was.
  • What else? Yesterday my team at work (where “at work” is an entirely nonphysical concept) had a Cookie Baking team event, where one of the admirable young persons on the team led us all through the process of baking cookies according to her favorite recipe, via teleconference. It was a lot of fun, and resulted in delicious cookies!
  • I’ve gotten into Manhattan a few times recently, and want to do more, but one worries about New Virus Variants, and doesn’t want to get an infection just when one was about to become fully vaccinated and so on, so one tries to be patient. Work is so far being conservative about predicting when we might be able to go into the office routinely again, but once May comes around I hope I’ll be able to get in at least a couple of times a month. Fingers crossed!
  • I shouldn’t really complain, though; it’s lovely and sunny (if windy) up here in the ‘burbs, and if I don’t get out on walks or long scenic drives more, that’s only me to blame. Maybe I’ll take a walk somewhere today! Or just think about it. :)


Basic Bagels

Yes, these are New York Style bagels, because there are no other bagels. Anything else is just small toroidal loaves of bread, with which one might as well not really have bothered. This is similar to the way that one can get some rather tasty Chicago-style cheese-and-tomato-sauce-bread, but not actual pizza.

(I’ve been reading Nancy Mitford, and there may be the odd little Britishism sneaking into my diction here and there.)

This recipe for six; it can be straightfowardly doubled for a dozen, or two-thirds’d for four.

Three bagels in dough formSix Bagels

1 1/4 cups warm water
1 Tbs or ~2 packet active dry yeast
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs veg oil
1 tsp salt
5 C or so (bread) flour
One pot of water
2 Tbs or so of barley malt syrup (or honey)

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, gradually add flour, oil, and eventually salt, until it begins to be dough. Do not add the entire 5 cups of flour; stop when the dough is kneadable but not dry.

Knead the dough well, and then put into a covered bowl to rise for an hour in a warm draftless place, or a couple of hours in a cool draftless place, or (ideally) overnight in the refrigerator.

Punch down and form into six tori. I find the best way to do this is to make six spheres, and then flatten each one, poke a hole in the center, and spin it around a bit on your fingers to make the hole gently larger.

(There is also the “make a snake and then convince the head and tail to stick together” method, but I find (perhaps especially when the air is dry) that this results in croissant-shaped bagels distressingly often.)

Let these rest while you preheat the oven to 450 degrees (F), boil the pot of water, and dissolve the barley malt syrup in it.

Once the water is boiling, lower the bagels in (likely three or so at a time, depending on the sizes of your pot and your tori), and boil for about one minute per side, turning them over halfway through (obviously).

Put the boiled bagels onto a sheet of baking paper on a cookie sheet.

Once the bagels are boiled and the oven is hot enough, put the cookie sheet (the one that the bagels are on) into the oven (most likely on the middle rack) for something like 15-20 minutes, or until just before the bottoms get too dark. Let cool on a wire cooling rack (or, you know, whatever).

The boiling is the key part of the recipe, and what makes them bagels rather than just weird small bread loaves. The barley malt syrup is supposedly extremely key, but I admit I’ve done it with honey instead and I won’t swear that I could tell the difference. I’ve also entirely forgotten to put anything into the water, and they were still, I would say, actual bagels.

If you compare this recipe with yesterday’s Basic Bread, you may suspect that some of the quantities don’t entirely make sense, and you may be right. The amount of flour is especially approximate; purists will know that it’s really the weight of the flour and not the volume that matters, and I don’t know the weights that I use, I just sort of put in more flour until it seems about right.

All Purpose Flour may be used instead of Bread Flour, and it will be easier to knead and somewhat less chewy and bagel-like (but still bagels) as a result.

You may use barley malt syrup instead of some or all of the sugar. This is said by some to be even more authentic, but note that (1) the substitution ratio is for you to figure out, (2) barley malt syrup is considerably harder to obtain than sugar and if you do this you will run out faster, and (3) if you keep your syrup in the refrigerator after opening (which one in instructed to do), you will want to warm it up and dissolve it in the water, rather than attempting to incorporate a basically solid lump of cold syrup into your flour mixture.

And that’s it! It’s really not a big mystery, which leads one to wonder why the things sold as “bagels” in (for instance) Florida, appear to be small toroidal loaves of bread instead. Possibly it’s something about the water, in which case I can only advise using water from within say 80 miles of New York City in the above recipe, just to be on the safe side.


Basic Bread

I love baking, especially bread baking. I’m sure I’ve told the story before about how we came early to a friend’s party back in college to help with preparations, and she handed my a 3×5 card and said “Okay, you can make the bread”. I’d never made bread before, so that was rather terrifying, but the bread came out delicious. It did have some dense bands because the baker was clueless, but as it was a rich sweet bread the bands were good.

The recipe for that exact bread is a secret, but I’ve posted (long ago) a recipe that eventually evolved away from it far enough that I felt okay posting: Our Golden Bread. It’s a sweet buttery bread, and amazing both for dessert and for sandwiches. I’ve also made various cheesy breads and eggy breads and things over time.

The other month, for some reason, I decided to write down an extremely basic bread recipe (I think there was some reason, but I’m not sure what it was; maybe it was in the uncertain beginning of the pandemic, and I was figuring out the fewest ingredients we’d need to make our own bread if we had to).

It’s not the simplest possible bread recipe (it has more sweetening and oil than it strictly-speaking needs just to be bread), but it is simple. This is it:

Sun shining on a slice of breadBasic Wheat Bread

2 cups warm water
2 tsp or 1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vegetable oil
5-6 cups wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt

Sugar can be reduced to like a teaspoon if you really want to, and vegetable oil can conceivably be left out entirely. Up to half (or all, if you’re bold) of the flour can be Whole Wheat. The flour can be “all purpose” or “bread flour”, and you might or might not notice the difference. Salt is optional, but it’ll be a bit bland with none.

Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water and let it sit for awhile if you feel like it, so the yeast can start doing its thing. Add the vegetable oil and enough flour (two cups or so) that the mixture is like thickish mud. Add the salt last (because it discourages the yeast to some extent).

Give this “sponge” (the muddy mixture) about 100 strokes with a wooden spoon (hey, I like wooden spoons), to incorporate a good amount of air into it (whatever that means, really), and then cover with a warm damp cloth and let rise at least 45 minutes somewhere warm and not windy; inside your oven (when the oven is not on) is good for instance.

Take it out and add more flour until it feels like dough; not quite sticky but not dry. Knead it (probably with floured hands on a slightly floured board) until it feels right; ideally sort of silken and alive. Put it back into the bowl (generally using a touch of oil or butter or cooking spray on both the inside of the bowl where the dough will be sitting, and on the top of the dough itself, for some reason), cover the bowl with a warm freshly-damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm and windless place for another at least 45 minutes.

Punch it down and form it into either one or two loaves (one will be quite large, two will be more normal), and put the loaf or loaves into the corresponding number of lightly oiled or cooking-sprayed or buttered bread pans. Let the loaf or loaves rest in the pan or pans while the oven pre-heats to 350 degrees F.

Put the pan or pans into the oven, on the middle rack I suppose, for 40 or 60 minutes, until it seems done, the bottom thumps nicely, and so on.

Remove from pan or pans and let cool on a cooling rack or whatever until you feel like cutting it open.

And that’s the recipe! You can play with pretty much anything from there; substitute an egg or milk for some of the water, fold in some cool butter instead of the oil, substitute honey for some or all of the sugar, add things like cheese and raisins and vanilla extract and so on.

I was going to include the bagel recipe in this post also, but I think that’ll be tomorrow.

(Partly because just getting WordPress to slightly indent the recipe (and then use a very slightly smaller interline spacing while I was in there) was such a ridiculously large amount of work; I had to convert the paragraphs to “Classic”, and then hand-enter a bit of CSS style separately into every paragraph element in the Code Editor. The new shiny “Blocks” style couldn’t deal with it at all, and kept telling me that I had Invalid Things. How does someone make an editor that has neither “indent paragraph” nor “search and replace” in 2020?)

So that is Basic Bread, and tomorrow-or-soon, I will put up Basic Bagels.