How I Roll

True to my wedding vows,  I made cream of potato soup last week. My vows (written by NewWifey(tm) ) stipulate that I have to make potato something at least once a week, and last week it was soup. It was really, really good soup, and NewWifey(tm) demolished all but about a cup of it by week’s end.

This morning, then, rooting around in the fridge for something to eat, it struck me that I hadn’t planned next week’s mandated potato offering yet. This was a real concern, as NewWifey(tm) takes this particular part of our vows very, very seriously. Even moreso than the fidelity vow. I was cutting it close here. NewWifey(tm) would be up in a couple of hours, and I knew I didn’t have so much as a Mr. Potato Head doll in the house to mollify her.

Thinking quickly I grabbed the cup of leftover soup, added some honey, and warmed it in the microwave for a minute. I poured that into a bowl of flour mixed with a pack of quick rise yeast, and basically just beat the snot out of it for ten minutes.

See, I have this 2-part theory about cooking, and both parts have so far held up to practice. The theory goes like this:

1. “Cooking is an art, baking is a science” is bullshit, a myth foisted on the rest of us by a cabal of bakers who want people to think they’re special.

2. You can make bread out of anything that doesn’t kill the yeast. And if it does kill the yeast, you can probably still make soda risen bread out of it.

So I put both parts of my theory to the test yet again this morning, making bread out of potato soup. No measuring, no instructions, not even worrying about how hot my oven was. I just dumped soup, yeast, honey (for the yeast) and flour in a bowl and started kneading. After 10 minutes I set it aside to rise, which it did spectacularly.

After that I pressed it down, rolled it into a long rope, and cut it into segments. Each segment I rolled onto a ball and placed it in a pan, then let them rise again. A quick brush of olive oil on top, and into the oven…until it looked like this:

Potato Soup Rolls

Then I pulled them out of the oven.

Viola. Marriage safe for another week.

These were really awesome rolls, btw (as if I even needed to add that). Great, fluffy crumb with a taste that was subtly flavored with the spices I’d used in the soup. NewWifey(tm) downed half the pan. And that was before she even woke up.

Oh yeah, one more thing. See that roasting pan? My little old lady/personal physician/golf buddy gave me that. She got it at an estate sale for 5 bucks. It’s a solid heavy duty British made aluminum pan from the 1940’s, and appears to never have seen the inside of an oven since the day it was cast. Fantastic pan, but I did have to make an adjustment. Since aluminum heats so quickly and evenly – much more quickly and evenly than cast iron – I had to stay on top of things once the rolls went it. It’s a good thing too. Had I just “set it and forget it” with my usual ~40 minute baking time, these things would have been blacker and harder than Martin Shkreli’s heart. They were done after 25.

Oh yeah, one more one more thing. Despite what it seems, this whole entry is not so much an exercise in online masturbation as it is another salvo in my ongoing crusade to help people who are too intimidated to cook, cook. For various reasons (the rise of celebrity chefs, Food-TV, Pinterest and other social media sites, equipment whores) over the last 30 years I’ve watched my beloved avocation and one time profession shift gradually away from home cooking being an act of love and source of nourishment, to “OH GOD I ONLY HAVE DRIED TARRAGON AND MARIO SAYS IT HAS TO BE FRESH AND THE PICTURE IN EPICURIOUS SHOWS A GARNISH OF FRISEE TEMPURA AND ALL I HAVE IS ENDIVE AND CAN I EVEN MAKE A CHICKEN BREAST IN A PAN THAT’S NOT ALL-CLAD?”

This video sums up pretty well an aspect of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZ5Hn-5l2o4 (I don’t normally say this but…that video is NSFW. But funny as hell.)

Seriously people: Stop. Take a deep breath. Have faith in your skill as a cook. If I can make delicious bread out of week old soup without measuring or following a recipe, you can make dinner for your family without shedding four pounds of stress sweat. You are a lot better  cook than you think you are. You’ve just been led to believe otherwise because you don’t turn out gorgeous and spectacular  extravaganzas like they do at Chez Snoot, night after night after night. But you’re not supposed to. Get back into the mindset that cooking is an act of love, and meant to be shared with those you love. This may sound stupid and/or blasphemous, but really: quality is secondary. In this day and age where it’s all too easy to get pre-prepared meals at any drive-up window, gas station, drone delivery service, teleportation device, anyone – ANYONE – who goes to the time and effort to actually get in the kitchen and prepare anything – ANYTHING – no matter how humble, is to be applauded. As should their food be.

Just…don’t expect it to be as good as mine. Beyotch.

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19 thoughts on “How I Roll

  1. I understand and appreciate your quest to educate. However, good cooking is straight up witchcraft. Delicious rolls made out of leftover soup? You’re a witch.

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    1. No! No! No!!!

      Please don’t believe I’m somehow magically gifted just because I can give remnants a second life. All I did – all YOU have to do – is learn techniques rather than recipes. If you knew that flour plus liquid plus yeast = bread, then you could have done this too! And any of the other things I do.

      I don’t work magic. Again: to become a cook, I was taught techniques, not recipes. And that is SO much easier. There are only a relatively small number of techniques, so it doesn’t take long to learn learn them. And when you do, you just take whatever ingredients you have on hand and apply any of your techniques to them. There are no boundaries! By contrast, there are MILLIONS of recipes. Not only would it take numerous lifespans to learn them all, but once you do you’re hidebound by them.

      Seriously. Stop thinking good cooks are special (other than me, I mean). The more I learn about cooking the more I see the overall patterns. The vast, vast majority of dishes are based on just a handful of easily mastered principles that once learned can be used with any number of other ingredients to make unique and interesting combos. It is immensely frustrating to me that so many people have been duped into believing otherwise.

      You can do it!

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      1. You make excellent points! Though you’re being a bit overly modest here – who makes delicious bread out of leftover soup?! And it’s not that I don’t cook – I just have a very small repertoire and don’t enjoy the process much. Three roadblocks keep me as a source of your frustration: 1. I am hella lazy when it comes to feeding myself. 2. Perfectionism/Type A personality means experimenting or taking a chance on an unknown outcome with something as important/time consuming as cooking? Not going to happen. I want guaranteed results. 3. Those crazy food allergies, yo. The wheat/dairy restrictions alone make experimentation difficult. Nothing works like it should when you’re trying to work around wheat and make something that actually tastes good.

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  2. Brilliant save on the marriage. Whew. The tricky part is that you KNEW what to do already. And you SHARED. So thank you for the attitude and for NOT keeping it a secret! All praise to chefs who are willing to teach and share. I am also envious of that wonderful aluminum pan, which sure looks like a sibling of my father’s old (same vintage) aluminum roaster that I do not use because it is a monster and I now cook for one. But it is good to know that it heats and roasts fast and bears watching, but also explains how his perfect turkeys were always done to perfection so quickly. Does it require any special care?

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    1. Thanks!

      No, the pan is really pretty much maintenance free. Unlike cast iron, which is porous and requires seasoning (unless you have enameled cast iron), aluminum pans require no special treatment. It’s one of the reasons why they’re the most common pans found in commercial kitchens (plus they’re much less expensive than steel pans). You do want to watch that you don’t scratch them up, but otherwise just wash them with soap and water and they’re good to go.

      Gahhh. Don’t get me started on cooks who don’t share recipes….

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  3. I never thought of using leftover soup for a bread base, but what an awesome idea! Have you ever used a broth-based soup as your base? Not sure how a beef broth would work but I think a chicken broth with diced veggies would make an AWESOME bread, or even a veggie broth. Leftover Chinese stir-fried veggies, chopped… Hmmm… you’ve got me concocting all kinds of goodies in my head.

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    1. Go for it, babe!!

      I’ve done chicken stock based bread a few times, and a nifty asparagus stock one also. A few things I’ve found that you might want to keep in mind: strong stocks/broths can almost overwhelm the bread with their flavors. You may want to dilute a bit at first to see what level strength you like. Also, stocks tend to be very lean. That’s ok for some loafs – the ones where you just use water as the liquid, for instance – but not great for things like classic American sandwich bread, which is a mix of water, milk, and melted butter. If you make sandwich loaf with stock, don’t forget to add that fat component also, or the crumb will be wrong.

      I’m so proud of you! *sniff* They grow up so fast….

      🙂

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      1. Hey, I’ve been an experimental cook since back in the day. One of my high school science challenges was to do something I’d never done before. I created a recipe – made what was basically a super-soft donut dough, did it as a drop-fry, and found the results were hollow inside. So I stuffed with sherbert balls, frosted the thing closed, and dusted with powdered sugar. My classmates didn’t mind evaluating my contribution 😉 The bread actually created an awesome spiked shape all over, so I called the invention sputniks. Never made them again but they were fun while they lasted.

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  4. Darling, if it’s a British-made pan then it’s made from aluminium, not the bastardised ‘aluminum’. For Heaven’s sake, dig into your ancestral spelling as well as your pantry! 😉

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  5. I 100% agree. I regularly deviate from recipes whilst baking and it always tastes fucking amazing. Guidelines people, guidelines only! Every time I have followed the recipe rather than my baking mojo/instinct is when it has been crap. True story!

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