Ice Box Rolls

Icebox Rolls - Dinner Rolls

This is a dough recipe from my childhood. Although my mom never used it to make dinner rolls, as pictured above, it was the base for her famously delicious sticky buns. She bakes the rolls, filled with cinnamon and sugar, on top of a bed of oozing caramel and pecans, and serve them warm on Christmas morning. She would only prepare the rolls once a year, and then when we were older we learned to beg in such a way that she was convinced to make them a little more often, for example at Easter or Thanksgiving. Then came the day I learned to make them! It was deceivingly simple. I enjoyed the process of rolling out the dough, filling them, letting it rise, and turn golden on top, before smearing them with a cream-cheese frosting. I began making them semi-frequently that I started inventing occasions to drop a dozen over t a friends house — because who can indulge in that sort of thing so often?

Icebox Rolls - Honey SwirlIcebox Rolls - Pistachio Rolls

It had been a few years since I made them. When we moved to Guate and we didn’t have an oven in our “kitchen”, I figured there would be no need for baking recipes. That was very sad to me. Until I read on the Crockpot Lady’s site that you can indeed bake in a crock pot! Actually Héc was the one who discovered that…he wanted to make cornbread. And I believe that was the very first baked good prepared in the crock pot. So I asked my mom to send me the recipe again.

What I didn’t realize at first was what a versatile recipe it is. You can use it as a base for cinnamon buns, but you can also bake it as a regular loaf of sandwich bread, or mini dinner rolls too. Dinner rolls are the method I use most frequently, however occasionally I will roll up a batch of specialty dessert rolls filled with honey and pistachios, or even make rolls on the savory side filled with caramelized onions, garlic, and butter, for a variation of garlic bread. You can even toss some herbs right into the batter.

Icebox Rolls - OnionsIcebox Rolls - Rolling

Another thing I love about this recipe is that there is no kneading, you let it rise overnight in the fridge with no worries, and you can keep it in there for up to five days. Thats where it gets it’s name : icebox as in refrigerator of the old days. Its a hassle-free yeast break recipe, as simple to make as cookies. Its wonderful to mix up a batch on Monday and make freshly baked rolls for dinner each night. Its really perfect.

This that I feature below is a full recipe as my mom makes, however I generally cut it in half because in our house we are only two. A full batch can turn out somewhere between 3-4 dozen fist-sized rolls.

Icebox Rolls

Ingredients:
2 pkgs yeast
1/2 c. lukewarm water
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoons salt
2 cups hot water
2 eggs
8 cups flour

Directions:
Soak yeast in lukewarm water. In separate bowl, place butter, sugar, and salt and pour hot water over this. Let cool. When lukewarm, add the soaked yeast, eggs and half of the flour. Stir well. Then stir in remaining flour. Do not knead. This mixture will seem too soft, but it is not. Place in refrigerator and use as wanted. Will keep for 4 or 5 days. When using, form into rolls and let rise about 30 minutes at room temperature before baking.

To make cinnamon-style buns, roll the dough out into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface, spread with about 3 tablespoons butter, sprinkle with a mixture or 1/2 cup brown sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Or, get creative and put whatever you want inside. Roll them up tightly and gently pinch the end closed. Make cuts in the roll about two inches wide, and place spirals up in a greased baking dish. Let rise about 30 minutes at room temperature.

Oven: bake at 400º F for 20 minutes.

Slow cooker: Place dough in a glass or ceramic pan that fits in your slow-cooker, and put some scrunched up foil underneath to support the pan(I use the lid of a canning jar). This is to prevent the bread pan from directly touching the inside of the slow cooker – otherwise the outside may burn before the inside has finished cooking. Bake for 2 hours on high, covered.

Thanks Mom!

Red Onion Rosemary Flatbread

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I don’t know if I would call this a cracker, a flat bread, or just an attempt to save some leftover bread dough that didn’t fit into our tiny toaster oven. After I made a loaf of my bran bread, I had a softball-sized wad of dough just sitting in the fridge. I was going to bake a mini-loaf, but then thinking about the chickpea salad we were having for dinner, realized a cracker might for spreading the garlic and the juices at the bottom of the bowl. So I rolled the chilled dough out as flat as I could get it, and rubbed it with olive oil on both sides. Chopped some fresh rosemary from my herb garden (the first harvest yet!), slivered some red onion, and sprinkled on some queso seco (finely grated parmasean or romano would work perfectly), and sea salt. Baked it for 20 minutes until crisp, and cut into finger-length pedacitos.

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I won’t post the recipe, because it’s really all to your liking. You may use a bread dough you are comfortable with, you may use pre-made pizza dough, you may even just mix together 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon instant yeast (or 1/2 teaspoon baking soda or nothing at all), 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup water, and 2 tablespoons olive oil; mix, let rest for about an hour, and roll out into a thin thin sheet. You can use whatever toppings you like. Many fresh herbs would be lovely on this, such as sage or thyme, but I just wanted to use my new rosemary plant. Be creative, or use what you have around the house.

It’s delicious with hummus, babaganoush, roasted garlic spread, zucchini tatziki, an assortment of cheeses, ect. Yum!!

Bread-base suggestions: my healty bran bread, homemade or packaged pizza dough, a simple dough of flour water and olive oil (see above), or even puff pastry.

Topping suggestions: olive oil, large grain sea salt, cumin and zest of a lime, za’atar, paprika, cayenne, sesame seeds, pine nuts (pressed in), poppy seeds, sliced olives, thyme, rosemary, sage, a variety of cheeses (shredded), thinly sliced red onion.

Bake: 400ºF for 15-20 minutes until crispy, or according to other recipe instructions.

Healthy Wheat Bran Bread

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I heard once that baking is a science; that you have to be exact about all the measurements or it will easily be ruined. Perhaps it was my 8th grade Home-Ec teacher, Mrs Benson. I remember very vivedly the day we were making chocolate chip cookies. At that age, having 14 years experience standing on a chair next to my mom watching this be done, I had considered myself an expert at baking Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies, and the recipe was as good as branded into my memory. In class I drew from my years of experience, and measured out the all-purpose flour using the technique I learned from my mother: I dipped the measuring cup into the bag and pulled out a mound of flour. I tapped the dull edge of a butter knife along the top of the heaping and scraped off the excess. My teacher walked over, took the cup from my hand and dumped its contents back into the flour bag. She said by tapping the cup I was packing the flour which would throw off the ratios in the recipe. I had done this a thousand times, I thought to myself. Don’t tell me what to do lady!

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So, I am not a Peter Reinhart. I’m sure that baking is more complicated, especially when you’re making sourdough, or recipes that require special starters or a complicated “sponge”. I’m sure it makes perfect sense to weigh out flour instead of measuring it — in those instances. Call me amateur (I am), but for me it doesn’t. I can only find instant yeast here in Guatemala, and I wouldn’t know where to look for a sourdough starter. I’m working the simple stuff here. And if I’m a cup short of flour, like I was the other day, I might just use oatmeal that I’ve ground in my processor. It works for me. I like it. I like every load turning out just a little differently. Generally I don’t like measuring things out exactly. It takes away the fun, and its more dishes to wash. I like to be able to eye my dough and “feel” that it is right. So this that I am posting today is generally the recipe that I follow. But to be honest, I it has changed a bit every time. But this was approximately the loaf I made, which has provided a spring board for the rest. It is a mild and sweet loaf, and sometimes I don’t want to feel the sweetness, so I’ll use half the sugar, and also a tad less salt for a proper balance. It is very healthy, and I don’t feel bad cutting off a huge chunk of it off right after it comes out of the oven and dipping it into a pool of olive oil and herbs. It’s all good for you.

Sarah’s Healthy Whole Wheat Bran Bread:
3 cups whole wheat flour, reserve 1/2 cup for kneading
1 cup wheat bran
3 tablepoons honey
3 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil (I’ve used butter at times too)
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

Mix the water, milk, honey, sugar, oil in a microwave safe bowl. Warm it all up for 60 seconds, just to disolve everything together nicely. Mix in 2 cups of the flour, salt, yeast and all the bran. Add the rest of the flour. It may be very sticky. Mine usually is, so when I begin to kneed it I keep adding more and more flour until it stops sticking to my hands. If it continues to stick after more kneading, I add more. Kneed no less than 10 minutes. I guess you could do this in our mixer with the hook attachment. I don’t have that, so on days I make bread I don’t lift my pathetic 10 pound weights in the morning. Let it rise for 1 hour. Punch it down, shape it and put it into a loaf pan. Let it rise another 30 -45 minutes. Put it in a preheated oven at 350 for 40 minutes, or sometimes longer. Again, I use a toaster oven, so cooking times are probably different for us.

It is yummy. And healthy. Try it.

Health Nut Bread

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This was a lucky experiment from last week that I wanted to pass on. It was complete improvisation and I didn’t measure anything except the baking soda and salt (don’t wanna mess those up). It was late afternoon, a few hours after I had eaten lunch, and I was starting to get hungry. Lately I had been craving
pan de queso, a sweet bread from a local bakery which is made with sweet cheese and pounds of sugar and butter (or perhaps even lard). They are rich and delicious, and the moment the idea popped into my head I started for my shoes. But then as I was looping the last bow, the thought of ingesting something that decadent slowed me down. I know that delicious things can be made with healthy ingredients. I sat there for a minute weighing the pleasure I might get from the act of eating the delectable confection versus the disagreeably heavy feeling I would have afterward.

I kicked off my shoes and went to our pantry box. I pulled out anything I thought looked good: dates, shredded coconut, walnuts, wheat bran, flour, honey from Ipala. I was lucky there were two bananas going bad sitting on top of the fridge, and actually you can see in the picture that when I held them by the stems the peeled themselves. I had recently made a batch of yogurt that was draining in the fridge, so I decided I would use a little of the whey to pack in the nutrients. This was going to be power food, not only to quench my craving but fill me with good stuff too.

I beat an egg, mashed in the bananas, added a drizzle of vanilla, a larger drizzle of honey, a slosh of the whey along with a few tablespoons of the yogurt, and mixed it all well. Then I threw in two large handfuls of walnuts, crushing them before adding them to the batter, along with a large handful of minced-to-a-paste dates. I had forgotten the flour, so at that point I added just a little, and realized it didn’t need much to reach a consistency I liked. Perhaps it was three quarters of a cup, perhaps less. I added some wheat bran for extra fiber, along with oats because I love the texture in cakes. Then the necessary salt, baking soda, and some cinnamon and ginger for flavor.

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Pizzaria Romano in da House

We love pizza. The traditional, wood oven baked type with that crispy bottom but chewy center and that semi-charred flavor that Dominoes just couldn’t ever deliver. Mmmhmm. I used to work at a very nice authentic pizza and pasta place in Columbus Ohio, Figlio. I would love it when , at the end of the night, the doors were closed, all the customers had been served, and the chef would throw together an excellent spread pizzas, pastas, and salads. My favorite was “Peter and Laurie’s” featuring caramelized onion, sun dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, and gorgonzola and blue cheeses. For me, what really makes the pizza, is the cheese.

Just over a year ago when I first moved to Guatemala we were working at one end of the city, but living with the in-laws in the other while we searching for a more conveniently located apartment. To avoid the rush hour traffic (which I believe I mentioned in the last post), we would eat an early dinner and hang out someplace until 7:30 or 8pm until the traffic had died down. One of these places was Romano Pizza, a new pizza place advertising authentic wood ovens. Skeptical as I was, I had been dying to try it, and avoiding traffic had been a perfect excuse.

Romano's - MotosWe made the short drive from the University to Boulevard Los Proceres, where the little Italian joint is located. The parking situation did not fill me with confidence, as the restaurant is located on busy, therefore high crime zone. Generally we avoid parking on the side streets in this area. A nice restaurant or business will have a small lot with a garita (guard) to keep your cars safe. Instead, there there were only a few orange cones reserving 3 or 4 spaces in front of the restaurant. However, an entourage of motorists were standing in front of Romano by half a dozen delivery bikes, apparently waiting for the next delivery order. As we slowed in front of the entrance one of the guards/motorists pull a pair of cones out of our way encouraging our stay, although after considering our laptops in the trunk we almost didn’t stop. But I’m glad we did.

We were greeted by René, a short stocky man, who seated us in a cozy little corner window, next to a inactive fireplace. He presented us with an enticing menu and a wine list with prices not matched in the entire city. I ordered a glass of wine for 14Q (just under 2USD). We would have gotten the bottle for 36Q (4.50USD) if it hadn’t been that Héc was sick. I’m sure you’re thinking how terrible that wine must be…so I’ll make the note now that the wine is better than merely drinkable — we love it. We tend to leave the restaurant with a few extra bottles to keep around the apartment. Even in the grocery stores you cannot find these prices paired with the quality.

Enough about the wine…the pizza is absolutely delicious (wouldn’t say as good as Figlio, but the best I’ve had in Guatemala by far). The crust is just how I like it…fairly thin but with a slightly chewy texture, and those gorgeous bubbles that leave a soft hollow cavity. The toppings are typical Italian, my favorite being the veggetali a la brasa (grilled veggies), and Modena (buffalo mozzarella, pecorino, parmasean, and requesón –which is a Guatemalan type of ricotta that is slightly more dense and not as creamy).

Romano’s became so frequent in our lives (nearly every Thursday around 7pm), that we would arrive to see a bottle of our favorite wine sitting at our table. I live for stuff like that. Just puts a smile on my face…

So, long story to simply say that…since I am not currently working, we are saving money by trying to eat out less and less. But boy do we crave pizza. So we tried to recreate some in our minimalist kitchen. I made a 100% whole wheat dough (recipe to follow) topped with caramelized red onions, requesón, crisp-roasted garlic cloves (3 whole heads), and thinly shaved zucchini. We opted out of pizza sauce on this one despite my love for it (Elmer, our waiter at Romanos, knows how much I like it and always brings extra to the table). I baked it in our little toaster oven for about 15-20 minutes, and it was heavenly. The juicy caramelized onions were a perfect substitute for tomato sauce, and Héc and I both decided that next time we would up the roasted garlic to 5 heads (not cloves, heads) because of how delicious it was.

Pizza Dough
2 cups whole wheat flour
5 teaspoons olive oil
2/3 cup water
2.25 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Its thin, crisp, chewy, and healthy. Most people don’t like using 100% whole wheat flour, but I do. So I did.

Mix all together, and knead for 5 minutes. Let rise in warm place, covered with plastic wrap, for an hour. Punch down, and knead for a minute, and let rest for 20 more minutes, or until ready to use. For one 12-inch pizza, use half the dough. I like to freeze the rest. It keeps up to a month.


The Crispy Roasted Garlic:
-Peel the garlic cloves completely. Some people like to roast it in its skin, but I find I loose a lot that way. I want every bit of every clove, so I peel them, place them in a foil pouch, give it a glug of olive oil, and into the oven (or toaster oven if you too are in a less than fully functioning kitchen) for 50 minutes to an hour. It will be slightly toasty on some pieces, while others are a soft as butter.

Do you see those crispy brown pieces of heaven there on the creamy requesón? Heaven.