There are things I do that seem to puzzle my equally feminist, atheist, humanist, progressive and liberal female friends. I love to bake, for example, the more complicated the process the happier I am if it comes out great (don't ask about the disastrous "Weeks of the Chocolate Souffle"). I love making my own bread. I don't quite love to cook, but I like it well enough and I prefer the fresh taste of home-made food prepared from flavorful ingredients to restaurant meals and take-out. I like having doors held open for me (and hold them open for others, too), and I don't mind not paying for my own cocktails or meal if I'm going out with someone.
Somehow, the bread baking thing is the most controversial for all of them. I always knead by hand, I always use whole-grain flour, it takes a (comparatively) long while to make and sometimes my hands cramp up if the denser grain flours don't want to cooperate and become the smooth, self-cleaning yeast dough (prefer that to sourdough) they have to be. This particular subset of friends seems to think that going through all that just for the purpose of having bread on the table is somehow contrary to how I present as a person.
I can't see it that way. Wrestling stubbornly resisting elements into submission while also making sure the outcome is a smooth, well-working product IS my daily bread! It's what I love so much about my job. The ingredients for my everyday work are people and the law, both of which are often at odds with one another or even not homogenous among themselves, so just like I sift my flour to make for a more even and fluffy dough I smooth over ruffled feathers and attempt to make sure everybody's on the same page at work.
Until just now, I never realized just how well that bread-making metaphor works for international business law. The power of blogging!
Anyway, back to the matter at hand! I've got two recipes for you this time, even accompanied by pictures (because I thought of taking some before devouring the fruits of my labor this time, yay me!)! One is for traditional Indonesian summer rolls (you may know them as autumn or fall rolls), the other is for this week's bread.
Bread goes first! Measurements are in metric because my imperial scale broke and I can't get a new one for a while yet... :( Sorry! I'll try to approximate but it's an inaccurate approximation and might not work right.
Whole-wheat grain bread with saffron
You will need:
475 grams whole-wheat fine-ground flour (16-17 oz; 3.5 cups)
ca. 40 grams quinoa grains (1.5 oz)
ca. 40 grams linseed (or flaxseed) (1.5 oz)
a large handful of sunflower seeds
about 1 tsp salt
a pinch of sugar
about 12 saffron threads (to be ground in mortar)
a pinch of pepper flakes
a pinch fresh ground pepper
a pinch dried and ground coriander leaves
a small pinch dried and ground onions
a few fresh ground mustard seeds
a tiny pinch of ground-up chili flakes
a few ground-up caraway seeds
(grind all the to-be-ground ingredients in your mortar, then rinse it right away (as even granite will take on the intense yellow-orange color of the saffron otherwise). Alternatively, make a larger amount of the mixture and fill a spice grinder, the mix tastes great on sandwiches too!)
1 package dry yeast (or sourdough/fresh yeast according to their instructions)
splash of olive oil
Sift your flour into a large bowl (clay preferred, I didn't have one handy this time so I used plastic). Measure your seeds on top, then shake to combine. Make a small depression in the middle, pour in your yeast, add sugar, salt and half a cup of as warm water as you can get out of your faucet. Let sit for about fifteen minutes, tidy up your kitchen or mix your ground spices in the meantime.
Add the ground spices around the depression, then start kneading. You will need to add about another half cup of water, but go slow. Make sure to thoroughly knead your dough until it starts picking up whatever crumbs have fallen off, cleans your hands and feels smooth, soft and pliant. I usually start kneading inside my bowl, then transfer to the kitchen counter because the motions are easier when you have more room. Put your ball of dough back into the bowl, splash olive oil on top, smear all over the dough with your hands. Wet your hands and wipe all over the dough, your dough will look kind of like this:
Let proof (rise) covered with a linen cloth in a warm, draft-free place for two-four hours. Normally, I make my bread dough in the morning before going off to work and bake the bread at night when I return.
Tangent: It's funny, the literal translation of this process in German is to let the dough "walk". I tried explaining to my one friend today, and she at first didn't understand either literal translation for "rise" or "proof", but finally laughed and told me that German yeast dough "walks"! At the end of that process, your dough will look somewhat like this:
Place an oven-safe small bowl of water on the oven floor. Pre-heat your oven to 400-425 degrees CONVENTIONAL heat (no convection this time!). Quickly knead your dough one final time, shape or put into a mold of your choice, give the top a few slices with a knife and bake for 45 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for another 35 minutes.
Enjoy your freshly baked bread!
Indonesian summer rolls with shrimp
You will need:
Thin rice paper
pre-cooked vermicelli (rice glass noodles)
Very thinly sliced (about finger length, 1-3mm diameter):
Leaf lettuce (red oak leaf lettuce for me this time)
Braise your shrimp in a bit of lemon juice. Drain and let cool.
Prep a bowl of warm water, a plate, and your thinly sliced veggies, vermicelli, coriander and lettuce leaves.
Place a piece of rice paper in the warm water until soft, put on your plate. Starting from the lower third, place three or four shrimp in a line up to the top. Add a few vermicelli on top of the shrimp, then neatly place your veggies and one stalk of coriander leaves on top. Trim a lettuce leaf to fit the entire construction and hold together with one hand. With the other, fold up the lowest, free third of your rice paper, then fold in the sides and press together. Repeat until you're out of ingredients.
Results should look a bit like this:
Mango-chili-lemon dip to go with the summer rolls:
In a small sauce pan, boil about 1/4 cup of mirin, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt. Switch off the heat. Add about 1 Tbsp mild vegetable oil (sunflower, rapeseed). Add 1/4 cup unsweetened mango puree and 1 tsp finely ground dried chilies. Add 2-3 Tbsp lemon juice, then simmer on remaining heat for ~5min. Season with a little rice vinegar until it tastes good for you.