Several days ago, my daughter asked me to call into a local radio station. Two free passes were being given away to one caller for an acoustic performance by the band Bastille in the radio's recording studio. My daughter, Claire, saw Bastille last summer when she was studying in Paris; a free, outdoor concert in a Parisian park. When back home, she played their music for me, and I also became a fan. I wasn't the least bit surprised when, after calling seven times, I was told I had won two passes for this upcoming Friday. (And, yes, I'm taking Claire.) Lately it seems, I have been blessed with good fortune.
Over a year ago, I entered a Food & Wine Magazine contest for kitchens. I entered the "small kitchen" category, taking photos of my kitchen and posting them on Food & Wine's kitchen contest Pinterest site. I won, and that eventually led to Food & Wine editor, Christine Quinlan, doing an article on my kitchen and blog for the November 2013 issue... Then, last spring my husband pestered me to enter our small, formal vegetable garden in a Minneapolis Star Tribune garden contest. I sent photos, just to tell my husband I did it, never expecting the email saying our garden was a winner and would be one of six featured in the newspaper. That "Beautiful Garden" article appeared last October... And no, that wasn't all. Last spring I left a comment on one of my favorite blogs -- Tongue in Cheek -- after which the blog's author, Corey Amaro, wrote to tell me that I had won a week at her home in Provence. Since I was busy with other travels last year, I will be visiting Corey this upcoming June; a dream trip, as I see it. Needless to say, I have lucked-out lately!
Since I've been on a roll, I'm giving you a recipe for chocolate yeast rolls (again, I'm sorry... I just couldn't resist). I've been making Chocolate Bread with Vanilla Butter, a recipe by Marian Burros and published in a March 1987 issue of the New York Times, for 25 years now. • This time, I kneaded in some dark Morello cherries from Germany (purchased at Trader Joe's) and divided the dough into 16 pieces that I formed into balls. The addition of cherries makes for a very wet dough that necessitates kneading in additional flour. Either way, with or without the cherries, be certain to spread the rolls (or loaf bread) with vanilla butter and some really good cherry preserves. A nice little treat for Valentine's Day or any day!
• • • • • • • •
Chocolate Rolls with Cherries and Vanilla Butter
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 package yeast, dissolved in 1/4 cup tepid water (110 degrees) with 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3 1/2 cups (plus additional to add if dough is wet) all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup sifted Dutch cocoa
- 6 ounces drained, dark Morello cherries (or substitute frozen dark cherries that have been thawed and dried with paper towels)
- Coarse sugar
- Vanilla Butter (recipe follows)
2. Stir in the sugar and the vanilla. When the milk has cooled and is no more than 115 degrees, add the yeast. Stir in the beaten eggs.
3. Measure the flour and cocoa into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast mixture. Using the dough hook, knead the bread mixture on medium to medium-high speed. If necessary add additional flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is smooth and cleans the sides of the bowl.
4. Transfer the dough to a lightly-floured work surface and press into a flat square. Distribute the cherries over the dough (see • above) and fold the sides into the center. Start kneading the dough by hand. It will be VERY sticky and at first, difficult to keep the cherries in the dough! Work slowly, adding additional flour little by little. This can take a while, but be patient. Keep kneading and adding flour when necessary. When you have a smooth but still slightly sticky dough, transfer the dough to a large, well-buttered mixing bowl. Cover the top of the bowl with a damp dish towel and set in a warm place. Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk (one to two hours). While the dough is rising, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
5. Gently punch the dough down and knead 8 to 10 times. Either shape the dough into a loaf and place in a well-buttered 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, or divide in half and keep dividing the segments of dough until there are 16 equal pieces. With floured hands, shape each piece into a tight, round ball. Place 8 balls, evenly spaced, on each of the two parchment-lined baking sheets. Press coarse sugar onto the top of the loaf, if making, or onto the tops of the rolls, and cover loosely with plastic wrap for a second rise. You do not want the dough to double this time; 45 minutes should be enough.
6. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. If you are making a loaf, place the bread pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour, covering the top with foil after 30 minutes to prevent burning. If baking rolls, position racks in upper third and lower third of oven. Bake the rolls on the two racks for approximately 30 minutes, shifting the baking sheets after 15 minutes. I baked my rolls for approximately 25 minutes using the convection setting on my oven. Either way, keep a close eye on the rolls after 20 minutes and cover with foil to prevent burning, if necessary.
7. Remove the rolls and transfer to a cooling rack. Serve with Vanilla Butter and cherry preserves, if desired.
• The Chocolate Bread baked in a loaf pan is very good sliced and toasted. The rolls, after 1 day, are best if re-warmed in the oven (300˚) before serving.
• 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate.
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