The Husband and I spent the Remembrance Day long weekend in Las Vegas. We’d been there together three times, the last trip being about five years ago. The Husband goes to Vegas yearly for work purposes so we never choose it as a vacation destination. This year, however, the Husband opted out of his annual conference and since we’ve both been so exhausted with work, we figured we were due for a weekend getaway. Vegas is close yet far enough away that we feel like we’re actually going somewhere and it’s (relatively) cheap. Sin City, here we come!
We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, which is a phenomenal hotel. The best one we’ve ever stayed in (no, they’re not paying me to say any of this, unfortunately). It’s right in the middle of the strip, with its entrance tucked in a bit from the main street. It’s a non-smoking building and there’s no casino, so we never had to fight through crowds to get into the hotel and to our room. It was quiet, which we loved, and so incredibly beautiful. I know – who goes to Vegas to get away from the crowds? The Husband and I are like old people … well, maybe me more than him. I like shaking my fist at young people, lamenting the pitiful state of today’s society and wistfully yearning for the innocence of the good ol’ days. I’m so damn crotchety that it’s best if I stay away from other people.
All we did was sleep, eat, and walk around. When we were full and tired, we went back to our glorious hotel room and watched tv. It was bliss. Nothing to clean, nothing to cook, no work to do, no reason to get up early in the morning. We were watching a commercial for what, I can’t remember, and the tagline was “luxury is effortless living” or something along those lines. Hey, it’s true. The youngest looking old people I know have never done a day of work in their lives. Their biggest worry is what they’re going to eat that day (which, to be honest, is often my biggest worry as well, but that’s beside the point). I always brag about how I’ve never been handed anything in my life and how proud I am that everything I have, I’ve worked my ass off for it. Would I trade it all for a life of effortless living? Hells yeah!
This brings me to the star of this blog post – bread. What does that have to do with effortlessness? Well, I used to be terrified of working with yeast and making bread at home. I imagined it was horrifically labour-intensive. Why can’t I just buy a bread machine, dump all the ingredients in and have the machine do all the work for me? Or hell, why do anything more than buy a loaf of Wonder Bread (RIP Hostess) at the supermarket?
What an idiot!
Bread is easy. It’s fun to make. It’s (almost) foolproof. The hardest part is waiting for it to rise. And it’s so satisfying when the few required ingredients come together, almost like magic, to create something delicious.
I baked bread the day after we returned from Vegas. Unlike cleaning my apartment, it was something that had to be done.
Sandwich bread (adapted from Chatelaine)
Makes 2 loaves
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 tbsp honey
3 cups warm milk (105F to 115F)
7 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading
3 tsp salt
1/3 unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Stir the yeast with the honey and warm milk in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Leave for about 10 minutes or until slightly frothy.
In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour with the salt.
Stir the yeast mixture with the paddle attachment at low speed for 1 minute. Gradually add in the flour mixture while stirring, until just combined.
When the flour and milk are just combined, replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Add the butter and knead the dough on medium-low speed for one minute. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 4 more minutes.
I had weighed my flour instead of measuring it with cups and my dough seemed really really sticky. I gradually added flour by the tablespoonful until it reached the desired consistency – the dough should be moist but not wet and should come away from the side of the bowl while kneading.
Remove the dough hook and cover the mixing bowl with a damp kitchen towel (not terry cloth because the fibres will stick to the dough). In my case, I laid plastic wrap right against the top of the dough. Let the dough rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Remove the towel/plastic wrap and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough for one minute, then divide it into two pieces.
You can either make 2 loaves of bread or do what I did; I made one loaf of bread and one pan of faux-cinnamon rolls.
For the loaf of bread, oil a 9X5 inch loaf pan. Fold the edges of your dough into the centre and shape it into a log. Place the dough seamside down into the loaf pan. Cover the pan with a damp towel and allow it to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour. When it’s ready, you should be able to poke the dough with your finger and it won’t readily spring back.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the tops of the loaf with whatever you want (milk, buttermilk, egg wash, butter). Bake the loaf in the centre of the oven, loosely covering with foil halfway through baking if you think your crust is browning too much. I didn’t have that problem so I didn’t cover my loaf with foil. Bake until the crust is very firm and a deep golden brown, approximately 45-50 minutes.
Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before slicing.
Faux Cinnamon Rolls
Half the dough from the Sandwich Bread recipe
Half a cup of brown sugar
4 tbsp cinnamon
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temp
Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in a bowl, using your fingers to incorporate all the ingredients together.
Pat out your dough into a rectangle (I made mine approximately 9 X 12 inches, and 1 inch thick) and smear the butter/cinnamon mixture all over, leaving about an inch free on each side. Roll it as tightly as you can. Cut the roll into 9 pieces and lay them into a buttered square baking dish.
Allow to rise and double in size, about 1 hour. I brushed the tops with buttermilk before baking but you can use anything you want, like melted butter, an egg wash or milk.
Pop into the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes.
This is really delicious bread – pillowy soft, savoury, with just a hint of sweetness. Next time, I’d add more honey for a sweeter taste. The Husband and I made sandwiches for three days and it tasted just as good on each consecutive day. The faux-cinnamon rolls could’ve used a cream cheese frosting but were good on their own as well. They weren’t real cinnamon rolls – they were basically a cinnamon swirl bread in roll form and needed to be toasted or heated a few days later before eating.
That’s a whole lotta carby goodness.