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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Making Buns... A Step-By-Step Photographic Journey

The other day, I was flipping through a cookbook when I saw some recipes for breads and buns, and I thought to myself....Nah!  Then I flipped one more page and there was a recipe simply titled "Rolls", submitted by Marcella Hodgins, my grandmother, and I just knew that I was supposed to bake those rolls. My grandmother passed away when I was tiny, so unfortunately, I never saw her in her kitchen and I never got to taste her delicious rolls.

A quick trip to the grocery store to buy some ingredients I don't stock in my pantry, accompanied by a little advice from a kind lady at the same store, "Knead those rolls!", and I was off to try to make something I had never made before. Here's the photographic and not-as-easy-as-I-thought-it-would-be journey, with instructions on how to make your own rolls.  :)

Above is what I needed.  In my skim-milk household, there was no homo milk in sight, but I knew my grandmother would have used fresh milk that was far from skim.

2 cups milk, warmed but not boiling hot
1/2 cup shortening
3 tsp. salt
1 cup potato water (I'll get to that.)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 packages regular yeast
4-5 cups flour
1 cup lukewarm water

Potato water, supposedly a key ingredient, was the first thing on my to-do list. So I peeled and boiled about eight potatoes.  Unfortunately, when the potatoes were ready, I drained the water down the sink, as that's what I always do.  First error! So I added some more water and boiled them to very-well-done potatoes and soldiered on with my potato water.

I can honestly say that I didn't have any shortening in my pantry, but here it is and the big question is, how long does it now last?  One tip I got was to make sure that all the shortening melts in the next step.

Add shortening, salt and potato water to warm milk.  

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water to which 2 teaspoons of sugar were added.  Leave for 10 minutes.  

Reading ahead in the recipe, I realized that as a beginner bun maker, I would definitely need some clarification on the next steps of the recipe, so I used my 10 minutes to make an emergency call to the woman who put together this collection of recipes in the first place.  She also happens to be a family friend, a former farm neighbour, my high school home economics teacher, and most importantly, my godmother!  

My questions for Eleanor consisted of, "How long do I let the dough rise?" and "How much do I knead it?" The answers were to let it rise until it about doubles in size and not very much at all.  She also shared a few tips.  For example, at this time of year, when the air is still cool, someone walking in the front door and sending a draft into the kitchen could disturb the rising of the dough.  She told me to heat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and then turn it off.  Cover the dough with greased wax paper and let it rise in the oven. So that is exactly what I did.  

Mix eggs and sugar to milk mixture.  Add yeast and stir before adding enough flour(4 to 5 cups) to make a soft dough.  Place dough in a large greased bowl, cover and let rise.  

Note the time.  It's almost an hour after I started boiling the potatoes and I am now just ready to let the dough rise.  This roll making sure does require a lot of time and patience!  :)  And this is what happened to the dough:  

I'm not even sure it's supposed to look like this, but then again, I am just thankful it rose.  Once I turned it out onto a floured surface, I really knew that this was DEFINITELY not what it was supposed to look like. How could I even knead this runny dough?  I probably should have added more flour.  :) 

Knead and shape into balls and place on cookie sheets or muffin tins.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and brush butter over the top.   

And out they came!  

I won't be winning a roll ribbon at a fair any time soon.  My rolls are not as high as they could be and I would agree with people's description of roll-making as being "finicky", BUT my rolls were tasty and my whole family gobbled them down. My youngest even told me that I was a "sweet mom", so they must have passed the test.  :)

This was the first time that I attempted to photograph a recipe from start to finish and I would encourage any of you to try the same.  Photographing such sequential steps is unlike how I normally approach photography. Usually, I'm grabbing the camera for only a moment or two, or when the light is just right, or when I'm feeling inspired or love the look of something I see.  But I really do see the value in trying to photograph a set of steps.  It's a great way to practice your photography skills as you're forced to get each shot "just right" to you before you move on to the next step.  

Looking for a few tips?  Earlier in the day, I had a little less light in my kitchen, so I used a higher ISO than later in the day, as well as an open aperture.  I found it helpful to have a high step stool on hand so I could shoot from above, getting the counter as my backdrop and eliminating some of my kitchen mess from the pictures.  For the image of my hand greasing the blue bowl, I had to shoot one-handed, and need a nice high shutter speed to eliminate shake.  And when my hands got too messy to shoot, I enlisted the help of my husband, who was more than willing to help with the promise of fresh rolls.

Nice buns baby!

Happy Baking,

1 comment:

  1. Love love love that Rhonda... Making rolls is rewarding especially when they are gobbled up. You have inspired me to take some photos of project steps. Usually I think about it part way through and then decide it's too late