Happy 2015 everyone.I hope you all had lovely holidays and got a bit of a break from work and study.
No this year my parents came to visit me for the holidays which means I was lucky enough to be in a country that celebrates Christmas over summer, which meant my Christmas day was spent in shorts and a t-shirt checking out animals at the zoo and picnicking in the grass, slightly different from the usual eating Christmas Eve leftovers while watching the Grinch wearing 3 sweaters.
The one downside was the lack of home kitchen in which to cook an elaborate Christmas dinner. I mean eating out was nice and all, a good burgers and shakes is always appreciated, but I definitely missed the hustle and bustle of Christmas eve cooking, the turkey, cranberries, stuffing and la piece de resistance the buche de noel.
My holiday meal quota for the year was limited to Thanksgiving dinner, when my partner and I were invited to an american-australian thanksgiving crossover. All the typical requirements were met: good company and conversation, nice drinks, the traditional turkey, mash, greens, squash and pumpkin pie with the addition of a less conventional, though delicious, chocolate ripple bake. My partner and I were responsible for the dinner rolls, a job we took very seriously, no buying pre-made buns from a bakery or supermarket, good old home-made fare from scratch.
As I stated above the kitchen I have access to is not exactly the most reliable. For one it is being used by another 100 people (probably less considering i am pretty sure quite few of them cook). The temperature and humidity is not stable with doors being opened and closed at random, the oven and dishwasher being used sporadically. All in all not a great place to commit to baking something that requires anywhere from 3 to 6 hours of your day as any bread based recipe does. But, we were committed so the day of the dinner party came and we began our search for recipes.
We ultimately settled on Martha Stewart's dinner rolls recipe (http://www.marthastewart.com/312832/dinner-rolls). Mostly just because we were hungry at the time and the image looked nice. After reading the recipe it seemed easy enough, we had all the ingredients and 3 and a half hours was less time than most other recipes required (as we later found out this was because whoever wrote the recipe seriously underestimated the amount of time required for anyone who is not Martha Stewart).
We began our baking adventure around four hours before we had to leave for the party. After bringing together our dough and kneading it until it sprung back after a good prodding it was time to let it rise. Now anyone who has ever made bread knows that this is the moment of truth, the point when you find out whether your yeast was active and your kneading worked, it is the moment when your dough is meant to rise. Normally for a quick rise you have to leave your dough somewhere warm (not hot). As there was no-where reliably warm to put our dough and it was rising too slowly for us to be on time for dinner we had to get inventive and I came up with an idea. I decided to put the bowl with dough onto my desk next to a hot just-boiled kettle under a blanket. Sounds weird I know but it worked, the dough rose like helium filled balloon. We were able to beat the air out of it and separate it into rolls to let it rise again just on time to go to the dinner party.
If you don't believe that my technique worked here is a photo of the bread rolls once they were done. In fact when we got to the party the host thought we had cheated and bought our rolls, that is how good they looked, though his comment may have also been influenced by the box we brought the rolls in. As they didn't fit into any of our tupperwares we ended up using the box that my bath robe had come in. The fact that it was lined in baking paper and had a bit of plastic you could look in through apparently made it look like a baker's box.
Anyway lesson of the day: amazing food can be cooked anywhere with some determination, a little bin of extra effort and a whole lot of creativity.