November 15, 2013

Remembering Lis, The Original Daring Baker & Soft Pretzel Sandwich Rolls/ Buns

started blogging towards the end of 2007 and joined the Daring Bakers in January, 2008. In those days, my baking skills were pretty rudimentary and I felt quite "daring" to have asked to joing the group. To say that I was I was intimadated by the the first challenge I ever did was an understatement but the Daring Bakers had some of the most helpful and supportive people I had ever met. Over the years, that group has contributed to my growth as a baker in no small way.

If you are, or have been a Daring Baker, then you would definitely know Lisa Cifelli though perhaps you knew her just as “Lis”. All the Daring Bakers/ Daring Cooks would also be very familiar with the way she always introduced each month’s challenge in her own unique signature style that was full of humour! Lis, a co-founder of the Daring Bakers also used to blog at La Mia Cucina till about 3 years ago.
It was with a sense of shock that I read e-mails and messages from friends in the food blog world, early this week, telling me that Lis was no more. I was aware that she was in a lot of physical discomfort, so much so that she couldn’t sit for extended periods of time because of pain.  She was considering surgery, and I now understand from others that she collapsed after a heart attack on the way to have her blood work done before surgery.

One of the things that stood out about Lis as a Daring Baker was the honesty and humour with which she shared that she wasn’t the most experienced of bakers. Her stories of both her triumphs and the failures with the monthly challenges were guaranteed to at least bring a smile to your face, if they didn’t already have you rolling with laughter.
I did not know Lis personally, but got to know her a little virtually in the way many of us do in the world of food blogdom.  Most of my interaction with Lis was through our e-mails to each other during the two instances when I had hosted Daring Baker challenges.

I hosted my second challenge as recently as August this year and for various reasons beyond my control ended up sending in my challenge draft to Lis pretty much at the last minute. I also had a couple of experiences as a challenge hostess involving a couple of Daring Bakers which weren’t the best and had written to her about that too.
Lis’s e-mails to me were always just what I had come to expect of her –encouraging, funny, supportive and full of cheer. I know she will be missed very much by many, especially by the Daring Bakers.
One of her e-mails to me said, “If you need me for anything at all, don’t hesitate to reach out!  I’m always around. :)”.  And truly, Lis will always be around in spirit and in the memories of her family and friends.
When a lot of Lis's friends and well-wishers in food blogdom decided to pay her a tribute
, it was fitting that we do it through something we all love – food!  The first ever Daring Baker challenge happened when Lis and Ivonne (the founders of the group) got together to bake Pretzelsin November 2006, exactly 7 years ago!
So when someone suggested that it would be a nice idea to go back in time and make Pretzels in Lis’s memory, it seemed to me a good thing to do. Then someone else mentioned that Lis had sent her a recipe for Pretzel Rolls that were to be included as part of a challenge but that never happened, and maybe it would be a good idea to bake those instead. And that’s what I decided to do.

I have previously baked a Pretzel shaped bread, Soft Pretzels and Crunchy Pretzels, and Pretzel shaped cookies so it was definitely the time for me to make Pretzel Rolls/ Buns.
These Pretzel Rolls are have Pretzel like qualities in that they have beautiful golden brown and crusty, crackly tops from being boiled in a soda bath before being baked. They’re also are beautifully soft rolls and make great sandwiches.  
The light coloured slashes on the top also give these rolls/ buns a bit of a “wow” factor making the hard to resist. You could shape this dough into hot dog buns if you prefer.
Soft Pretzel Sandwich Rolls/ Buns
(Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen CafĂ©)


For the Dough:

1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1 cup warm milk
1 cup warm water
1 tsp salt
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
For the Soda Bath:

6 cups water
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp baking soda

Coarse salt for sprinkling


Its better to use a machine because the dough can be a it sticky, though it can be done by hand. I used the food processor as usual. Put all the ingredients for the dough into the processor bowl and then add 4 cups of flour and run the processor to knead the dough. Add as more of the flour as you need until you have a dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft, but not loose and just short of sticky. Do not be tempted to add too much flour.
Take the dough out, shape into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl turning the dough to coat it. Cover and let it rise till almost double, for about 1 1/2 hours or so.
Place the dough on a very lightly floured surface and lightly deflate it. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions. Shape each portion into a smooth ball, flatten it very slightly and place it on a lightly greased baking sheet. Let the dough balls rise for about 15 to 20 minutes.
In the meanwhile, put 6 cups of water and the sugar into a a large but deep saucepan or pot and bring it to boil. Add the baking soda, and when the bubbles subside, gently take one ball of risen dough at time taking care not to deflate it, and place about 3 or 4 balls into the boiling water.
Cook them for about 30 seconds on each side (the longer they are in the soda bath, the chewier they become). Take them out using a slotted spoon, allowing the water to drain out and place them on baking sheets/ trays lined with parchment. The tops of the dough balls will look a bit wrinkled and that’s fine.

Using a sharp knife or blade (coating this with a little oil will help make cleaner cuts), make 3 long equidistant cuts about 1/4" deep (but not too deep) across the top of each ball of dough without deflating it. If using coarse salt, sprinkle it over the top while the balls of dough are still wet.
Bake them at 220C (430F) for about 20 minutes till they’re cooked and a lovely golden brown. Let them cool on racks. Use the Pretzel Rolls/ Buns to make sandwiches.
This recipe makes 10 medium sized Pretzel Rolls/ Buns.  They’re best eaten the day they’re made but will be quite good the next day, slightly warmed.
These are being YeastSpotted!