Believe it or not – and despite the fact that I’ve been saying this plainly on this blog for the past several years – Home Economics or HE as we call it in this part of the world was one of my least successful subjects in grade school, high school, and college. You would think that someone who loves cooking and baking as much as I do (and who loves to eat as much as I do!) would have aced that particular class. Sadly, no; to describe my grades in the subject would be to invoke the Filipino concept of pasang-awa – barely passed the course or, worse, passed only on the merit that the teacher probably felt sorry for me. In fact, one of them went so far as to say that I would never be able to either cook or bake. Well, shows you what they know…
Nevertheless, regardless of all the group-work that was par for the course (my downfall, really; I was the kid who didn’t play well with others), I still managed to pick up a few key tenets from my teachers. Among them was that anyone serious about baking bread needed to learn two fundamental recipes for dough: one sweet and the other lean.
However, I never used the recipes my teachers taught me from that Asian Baking Institute-issued workbook they used to teach us from. Mine are both from Nigella Lawson‘s How to Be a Domestic Goddess: the sweet dough is based on her schnecken recipe; the lean one on her recipe for schiacciata. Both are exceptionally versatile as the former is perfect not just for sweet things like cinnamon buns or vanilla coffeecake but it also works a treat when wrapped around savory fillings. The latter, on the other hand, can work solo as a proper dinner loaf to go with a pasta supper, as the base for a homespun pizza, or folded over fillings for calzones; left un-spiced or un-herbed, it can also be used to make South Asian-style flatbreads.
For this particular recipe, I vamped up the sweet dough with some cheese and herbs to make something along the lines of a savory ensaimada. The ingredients listed below are quite basic, but you can throw in minced ham or bacon – heck, you can even use sausage-meat – to make them more substantial.
These went down a treat during a recent church meeting. I brought them in whilst fresh out of the oven – and they disappeared within minutes. Ah, if only my Home Ec. teachers could see me now…
Herb and Cheese Scrolls
For the rolls:
- 500 grams all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup salted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 50 grams granulated white sugar
- 150mL milk
- 1 sachet fast-acting yeast
- 2 eggs
- additional 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
For the filling:
- 1/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- generous dash of ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, Italian seasoning, and sugar. Put the milk and butter in a heatproof bowl and microwave on HIGH for a minute and a half. Whisk until well combined, then beat in the eggs. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix until you achieve a shaggy mess of sorts. Knead for about twelve minutes; dough will be very soft. Cover with a clean dishtowel and leave to rise for about an hour or overnight. (Believe it or not, an overnight rise can actually be much better. I’ve found that the end results rise higher and are considerably fluffier after baking.)
Grease 1 large baking dish; set aside.
Punch down the risen dough and cut into half. Combine the filling ingredients in a small dish. Roll out half the dough onto a floured surface; brush the surface of the dough with milk and sprinkle over half the cheese mixture. Roll and cut into sixteen pieces. Place the cut rolls cut-side up onto the prepared pan. Do the same with the remaining dough and filling. Cover with a dishtowel and leave to prove for about 15 – 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees / Gas Mark 4.
Brush the tops of the rolls with the eggwash and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes. Allow to cool before turning over onto a serving dish. Makes 32 rolls.