Friday, by the hours:
8am (or so… you know…): out walking the dog. By the time I returned home, there was a message in my inbox from S., asking a few folks if they’d be interested in happy hour-ing that afternoon at 5.
9am: RSVPed Absolutely. Affirmative.
9:05-3pm: The day got away from me a bit. There was reading to be done, rooms to be tidied, and an unexpected nap to be taken…
3:30pm and I had nothing to bring to happy hour. I shoved a bottle of wine into the refrigerator and riffled through my pages of Bittman options. Then I set off to the grocery store to buy sun-dried tomatoes.
“82. Tomato Pinwheels: Soak 1 cup dried tomatoes in hot water, drain and pulse in a food processor with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (add water or oil if necessary). Combine 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon baking soda with 4 tablespoons cold butter (use food processor or fingers). Stir in ¾ cup yogurt or buttermilk and gather the dough into a ball. Roll into a large rectangle on a floured surface, spread the tomatoes all over the dough and roll it up lengthwise. Cut the log crosswise into 1-inch slices, put them on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until puffed and golden, 7 to 10 minutes.”
By 4pm I was back in the kitchen. With miniscule exceptions, I followed Bittman’s directions exactly. I added a few grinds of black pepper to the tomato mixture in the food processor, I used greek yogurt with a splash of cream to bring the dough together, and I floured my bread board with whole wheat flour, because I hadn’t checked my flour supply before my trek to the store for tomatoes, and as it turned out I had exactly two cups of white flour in the whole house. I also ended up baking the little pinwheels a bit longer than Bittman directs.
I have a deep and abiding fear of dough. You know this, because I’ve told you before. I buy pie crust for every quiche I make. I routinely tear giant, unfixable holes in the pre-made, refrigerated dough I purchase to make pizza. I’ve tackled, successfully, a total of one dough+yeast products, which just happens to make focaccia AND pizza, and despite that it comes out a little differently every time. And yet, when I was in a hurry and hoping for something company-worthy, I picked a brand new recipe based on dough…
As it turns out, this one was pretty unthreatening, minus a terrifying moment when my half-rolled-out-kinda-sorta-rectangle was losing crumbly pieces all over the place. I tried patching it back together, I tried pinching the corners and kneading, and finally what worked was dropping the bits in the middle of the rectangle of dough and running a rolling pin over them violently a couple of times. Since my fingers were deeply crusted with sticky, floury bits, no photographs were taken during the rolling-patching-pinching process. I should hire a photographer who promises to only take pictures of the food.
The best thing, though, was spreading the tomato filling over the dough. It made this beautiful bright textured layer over the dough and it smelled like summer and warmth. Savory frosting. Doubting but gleeful, I carefully rolled it into a fat log, encasing the filling safely inside.
You need a sharp knife to slice this log. A really sharp knife. Otherwise, the dough tears and the log becomes flat and the tomato filling crumbles out and there is no earthly way of getting it back into the sweet little curlicues it creates. I spaced them out on a greased cookie sheet and stowed it in the oven with great hope.
4:45pm: Makeup applied and hair combed, I returned to the kitchen to check my pinwheels. At ten minutes, they were barely golden and the dough felt a bit squashy. I gave them two additional minutes while I found a pair of shoes that were a.) not dusted red from the bark trail I walk the dog on, and b.) not grubby flip-flops. Happy hour is a serious thing, you see.
When I pulled them out the second time, they were gorgeous: puffed, golden, tender, and smelling like a bakery and a garden. Glamour shots, aluminum foil, and a brief car-ride later, and they were ready for their debut.
5:15pm: These are amazing. The dough was flaky and tender with a suggestion of sourness from the yogurt. The tomato mixture was tart and sweet and herbaceous, and each pinwheel was a lovely three bite experience of lightness and flavor and the barest crunch.
5:45pm: Plate empty and wine glasses refilled, we were already talking about other things you could do with this foundation. Tapenade, any kind of pesto (basil, arugula, parsley, kale, spinach), onion jam, whole or mashed cloves of roasted garlic, maybe even cheese… the possibilities loom large.
8pm: This is a strong contender for this year’s Thanksgiving appetizer menu. And maybe Christmas too.