Orange Pan di Ramerino for Twelve Loaves April

Head above water. That pretty much describes where I’m at these days. I’m about a month out from completing my first year as a full-time faculty member at my college: my first real professorship! This means my desk is somewhere underneath a pile of research proposals from one class, reading responses from two more, and the weight of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene providing a ballast (read: another thing I have to work through) in one corner. My world is scattered with attendance sheets, evaluation materials, paperclips, and an amazing image of the shield from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that a student drew for me in February and I still haven’t gotten around to hanging on my wall.
Food Blog April 2014-3697This means that every week when it comes time to sit down and write a post, I scramble. At least it’s getting lighter outside every night, which means the moment when I can photograph the intricacies of one of our dinners – perhaps even on a week night – is coming. But for now it usually means making and photographing something on a Saturday, editing the photos (I do a little fiddling with white balance and noise reduction) and cobbling together a few things to say about it on Sunday, and scheduling it to go live as usual Monday morning.
Food Blog April 2014-3689It’s only a very few things, I find, that I have to say this time around. The Twelve Loaves challenge for April was oranges. Bake a bread, any bread, whether it be yeast, quick, muffins, biscuits, savory or sweet, and incorporate orange in some way. This one stumped me for a while until I read a post from my new blog obsession, Joe Pastry. Do you guys know Joe? He runs a delightful site in which he pulls inspiration for post topics from questions his readers ask, and along with some really interesting recipes, he explains the science behind baking.
Food Blog April 2014-3680Food Blog April 2014-3683Recently, Joe posted a procedure and recipe for Pan di Ramerino, a Tuscan take on the hot cross bun that incorporates rosemary and raisins. It’s a not-quite-savory-not-quite-sweet bun as welcome in a breakfast basket as on the dinner table. Joe provides a bit more history about it, but I’ll let him tell you that if you’re interested.
Food Blog April 2014-3686Food Blog April 2014-3691Remembering how much I like the combination of orange with rosemary from one of the first loaves I baked during my dough project, I decided to add a hefty scattering of orange zest to the dough, and replace the apricot glaze Joe advocates for an orange one instead to tie things together. Though I let mine rise a little too long (the room was quite warm and I was distracted by lesson planning) and thus the final product was a bit less puffy than I’d hoped, we scarfed our way through the first bun, and then bun-and-a-half, and then two, in little time. They are a soft, moist offering, not as eggy as challah but reminiscent of it in the sticky elasticity of the dough, with an intriguing herbal note that keeps them from turning resolutely into dessert.
Food Blog April 2014-3695Food Blog April 2014-3693The recipe to follow is adapted very slightly from Joe’s. I ended up with eleven buns, but that was just carelessness and poor counting on my part (thankfully I’m not a math professor…); you will easily be able to make twelve. Easter is over now, I know (head above water, people), but these are a lovely expression of spring for your kitchen, and would make really nice offerings for a bridal or a baby shower. Or, you know, roast a chicken stuffed with a sprig of rosemary and half an orange, and serve these up on the side.

Food Blog April 2014-3697

Orange Pan di Ramerino
Adapted from Joe Pastry
Makes 12
3 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
¾ cups warm or tepid water (at or just above body temperature)
¼ cup olive oil
3 sprigs rosemary (about 3 inches each) plus an optional extra 1 tablespoon, finely chopped
⅔ cup golden raisins
3 ¼ fluffy cups bread flour (that’s 17.5 ounces, if you’re being disciplined about it)
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons orange zest from one large orange
2 eggs
1 additional egg, for egg wash
Additional dribble of water, for egg wash
Orange glaze, recipe follows


  • In a 2 cup glass measuring cup or a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, and ¾ cups warm water, and set aside to burble for 5-10 minutes.
  • While the yeast activates, heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium low heat. When it just shimmers, add the 3 sprigs of rosemary and sauté for 30 seconds. They will barely brown and the leaves will start to look a little weary. Remove and discard.
  • Add the raisins to the same olive oil and sauté them for 30 seconds. Remove and drain, reserving the oil. Let the raisins and the oil cool.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour and salt using the paddle attachment. Chop the remaining rosemary, if using, and zest the orange.
  • By this time your yeast mixture should be assertively bubbling and smell like fresh bread. Add the cooled oil and the two eggs to the yeast mixture and whisk lightly.
  • Add this collection of wet ingredients to the flour and salt and mix with the paddle attachment until most of the flour is moistened. Exchange the paddle attachment for the dough hook and knead at medium speed for 3-5 minutes. The dough will become lovely: supple and elastic.
  • Add the additional rosemary, if using, the orange zest, and the raisins to the dough, and knead again until these flavoring agents are incorporated. This will take a good minute or two, since the first inclination of the raisins will be to hang out stubbornly at the bottom of the bowl. You may have to stop the mixing and fold them into the dough by hand a few times to get them to behave.
  • Once things are nicely incorporated, the dough will be a bit on the sticky side, but that’s okay. Transfer it to a clean, oiled bowl, or just smear some olive oil around the sides of the bowl you’ve been using, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set it aside to rise until doubled. This could take as many as 90 minutes, or it could take more like 60. It depends on how warm your house is.
  • When the dough has doubled in volume, turn it out onto a floured board. You may find it is still a bit sticky, so you want to be sure you have enough flour down to prevent frustration.
  • Using a dough scraper, a pizza cutter, or a reasonably sharp knife, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. If you want to be precise about it, this should mean each chunk will be 2.75 ounces.
  • With the palm of your hand, gently roll each chunk into a soft round. Joe has an excellent method for this – take a peek at his instructions if you want a method to work with.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and load them up, six buns on each. Lightly oil the tops of the buns, then cover with plastic wrap or a clean cloth and let them rise again for 45 minutes. At this point, you should also preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Once the buns have risen again and the oven is hot, brush the tops with egg wash, made by beating the remaining egg with a tiny dribble of water. Then, with a sharp serrated knife, cut a criss-cross pattern in the top of each. As Joe notes, this produces something less than aesthetically perfect, but it’s traditional.
  • Bake in the upper third of a 400F oven for twenty minutes. At this point the tops of the buns should be nicely bronzed. Take them out and let them cool for a bit before topping them with a light layer of orange glaze.


Orange glaze
Makes enough for at least 12 buns
Juice of one large orange
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon orange marmalade


  • Combine all ingredients in a small pot or saucepan and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until slightly thickened. Cool slightly before brushing onto the warm pan di ramerino.

Jalapeño Cheese Rolls #TwelveLoaves June

Food Blog May 2013-1439Last week I presented you with something both vegan and gluten-free.  Dietary allergen-buster, that’s me!  This week, to prove that I’m a fickle  equal opportunist  flexible sort of cook, I’m giving you something that is neither.  But really, this is the kind of food person I am, and I’ve been thinking about this lately, especially given this post from Shauna at Gluten-Free Girl.  I’ve thought, over this past year as I finished my Bittman Project and moved on to my exploration of dough, what kind of food blog this is, anyway.  I don’t follow a specific dietary regimen.  I don’t cook – or eat – specifically one type of food.  So what am I?  As I wrote to Shauna, what drove me to her blog, and what drove me to one of my own, was the expression of joy through food.  I want food that tastes good and brings joy.  And then, because it has given joy to the tongues and teeth and bellies of the people I made it for, I want to pass that on to people who weren’t in our little house with us.  That’s you, people.  So I guess what it comes down to is: this is a blog about food that brings you joy.  At least, that’s what I hope you feel when you read, and when you eat, if you end up using the recipes here (and if you do, will you tell me?  I’d love to know what you guys think).

These little rolls brought us considerable joy.  They are cheddar infused, jalapeño studded puffs somewhere in between a rich, buttery brioche and a stern, crusty, segmented Kaiser roll.  They are also, given this month’s Twelve Loaves assignment of buns, the perfect choice to slice equatorially, layer with mayonnaise or hot sauce or pickles or onion rings or dripping fresh tomato slices and then cram with a burger of your favorite juicy variety.

Food Blog May 2013-1410I started with my Nana’s sweet roll dough, replacing the sugar with a smaller amount of honey, opting for the tang of buttermilk rather than the roundness of whole milk, and injecting wafer-thin slices of jalapeno and cheddar cheese so sharp it made me – let’s not lie – basically drool when I sampled some.

Food Blog May 2013-1414Food Blog May 2013-1415Though you could just divide your dough into equal sections and let these rise into sweet, uncomplicated burger buns, I decided to take on the familiar lobed shape of a Kaiser roll.  This is, as you might expect, not the most straightforward approach, mostly because there are numerous methods for achieving that instantly recognizable shape.  You can score the dough as it rises, you can use a special press that creates the petal shape, can follow a complex procedure of folds, or, as I learned and executed to my delight, you can roll the dough into ropes, tie them in a simple overhand knot, and then tuck up the ends.  I’ve attempted instructions and accompanying pictures below, but if you are lost, try this recipe, which explains the knotting and tucking process pretty clearly.

Food Blog May 2013-1425Food Blog May 2013-1429Sprinkled with more sharp cheddar and topped with a few more, probably gratuitous slices of pepper (you have to know what you’re in for, I think), these bake into all but perfect imitations of the jalapeño cheese rolls N. and I used to buy from Market of Choice as the occasional treat after a perfect sunny afternoon trip to the dog park in Eugene.  We never put burgers on those, because they never made it through the whole ride home.  But these little Kaiser-roll-buns of mine, burnished with cheddar and lip-tingling with heat, will carry anything you load them with.

Food Blog May 2013-1435Food Blog May 2013-1433Summer’s coming.  That should bring you joy.  If you can stand more, make these for your next barbeque.  This recipe can easily be doubled, and once baked, these will keep in the fridge for a few days or, securely wrapped in airtight packaging, in the freezer for much longer.

Food Blog May 2013-1441Jalapeño Cheese Rolls
makes 8 petite rolls, or 6 larger ones
 2 tsp active dry yeast
1 TB warm water
½ cup warm buttermilk
2 TB honey
¼ cup room temperature butter
1 egg
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour (I like bread flour best for these, because it has a high protein content that stimulates gluten production.  But I think all-purpose would create similarly fantastic rolls)
1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 medium jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced


  • Stir the yeast gently into the warm water, set aside for five minutes to let the yeast wake up.
  • Add butter and honey to the warm buttermilk, stirring them together until incorporated.  This will make the honey and butter easier to integrate into the dough, and cool the buttermilk so it won’t kill the yeast or scramble the egg.
  • Pour the puffy, bready yeast, the buttermilk mixture, and the egg  into a large bowl (I use the bowl of my electric stand mixer), and whisk or stir together with a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of your stand mixer.
  • Add the flour and salt to the mixture, and stir just until roughly combined.
  • Add ¾ cup of the cheddar cheese and half of the jalapeño slices to the rough dough and stir again, just until the cheese and peppers are well distributed.
  • If you are using a stand mixer, replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and knead on medium speed for 8-10 minutes. If you are not using a stand mixer, turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.  Though I think kneading by hand will work fine here (I haven’t tried it, so I’m not positive), there are two things to take into consideration.  First, this dough has cheese it in, so that may make it messier to work with than your average burger bun dough.  Second, it contains jalapeño peppers, which can leach capsaicin onto your hands and sting delicate skin (read: don’t forget and wipe your nose!), so be absolutely certain you wash your hands really well after handling this dough.
  • In either case, the dough starts out sticky, but becomes smooth and stretchy as you continue to work it. Once it is elastic and supple and lovely, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm room (if you have one handy) for an hour and a half, or until it has doubled in volume.
  • Remove the plastic wrap and punch down your doubled dough by gently but firmly pressing your fist into the center.  It will almost gasp as the built-up gasses are released.
  • Divide the dough in 8 equal pieces (for petite buns), or 6 equal pieces (for big, beefy buns).
  • Now would be a good time to do some prep, while the dough-balls get some breath back.  Preheat your oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  If you haven’t already, dust a bread board with flour.
  • Working one at a time, roll each dough ball into a 6-8 inch rope (Picture 1).
Food Blog May 2013-1419

Picture 1: dough rope

Food Blog May 2013-1420

Picture 2: overhand knot

Picture 3: tuck right side into top middle of knot

Picture 3: tuck right side into top middle of knot

Food Blog May 2013-1426

Picture 4: tuck left side under and into bottom middle of knot

  • Tie the rope into a simple overhand knot (the same way you would begin tying a shoelace).  I tie mine left side through right side, probably because I am left-handed.  If you are right-handed and you tie your knot the opposite way, reverse the L and R in the directions below.  You will have a knot in the middle and some lanky excess on either side (picture 2).
  • Now, to form the segmented shape of a Kaiser roll, lift the length on the right side of your knot (which started out as the left end of your original rope) and pull it up over the knot, shoving the end of it down into the middle of the knot itself and pressing lightly to secure (picture 3).
  • Next, lift the left side and tuck it under the knot, pushing it up through the middle from the bottom.  Sometimes it will poke through and make a little button in the top of the roll; sometimes it won’t.  Either is okay (picture 4).
  • With all of your rolls knotted and tucked, set them on your prepared baking trays, spaced evenly.  I did four per sheet tray.
  • Sprinkle each roll with cheddar cheese from the remaining ¼ cup.  Top each with 1-2 slices of reserved jalapeño.  Cover trays with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
  • Remove kitchen towel, admire the puffy little buns you’ve created, and bake in your preheated, 350F oven for 20 minutes.  The cheese will melt, the dough will rise, the color will deepen to a lovely golden brown, and the thinnest of your jalapeño slices will barely begin to caramelize.
  • If you eat these immediately, you will burn your mouth.  And it won’t just be the good burn from the jalapeño.  So do what you can to let them cool a little, and then load them up, or just eat them plain.  I think you’ll be happy either way.