Baking challenge: sweet and savoury rolls

Hopefully the Easter weekend was fun for all. Most of it was spent reading (World War One, naturally), but also lots of Great British Bake-Off re-runs, The Village (I’m sure I’ll have more to say on that soon – after all, the first episode was set in 1914!), and a visit to the theatre – my first in years – to see Mies Julie, an adapted version (i.e. borrowing the concept of, but with an original script) of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie set in South Africa, which has received universal rave reviews. Sadly I found myself disagreeing with the reviewers wholeheartedly by about 20 minutes in, and my patience had evaporated completely by the end. All I can conclude is that journalists equate the combination of copious swearing, nudity, simulated sex, jumping around on stage, race relation allusions and South Africa as cutting-edge and electric. The much-promised sexual tension and climactic scene (er, in more ways than one) actually drove me to hysterical (though silent, I hasten to add) laughter – it was just so awkward. And I personally don’t equate two people shouting at each other with irresistible sexual tension, so this ‘tension’ was lost on me, rendering much of the action pointless. The script, also, should have been tightened up – it was genuinely all over the place, extremely repetitive and didn’t actually take us anywhere. The disappointing thing was that some potentially intriguing moments touched on (Julie’s threat to cry rape, the Christine’s comments on identity) weren’t explored fully or even at all, at the expense of a continuous “I hate you”/”I love you” exchange between Julie and John (Jean in the original play). Some bits also just came out of nowehere (Christine’s reference to her effaced fingerprints) and just hung there, without context or development, and the symbolism was exceptionally heavy-handed. All in all, disappointing for me, though obviously I am in the minority on this one.

Anyway, back to the baking challenge. The showstopper challenge for bread week (series one) was to make 24 sweet and savoury rolls, which I assumed meant 12 of each. Now that I’m re-watching the episodes on the BBC, I can see that some people actually made about six different breads. Exciting – but maybe overkill? This challenge was actually one I meant to replicate faithfully (i.e., doing both rolls at the same time), but then we bought (shocker) some bread and doing both at the same time would have greatly exceeded our bread needs and been a waste.

For the sweet, I made some very British Pembrokeshire buns, adapted from a National Trust cookbook. I must admit that while they were loved by some in the house, they were too similar to hot cross buns for my taste, even omitting the candied peel which I cannot stomach. The buns were slightly unusual in using lard, which seemed to make them softer for longer than breads made with other fats. Very easy and quick, too; they also made good French toast. The only disadvantage is really the block of lard sitting in my freezer.

For the savoury, chorizo-stuffed rolls from Casa Moro, for which I had to double the recipe, and didn’t stuff enough, with the delicious result that I could snack on loads of fried chorizo while waiting for them to bake. The oil which the chorizo gives off in the original frying is incorporated into the dough, which is great as it’s not wasteful, and making them rich, slightly oily and quite salty. Delicious, but not the kind of roll you eat dozens of in one sitting. The directions from Casa Moro on timings weren’t always very helpful so I’ve tried to clarify them based on my experience.

Pembrokeshire buns, tea, magazines, TV remote. Happy times ahead.
Pembrokeshire buns, tea, magazines, TV remote. Happy times ahead.

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