One of the best pieces of advice my dad ever gave me - as weird as it sounds - was this: 'dust is a painter's worst enemy'.
After this week's escapades in cooking forgotten recipes, I'd go so far to say that this sentiment is one that can be extended to baking, too. OK, so baking powder buns don't contain any dust per se, but they are made up of a lot of dusty ingredients. An awful lot of dusty ingredients.
The principle is simple, and one that is actually quite appealing - bread rolls that take a fraction of the time to make, cook, prove and with far less fancy (read: expensive) ingredients than normal. I love bread. If heaven is real, I'm sure it looks a bit like a supermarket with pastries and baked goods down every single aisle. In heaven, beds are giant croissants and coats have buttered tiger rolls stuck to them for maximised snacking opportunities.
Heaven aside, nice bread is relatively difficult to come by in Glasgow. The stuff in the supermarkets isn't ideal, being packed with sugar and preservatives and other unnatural nasties, and the artisan bakeries are often shut by the time I leave work (in heaven, everyone finishes for the day at 4pm to allow them enough time to do a sweep in the amazing bread supermarket). And if you make your own... well, that's what we all should do, shouldn't we? Only, sometimes life gets in the way, we don't have enough hours in the day and we need a bready fix there and then. So, could baking powder rolls be the solution to a lifetime of bread-related woe?
The ingredients are few: flour, baking powder, milk or water, lard and salt. I begin by sieving the flour - an entire pound of the plain stuff - and add two teaspoons of table salt, six of baking powder, a bit of lard and hope that no one in a three-mile radius of my kitchen has asthma. This is a dustbowl of levels not seen since 1930s Oklahoma. I've come to love the book's charmingly vague instructions (I think we're spoonfed, if you'll pardon the pun, too often with recipe books nowadays, which doesn't allow us to experiment and develop our own skills) so I add an unspecified volume of water to the dust until it makes 'a light dough'.
When I've made bread in the past, the dough is super-smooth and the beauty of it is that you get to give it a good bash about. The baking powder dough, however, isn't so much of a dough as a pastry, and the water binds but doesn't fully soften and smooth the consistency. The dough is divided into six roll-shaped blobs, and then baked in a 'hot oven' (mine is about 210c) for fifteen minutes.
Fifteen minutes isn't really enough for the six roll shapes made from the dough - maybe the rolls were smaller back in the day - so I return them to the oven for another ten minutes or so. They look like rough rock cakes without the fruit. Rock is the operative word - each roll is the weight of a small child and though they smell bready, are too crumbly to be cut in half to add a filling. Perhaps they were more of a cake idea after all. I'd also question the quantity of salt the recipe calls for - I think half would be plenty. As it stands, after eating one, I felt like I could do with an hour on a saline drip for a quick burst of rehydration.
Will these powder buns make it into my bread heaven? No. They may wait at the gate until they've been a little more virtuous...
Here's how I did it...
1 lb flour
2 level teaspoonsfuls salt
2 oz lard
6 level teaspoonfuls baking powder
Milk or water to mix
1. Sieve dry ingredients and rub in lard.
2. Add liquid to make a light dough.
3. Shape into rolls
4. Bake in a hot oven 15 minutes.