if this were a proper food blog

cloverleaf rolls | the merry gourmet

I have had a lot on my mind lately, and I thought it might be nice to share some of it with you all. You are all very good listeners, and I know you won’t mind if I ramble on a bit.

I’ve been thinking about this blog and how it fits in to the general universe of blogs. The fact that it is January may have something to do with these thoughts in my head. This first month of the year always finds me reflecting on the past, making goals for the future, and pondering what may come. The blog also has a pretty big anniversary next month – five years – and that feels significant.

I started this site as a food blog, a place to share recipes and the stories that held their hand. Through the act of making recipes for blog posts and then writing up and testing those recipes, I became a better cook and I gained confidence in the kitchen. In the beginning, that was enough for me.

Over time, though, the stories started coming first, just as they did in actual life. The recipes became less important to me. The recipe in any given post became the utensil – preferably a vintage silver spoon – used to dish out the narrative.

Mostly, I have been okay with this change in focus. I assume that, since you’re still reading, you have been too. But other times, I get twinges of angst,  like I’m doing this blogging thing all wrong.

Just last week, I was reading the posts in a Facebook group I belong to, a private group for food bloggers to ask questions and share information about food blogging. As I read each post or comment, I found my anxiety rising. I realized that I wasn’t doing so many of the things that productive food bloggers do to create content, to maintain their blogs, to boost income potential, or to manage their blogs. I realized that I wasn’t a good food blogger, and that this really isn’t a good food blog.

But do I care?

This is what I have been struggling with.

I don’t believe that I care. I think that I am okay with this being less of a food blog and more of a…a…I don’t know what kind of blog. Just a blog, maybe. With some recipes.

If this were a proper food blog, for example, I would not be sharing this recipe for cloverleaf rolls with you in January. I should be posting a salad, or maybe something with kale or quinoa or chia seeds. But I make these cloverleaf rolls every Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they are my absolute favorite dinner roll. I should have shared the recipe with you in early November, or maybe early December at the latest. Instead, you’re getting the recipe now. And the real reason you’re getting the recipe today – because I’m being very truthful with you – is because I wanted to have the recipe saved here, in this printable version, for my own use.

This blog may have felt like a legitimate food blog once upon a time. Now, though, it’s something different. It doesn’t fit into a box. I am learning to be good with that.

For the record, I know that I am lucky to be able to do this blog for fun. My income doesn’t depend on any income earned from this blog (and also for the record: the money I earn from it is pitiful). If my income DID depend on this blog, it would look a whole heck of a lot different today, and I wouldn’t be writing this post.

For 2015, I am making a promise to myself that I will let this space have some flexibility. I will not let this square blog be forced into that skinny, round hole that it has no longer fits comfortably in. I may share less food photos, less recipes. I may post more about my new love – knitting. I might post more photos of birds or my cats or the places I visit. I might tell you some tougher stories that need to be told, stories that will never have a matching recipe. My promise to you – and to myself – is that, if I don’t have a recipe to share, I won’t be deterred from writing here.

I promise to give this space – and myself – some freedom.

2015 is going to be fun.

Yield: 12 rolls

Cloverleaf Rolls

These rolls are buttery and flaky, and when you eat one warm out of the oven, it almost melts in your mouth. Because of their consistent deliciousness and the reliability of the recipe (thanks Cook’s Country!), these cloverleaf rolls have become a regular addition to our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner menus. I like to make enough for each person to have 2 rolls, so I often double the recipe.

If you have leftover rolls, store them covered. You can warm them in the microwave the next day and they are almost as good as fresh out of the oven.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup (177 mL) skim milk, heated to 110 degrees
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1 envelope (2-1/4 teaspoons; 7 grams) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk, room temperature
3-1/2 cups (438 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
10 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks; 140 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces and softened, plus 2 tablespoons (28 grams) melted unsalted butter

Directions:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once it reaches 200 degrees, turn oven off. Grease a large bowl.

2. Whisk milk, sugar, and yeast in a liquid measuring cup until yeast dissolves, then whisk in egg and yolk. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix flour and salt until combined. With mixer on low, add milk mixture in a steady stream and mix until dough begins to form, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and add softened butter, 1 piece at a time, until incorporated. Continue to mix until dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of bowl, about 10 minutes.

3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to form a smooth, cohesive ball. Transfer dough to prepared bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

4. Brush a 12-cup muffin tin with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Punch down dough on lightly floured surface. Divide dough into three pieces, and roll each piece into an 18-inch long rope. Cut each rope into 12 equal pieces and cover with plastic. On a clean surface (not floured), roll each piece into a smooth ball. Place 3 balls, seam side down, in each muffin cup. Cover loosely with plastic and let rest in turned-off oven until doubled in size, about 20 minutes.

5. Remove rolls from oven and discard plastic. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating the tin halfway through baking. Brush rolls with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter. Cool in tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm.

To make ahead: Refrigerate the filled muffin tins, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 24 hours. Let the dough sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to baking.

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7 Responses to “on christmas eve, and a recipe: brown sugar and cinnamon pull-apart bread”

  1. 1
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    Sally Akins — December 24, 2012 @ 7:49 am

    I’m not a fan of messy either, but that bread looks so tempting that I think I may have to give it a go!

  2. 2
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    Maria Raynal — December 24, 2012 @ 8:56 am

    Yes, yes, yes on all of it. Sounds just like our Christmas prep. I think the pull-apart bread is the perfect metaphor for the season…. It’s pretty messy getting there, but oh-so satisfying in the end. Xoxo

  3. 3
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    Aggie — December 24, 2012 @ 9:11 am

    I’m actually impressed about the google doc MJ, wondering why I didn’t think of that – we are in the midst of evening things out between the kids & I may have to get creative with wrapping today 🙂

    Your bread looks amazing! Have a wonderful Christmas with your beautiful family! xo

  4. 4
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    Kathryn — December 24, 2012 @ 11:43 am

    Your Christmas Eve sounds pretty perfect. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas full of delicious food and good cheer.

  5. 5
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    Jayne — December 24, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

    This looks amazing! I tried to make a pull apart bread recently with much less success than you, will try this recipe next time! Merry Christmas!

  6. 6
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    Paula — December 25, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

    As I write this, you will have gotten through all the last minute Christmas Eve *to do’s* and your Christmas Day is most likely well underway. Just wanted to wish you and your family a wonderful celebration and time spent together. All the best to you and your loved ones in the coming year.

    Merry Christmas!

  7. 7
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    Gail — December 27, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

    I wish I hadn’t waited til Dec 27 to read his post. But, maybe this is the perfect time, actually, since we’re sort of stranded on afire a island til Saturday.
    #bakingproject

    PS. I will never do anything even close to all that you do so well.
    Xo

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