I invented a winter sport called snow hoeing yesterday. A difficult variant on the more popular snow blowing and snow shoveling events, snow hoeing entails using a hoe to hack through a 6-inch sheet of snow-covered ice that forms as a result of city snow plows repeatedly pushing slush into the driveway. See, snow shovels don’t work on ice. Hoes…well it turns out they don’t work on ice either. So in one day I invented a sport, competed against myself, and lost. Failure, hunger, and cold feet finally made me throw the hoe (more a summer sport than a winter sport, but I had the hoe handy) and bake bread instead.
I’ve been craving dark bread and sweet butter since A Veggie Venture‘s prolific Alanna wrote an article for Sauce Magazine on St. Louis and nearby food bloggers that generously mentioned me in distant central Illinois. I have fond memories of St. Louis from my teen years when my brother, a happy Cardinal fan, and I, a depressive Cub fan, made annual pilgrimages to catch a 3 or 4-game Cubs/Cards series at the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Our itinerary often included a stop at the restaurant of legendary Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith to ogle his display of glittering gold gloves and to enjoy the complimentary loaf of black bread and lightly sweetened butter. I bet Ozzie could have snow hoed while doing back flips.
King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking has a recipe for dark and soft restaurant dinner rolls (similar recipe here, but search for “restaurant” because I can’t seem to link the recipe directly), using 2 tablespoons of Dutch process cocoa for the dark color instead of caramel coloring. The recipe produced soft, sweet loaves with a squishy texture and the muted cocoa scent of tightly wrapped chocolate bars. They neither looked nor tasted like Ozzie’s almost black and possibly rye bread, but I didn’t care.
Let me be honest here. While I love homemade bread the way I love sunshine and good friends, I have a helpless lust for butter that’s similar to the lust I feel for a certain unnamed actor who has an unfortunate penchant for throwing communications devices at hotel staff. Note that the butter is taller than the bread in the pictures—Freudian plating exposes my lust. The problem is that you can’t eat butter straight. Even in France that’s unacceptable. I believe that shortbread and pound cake aren’t foods but meticulously designed Butter Utilization Vehicles, or BUVs, which were invented to let you eat lots of butter without losing all your friends. Bread is my BUV.
Sweetened butter provides a great contrast to the hearty flavor of whole grain bread and doesn’t compete with its complex flavors as much as honey butter can. I feel silly writing a recipe, but it did take me some trial and error to get it right. Powdered sugar keeps the butter smooth instead of grainy and salt enhances the flavor. If you prefer a lighter texture you can whip the butter, but keep in mind that whipping adds air. Air is made of air, unlike butter, which is made of butter. Personally, I prefer less air and more butter because butter is special. Not to complain, but I have air all the time.
SNOW HOE CONSOLATION PRIZE BUTTER
Makes 1/2 cup
· 1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons, or 1 stick) unsalted butter
· 1/4 cup powdered sugar
· 1/8 teaspoon fine salt, such as canning or popcorn salt
Let the butter soften a bit. If you’d like, whip it until light and fluffy. Thoroughly mix in the other ingredients. Slather on top of the BUV of your choice. Sprinkling crunchy salt such as Maldon or fleur de sel on top of the spread butter is delicious too, and you can omit the salt in the butter if you do so.