Sausage and cheese wrapped up in a crusty french loaf

One of the first things I cooked for Christmas that I can remember was this Sausage Roll. I have always loved cinnamon rolls, but I knew that we would be having a Sugar Cake, and so I knew we wouldn’t want sugar overload. I took a pre-packaged unbaked french loaf, rolled it out, and filled it with spicy Italian sausage and cheeses before rolling it back up and baking it.

This is unlike a cinnamon roll in that you need to bake it before you slice the individual rolls, but the visual affect is widely the same.

But once again, living in China creates its own challenge. We don’t get pre-packaged unbaked french loaves here, and so for the first time in my life, I would have to make my own french bread. Simpler kitchen tasks have always been more daunting for me, and looking at this five ingredient recipe for a classic french loaf, there didn’t seem to be a lot of room for error.

I was pretty confident though, when the bread puffed up nicely. Here’s what I did to make my sausage rolls:

Ingredients

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 5 six inch links of spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded Asiago cheese (just use your favorite)
  • 4 oz (a little less than half a tub) of cream cheese

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast and salt. Stir in 2 cups warm water, and beat until well blended using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes total. Shape into a ball. Place dough in a greased bowl, and turn once. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled.
  3. Punch dough down, and divide in half. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.
  4. While the dough is resting, brown the sausage adding oil if necessary. Depending on your taste, you could use this opportunity to add in different seasonings – I only added some extra crushed chili pepper flakes, but you could certainly add in some other flavors. Drain and chill the sausage well. If the sausage is warm when you try to assemble the roll, it will break or strain the dough.
  5. Roll half the dough into a rectangle onto a sheet of wax paper, about 12×20 inches. Set aside the rest of the dough for later use. Spread the cream cheese in a 1 inch strip down one long edge of the rectangle. This edge will be the center of your sausage roll.
  6. Spread the sausage across the rectangle, leaving about 1 inch at the other three sides uncovered. Sprinkle a layer of cheese over the sausage, again, leaving the edges uncovered.
  7. Starting from the edge with the cream cheese, use the wax paper to help you roll the dough up. As you roll, pull the wax paper off, and continue to turn it up until you get to the very end. using a little water, seal the last edge to the sausage roll. Pinch the two ends of the roll together to keep all the fillings inside. Pinching the dough will also help it rise by keeping the steam inside the dough. (This is the point where I froze the roll in preparation for Christmas brunch. Just wrap it in its wax paper, and cling wrap and let it freeze well. The morning of your brunch you can just pop it in the oven.)
  8. Setting the roll on its seam, brush the top of the dough with an egg wash, and place in a preheated oven (mine was 150C, but no one knows what that really means) for 40 minutes, or until top is browned.
  9. Let the sausage roll rest on a cookie rack before slicing. If you just can’t wait, you can slice right out of the oven, but until the cheese cools a little, all of your fillings will tumble out.
Very simple, and very tasty. Walker inhaled several of them, all the while complaining that he was full. They’re also great reheated the next day if you and yours can’t manage to finish a whole roll in one sitting.

The hash browns were a perfect and simple addition that I could make that morning without any fuss. I found the recipe here, and after reading the exchange about whose hash browns were better and why, I began to get paranoid about needing a potato ricer.

But there are real constraints in my life – space in my kitchen and budgets in my finances – which do not allow for kitchen tools I can only really use in one capacity. A potato ricer doesn’t really fit into my kitchen drawers, much less the requirement for it to branch out beyond potatoes.But I certainly don’t want soggy hash browns, so what to do?

I shredded my potatoes and noticed that a lot of the liquid was coming out right on the cutting board. I went to transfer the shredded potato to paper towels, but it was so drippy that I would have gotten the floor messy. Instead I gathered as much of the potato as I could in my hands, held it over the sink, and squeezed all the moisture out that I could before transferring it to the paper towels. At that point, I just patted the potatoes dry.

I spread the potatoes out in the pan with some butter and oil and they fried up beautifully. Because I’d dried them, they didn’t even crackle and pop in the pan. I had trouble flipping it, so the pieces came out oddly shaped, but they were oh so tasty. Crunchy and crispy on the outside and tender and flavorful on the inside. Definitely worth a try at home. Once you pull them out of the pan, do drain them of the excess oil. Just serve hot with your favorite condiments.

Am I missing something? Is there another use for a potato ricer? Until someone tells me otherwise, I’m going to keep my small kitchen free of one-trick tools.

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