Jan 132012

ruzicara2 1 of 1 600x400 Getting a Rise

There are smells wafting from the kitchen window that can steal my soul during one breath and never release it: hazelnuts toasting in the oven; onions warming up in a sautee pan, slowly surrendering their sharpness and becoming sweet; garlic clove rubbed against the craggy surface of a brushetta; rows of red peppers roasting on the charcoal grill; specks of vanilla peppering the hot smoothness of Crème Anglaise; smoky bacon dancing in the skillet, hiding glistening drops in the curls of its edges…

But only one is capable of bringing tears to my eyes and enveloping me in imaginary soft and fuzzy blankets, making me feel content, comforted, and absolutely safe: the smell of bread baking in the oven. It is not alluring, nor seductive; it is not exotic, nor is it elusive; it is primal and rustic, inviting me into a warm cave offering shelter from blustery winds that plaster ice crystals on my eyelashes.

Warm-from-the-oven bread is one of my favorite foods. I prefer it smeared with lightly salted butter, milky kajmak, or home-rendered lard topped with salt, paprika, and thinly sliced onions. When I bite into the firm crust, I find myself running after the cows with my cousins, one hand clutching a book, the other firmly gripping a big, crunchy piece of bread that came out of the wood-oven minutes before.

Every time I sink my teeth into a slice, I wonder how something so basic can elicit so much pleasure. But with all its simplicity, I did not have the courage to make my own loaf for many years. I was comfortable with cooking, allowing my creativity to teach me how to improvise, eager to learn new methods and techniques, and willing to experiment with various cuisines and ingredients. But bread baking scared me. Even though many assured me that I need only try, I was mystified and convinced that nothing as miraculous as bread can come out of my kitchen.

Snenokle Fried Rice 025 600x400 Getting a Rise

Yeast seemed whimsical and impulsive, and I did not know if I would be able to wake it up from its slumber and make it play. Flour was confusing in all its different denotations and types, which were not at all the same in Europe and the USA. It appeared to me that too many variables would make it impossible to achieve success. The time for kneading, proofing, and resting, the temperature of the kitchen and the oven, the altitude, the consistency of the dough, the amount of pressure applied while kneading and when deflating, all conspiring against me.

But one glorious day, my perfectionism decided to go on sabbatical. Taking advantage of the moment, I dragged out a 10 pound bag of 5 Roses flour that Mother preferred while in the US, tied my colorful apron around my waist, and courageously took the first step. I did not have to use the recipe; Mother’s words were embedded in my mind like a mantra and I plunged in with calculated movements, dissolving yeast in warm water with a bit of sugar to feed it; adding flour, salt, and more water; kneading for a long time, remembering Mother’s advice and admonitions; covering the dough with a clean kitchen towel and placing it on the stove.

By that time the doubts slowly started creeping up, but bolstered by my new energy and zeal, I brushed them all off. Even if my bread resembled a brick coming out of the oven, I decided not to fret, to just dump it into a trash can and start making another loaf. But when I peeked under the kitchen towel, my first-born dough was beautiful, round and soft, and doubled in size.

My first bread was not as good as Mother’s, but it was the first of many, some of them beautiful, some of them disastrous. I never looked back, placing another slash on the board of my accomplishments.

ruzicara3 1 of 1 600x400 Getting a Rise

January 7th marks Christian Orthodox Christmas*. No matter what food is served, there has to be pork roast and homemade bread. I remembered with nostalgia the square, many-layered bread  that Njanja made every Christmas. It was brushed with egg yolk and pierced all over the top with a fork, and somewhere in its soft middle there was a coin, promising luck to the person that found it.

I wanted to make Mother’s bread, which is shaped like a rose, and decided to combine the two, adding and subtracting, adjusting the amounts, and enjoying the process of creation. No matter how many times I made bread, I am still mesmerized when I see the beautiful loaf when it comes out of the oven. And for the first time in our new home I sent the smell of freshly baked bread out to all my neighbors, hoping that it would bring them comfort and peace.

*Our church has not accepted the Gregorian calendar and all the religious holidays are observed two weeks later.

ruzicara 1 of 1 600x400 Getting a Rise



  • 1 inch piece of fresh yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 200 ml warm milk
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 100 ml plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter at room temperature
  • 650gr all purpose flour (a bit more for dusting the counter)
  • 120 gr (1 stick) butter at room temperature
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten


Dissolve yeast and sugar in milk. When it blooms, whisk in eggs, yogurt, salt, and butter and stir until combined. Add most of the flour and knead in the bowl. Turn over to the lightly dusted counter and continue kneading, adding more flour as needed, to get an elastic, shiny, slightly soft, but not sticky dough. Place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and keep on room temperature until the dough doubles, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough on floured surface and flatten into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Spread 2 tablespoons of butter over one half of the rectangle and cover the buttered side with the unbuttered one. Spread 1 tablespoon of butter over one half of the folded dough, and cover it with the unbuttered part, forming a square. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Flatten it again into a rectangle and repeat. Let it rest another 10-15 minutes.

Flatten into a rectangle and spread the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter over the whole dough. Roll into a tight roulade, placing the seam down. With a sharp knife cut slices 1 to 1 ½ inches wide and place cut side down into a round pan. Brush with beaten egg and let it rest on room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake your bread until golden brown and nicely risen, for 40-50 minutes. Allow it to rest in the pan before removing it to a baking rack.

I am sending my Rose Shaped Bread over to April Harris of 21st Century Housewife for her Gallery of Favorites and to Susan for Yeastspotting

Last year at about this time I wrote about my beautiful oldest daughter and a recipe for Saffron Rice.

19 Responses to “Getting a Rise”

  1. This is beautiful bread! I want to make it sweet and add cinnamon filling in there too :)

  2. What a beautiful bread! I love the roses. I hope you had a lovely Christmas on the 7th January, and I wish you a very Happy New Year too! If you have time, I would love for you to share this post and your beautiful bread with the Gallery of Favorites.

  3. It was so nice to hear from you! I agree wholeheartedly, there is nothing as luscious as the smell of homemade bread. This loaf is gorgeous! Happy New Year to you. :-)

  4. That is SO beautiful! I am sure it is every bit as good as your mother’s ~

  5. Beautifully written Lana. And the bread is gorgeous too. I love the rose shape of each roll. What a special bread. I have only attempted bread a couple of times and need to get some more practice under my belt. I will be saving this to try.

  6. Lana, this is absolutely gorgeous. I mean GORGEOUS! Those soft, flaky, pretty layers look divine! And the aromas described in the beginning of your post have made me hungry (after dinner)! ;-)

  7. What a glorious pan of bread! I love your storytelling, too.

  8. Lana, What a beautiful bread! You certainly have mastered your bread making skills! Another great post!

  9. I grew up baking bread and it will always be my staple comfort food. Mine will never be as good as my mother’s either, but I am so glad that doesn’t stop us from trying. The rose shape bread is spectacular. I must expand my skills with this beautiful recipe. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Sometimes the most basic things (of course food included) bring on this sort of attachment. I think that’s why they are elemental. GREG

  11. This is the most gorgeous bread I have ever seen! Your post is lovely and touching! Thank you for sharing this recipe with the Gallery of Favorites.

  12. I used to fear bread too. The very thing that ultimately made me enjoy making it so much is what kept me from it for so long: my perfectionism. But don’t you find that somehow the whole process, from start to finish, actually soothes and quiets that relentless voice in your head? This is a beautiful beautiful loaf.

  13. It’s a beautiful bread!
    I shape my challahs like this every now the then, it’s lovely :)

  14. I am with you, nothing beats homemade bread out of the oven with a little, or a lot, of butter. With a long weekend a little bread making may well be on the cards in NZ :)

  15. Beautiful bread, Lana.

    Bread is something I’ve attempted once or twice. It’s on my bucket list of things to accomplish, for there are fewer culinary joys than fresh-out-of-the-oven bread. Why is that, anyhow???

    I have an idea – you should come over and bake some bread for me. At the same time, I’ll make a stew for you, and we’ll sit down and eat it together over good conversation. You in?!


  16. Once I had tried the recipe of bread and it was awesome, but the thing is that i had used vegetable oil which spoil a bit my recipe. This thing is totally different without oil really like it. thanks for sharing.

  17. That is quite possibly the most gorgeous bread I’ve ever seen.

  18. Nice unique recipe for breakfast, let me have a try at this weekend.

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