Here was tonight's dinner menu: a green salad with radishes, cucumber, and tomato, potato-leek soup, and squash rolls (a dish I'd been dying to try from my Moosewood). While the first two dishes went without a hitch, (as tried-and-true dishes do, at least hopefully, and really who can mess up salad?), the squash rolls presented a problem I hadn't encountered anytime recently: yeast.
I don't bake much. (Yet. Just wait 'til winter.) So yesterday I had to buy yeast because mine had all gone over, and when I got to the store everything on the shelf was Good Until Oct 08. Great. Yeast kind of scares me, at least in terms of using it. In fact, baking makes me a little nervous. I've been reminded so many times that "baking is chemistry! it's a science!" and I am no scientist. In truth, although I now use recipes far more frequently than at any other point in my cooking life, I am a bad measurer and I tend to loosely follow the directions. When I'm making the kind of food I usually make, this is no big deal. But cooking as science? Maybe not so excellent. But anyway, I was willing to give it a shot for these rolls. I bought my three little packets of quick-acting yeast and I was on my way.
But this morning, when I started prepping the yeast, there was a notable lack of action from my little bowl of lukewarm water. I'd already made the wet mix for the rolls (a cup of pureed cooked butternut squash, 2/3 cup scalded milk, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 1/3 cup melted butter, 1/2 tsp salt), but there I was, yeastless. So I tried again. Nothing. My third and final attempt also resulted in nothing, and that's when my supplies ran out. So I decided to improvise. With baking! I added two tablespoons of baking powder, two beaten eggs, and two cups of unbleached flour and poured the mixture into cupcake tins. And you know what? They were fine. Not the best muffins ever, a little doughy and not incredibly flavorful, but passable. Whew. I haven't made something truly inedible in years, so I felt like I'd dodged a muffin bullet.