Rolls and sandwiches sometimes seem like the dull cousins of Japanese-style bentos. Of course, in the West they are the most usual packed lunch. Here a lot of people avoid bringing cooked food to work because 1. they don’t like to eat it cold, 2. if they heat the food in the microwave it “stinks up the office.” 3. it can leak and make a mess. My husband is one of these people. Since he rides a bike with all his gear in a back pack, for him rolls or sandwiches are just more convenient. So, I was wondering, is it possible to make bread for lunch more interesting? Read on for a gallery of some recent attempts.
This year I started making most of our bread: sourdough and yeasted breads, sweetbreads, flatbreads and rolls. Bread was such a staple in my family growing up in Newfoundland, and usually homemade. I think it has ruined me for store-bought sliced bread and rolls, I just can’t get into it! It’s amazing how even a humble egg salad tastes much better on homemade bread. So these days it’s homemade, and also, I’m trying out different types of dough, in a variety of shapes, and with more interesting fillings. And in future posts I’ll share some tips for making bread more easily, and how to shape rolls in different ways.
I usually make sourdough for sliced bread, but for lunch rolls I always use traditional yeast dough. It makes softer, lighter bread, which my family likes best. It doesn’t take as long as you’d think to knock out one or two batches of rolls in the week and freeze them, so they are fresh each morning. When I do two batches it’s usually one batch of white rolls, and one of some wholegrain combination. The one above is half white spelt, half whole spelt, with Coronation Chicken Salad. (Read down for the filling recipe!)
It’s fun to dress up the rolls with different toppings (and hey, if it’s fun for the cook that’s a good thing!), plus they look nice and have a bit of texture. Poppy seeds are fairly standard, they’re good for colour contrast, but pumpkin, sunflower, nigella, or sesame seeds, or a combination, are great for variety. They are also tasty mixed into the dough. My personal favourites are rolls dusted with flour, alone or combined with seeds. It also gives the rolls a soft crust, with a just a touch of crackle. This roll to the right has a really tasty classico salami, thinly sliced. It’s a dry salami, softly leathery like prosciutto and with a ping of spice, I think fennel. To me this salami is so tasty it needs very little added to it.
This roll has a mild Milano salami, and Jarlsberg cheese. As you can see, I don’t put a big variety of salad ingredients on rolls, usually just lettuce. It often makes the bread go soggy by lunch time. If you like extras, a little separate container or plastic bag of salad can be a handy way of keeping bread dry, especially if there are sliced tomatoes. Rolls or sandwiches can be great with little or no salad too, it shows off the clean flavour of a good salami, or even a slice of cheese on its own. Quality of ingredients make or break a sandwich in any case.
Lunch containers come in so many shapes and sizes, there’s really no need to wrap in plastic. A little baking paper nest can help a roll fit just right so it doesn’t joggle around in transit. I love this plain white Sistema container. This last type of roll is my favourite of the moment, a braided one. I’ll show how to make it next week.
Coronation Chicken Salad (my way)
1 cooked chicken breast
1 TBSP mango chutney
1 tsp curry powder
generous squeeze of lemon or lime juice
1 finely chopped spring onion
2 TBSP mayonnaise, or to taste
salt and pepper
Combine dressing ingredients and taste for seasoning. Shred the chicken and mix together well. Makes enough for two or three rolls, or maybe more, depending on size of roll and how much you like to pile up your fillings!