Katrina and Jessica try out a recipe!

Hello readers!

You may recall that last month I read The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. Well, fun fact for you, there’s a recipe at the back of the book and my friend Jessica and I decided to try it out this past Saturday.

It was an exciting day! Not only did we have a chance to catch up, but we also did a little book swap – and by little, I mean big. She brought me three beauties to try out (Wuthering Bites by Sarah Gray, Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter, and Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev) and I lent her four of my favourites. Needless to say, these additions to my reading list will keep me busy for the next little while.

The main part of the afternoon was spent baking. I really love to bake but I am by no means a master pastry chef so things got a little wonky at times – the end result, however, was indeed delicious!

Now, I don’t want to give too much away because I know some of you plan on reading The Storyteller, but I will say that the recipe at the back of the book is for “Minka’s Rolls”, and these buns are an important symbol throughout the story. Because Jessica and I both loved the book, we thought it would be a great idea to try the recipe out. It will likely become a November tradition from here on out.

the finished product: Minka's Rolls

The finished product: Minka’s Rolls.

Here is the recipe we followed, which can also be found on Jodi Picoult’s website and at the end of The Storyteller.

Ingredients:

1/2 cups warm milk, 110 degrees
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar, plus a pinch
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for bowl and muffin tin (it also works to use non-stick cooking spray)
¼ pound bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped or shaved
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Set Aside:

Butter a large non reactive bowl for dough; set aside.
Butter a 12 cup muffin tin; set aside.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Pour warm milk into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and pinch of sugar over milk; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. In a bowl, whisk together ¼ cup sugar, 1 egg and 1 egg yolk. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add egg mixture, and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated.
4. Change to the dough hook. Add 3 tablespoons butter, and knead on low speed until flour mixture and butter are completely incorporated, about 10 minutes. Dough will be sticky.
5. Butter a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel. Set aside in a warm place to rise until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
6. If dough is not in a warm area it may take longer to rise. A simple trick to help warm your dough-place a large pan of boiling water on the lowest rack in your oven and place bowl of dough on the next highest rack. This should help the dough rise.
Prepare filling 
7.Place chocolate, remaining ¼ cup sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Add 3 tablespoons butter and toss to combine. Alternately, place chocolate, cinnamon and butter in food processor and pulse to combine. Set aside
8. Once dough has doubled, turn on to a well floured surface and deflate. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
9. With rolling pin, roll dough into large rectangle shape. Sprinkle filling over dough; roll the dough into a log and slice into 2’ pieces. Place each slice in muffin cup. Cover muffin tin with plastic and let sit for 15-20 minutes or until dough rises slightly.
10.Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

mixing the dough with my handy-dandy Kitchenaid mixer

Mixing the dough with my handy-dandy Kitchenaid mixer.

chocolate for the filling - delicious!

Chocolate for the filling – delicious!

this may not look tasty yet BUT the filling was pretty amazing

This may not look tasty yet BUT the filling was pretty amazing.

soo tasty

Baked to perfection!

Voila! The perfect snack for a wintery evening!

Voila! The perfect snack for a wintery evening!

Try the recipe out – guaranteed your rolls will look different from ours because you are going to follow the directions, right? Right. *But if you mess up, worry not! Ours were still scrumptious!

Until next week, happy reading!
-Katrina

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Why I went to Sachsenhausen

I am currently reading Jody Picoult’s The Storyteller.

My friend Jessica, a fellow lover of literature, recommended it to me this summer. She told me it was her favourite book written by Picoult and she also warned me that it was an intense read. I’m grateful that she gave me the heads up because this book revolves around the experience of a Jewish girl, Minka, during the Holocaust – any book that talks about war, genocide, or crimes against humanity, let’s face it, make me really sad.

The book deals with the complex issues of abuse and forgiveness, and while I only finished Part 2 last night, some of the scenes I have read so far have been heart-wrenching. I don’t want to ward you off the book because it is important and beautiful and well-written, but it does deal with difficult subject-matter.

Reading The Storyteller has brought back memories of a trip I took two years ago. I was traveling with friends of mine and while we were in Berlin, Germany, we decided to visit Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp located about an hour from the city centre. We could have gone to visit nearby castles or the Reichstag (Parliament), but all of us felt that it would be important to visit the camp.

Context: I had just finished my university degree in Human Rights, and in my last year of school, I had taken a course on Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. All of us have German ancestry. We had to go.

We took the train to Oranienburg and walked to the camp museum and memorial. The weather was terrible – it was windy and cold and we kept thinking it would storm. The gloominess amplified the atmosphere of despair at the camp. I can’t really describe the feeling of being there – it was terrifying, sad, grotesque. I will never forget that visit.

While Minka, the girl in The Storyteller, didn’t spend time at the concentration camp I visited (she was a prisoner at Auschwitz, then at Bergen-Belsen), every time I read a scene detailing Minka’s experience, I think of Sachsenhausen.

As we draw closer to Remembrance Day and as governments around the world make difficult decisions regarding ISIS and other threats to human security around the world (conflict in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, political unrest in Hong Kong, and the Ebola virus crisis, etc.,), I think it is important for us to remember the Holocaust and other past atrocities. We always say “never again” and we always say that this time, we’ve learned how to be better. The concentration camps left standing in Europe as memorials and museums are there to remind us to be better. Here’s hoping Canadians can demonstrate that we have learned from past mistakes, and that we are a better people.

Read The Storyteller. Visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Be kind to one another.

Happy reading,

Katrina

To learn more about Sachsenhausen, visit the museum and memorial website: http://www.stiftung-bg.de/gums/
*All pictures below are my own.