Saturday, November 21, 2009
I've made rolls before, of course. Like most of you, I like a good, soft, sweet, buttery dinner roll. I really wanted them to be just right this year, but when it came down to time, I didn't have the option of trying several recipes to see which I preferred. Instead, I just went for it today, mixing and mashing up recipes with what sounded desirable in my head, knowing my first attempt would be my only.
Let me tell you, it definitely worked.
If you look at the ingredients, you can probably see where everything went right: white flour, milk, honey, plenty of butter, and a sponge (or pre-ferment) for extra flavor. All the most delicious roll ingredients, but put together in just the right way. They're tender and golden, delicious warm or room temperature, and have a lovely crumb. It doesn't hurt that they're helped out with a double dose of butter – a generous amount in the dough and a nice basting on top.
I debated whether to make cloverleaf rolls or regular round rolls. Here's the argument going on inside my head this morning:
clover leaf angel: Mom always had clover leaf rolls at nice dinners when I was growing up. Ah, sentimentality.
round roll devil: But you know you'll want to make them all perfectly the same and weigh each little tiny ball to make sure they look attractive and bake evenly.
clover leaf angel: Thanksgiving is a special occasion. It deserves special attention, like clover leaf rolls, not boring little puffballs. And my mom will actually be there.
round roll devil: So will several others. You'll need to make a lot of rolls. And the round rolls are perfect for leftover turkey/cranberry/goat cheese sandwiches. Clover leaf rolls don't really do that job.
clover leaf angel: Party pooper.
I made a large batch of dough, which ended up being the perfect compromise: 40 round rolls and 12 clover leaf rolls. I'll serve the clover leaf rolls with dinner and have all the rest for leftovers. Or seconds. Or thirds.
The recipe I'm posting here is for half that amount, but it can, of course, be doubled like I did. It's nice to have extra rolls to freeze or giveaway, though, but if there's just two of you, 52 rolls might be overkill.
1 c. all-purpose or bread flour
1 c. cold water
1/4 t. instant* yeast
2 c. all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as you go
1 c. milk
1/4 c. honey
4 oz. (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 t. salt (reduce to 1 1/4 t. if you use salted butter)
2 1/2 t. instant* yeast
Mix the sponge ingredients together (see note below about yeast) in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic and leave on the counter for 3 hours.
Warm the milk with the honey. (If you're using active dry yeast, you can proof the yeast in the milk and honey once it has been warmed. Just be sure the milk isn't heated above 115˚ or you'll kill the yeast.)
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sponge, yeast, milk, honey, and salt. Stir together with a wooden spoon until well combined. Add the butter and another cup of flour and start kneading, breaking up the butter and blending it as you go. Don't worry about the butter, as it will eventually be thoroughly integrated.
Continue kneading, adding flour as necessary until the dough is still very soft but just barely workable without being too sticky. Knead for 10-15 minutes, until the dough passes the windowpane test**.
Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place the dough in there to rise. Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with the same spray and let rise in a warm place until double, about an hour to an hour and a half.
Once the dough has sufficiently risen, turn it out onto a work surface. It should make about 2 dozen rolls. Divide the dough into half, then half again, then partition each of those quarters into 6 pieces. You can shape them into balls and place them on a sprayed half sheet pan, two inches apart, or make clover leaf rolls by dividing each roll into 3 pieces and roll them into balls before placing them in a sprayed muffin pan. Generously baste them with melted butter (you'll need about half of a stick of butter for this). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 45 minutes, until well risen.
Preheat the oven to 425˚. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden on top and bottom. Cool on a rack. Enjoy.
*I'm always recommending to people that they buy instant yeast, and I'll say the same thing to you. You don't have to proof it, just throw it in with your other ingredients. It's just a little bit harder to find, but 2 of 3 stores carry it in my area, and probably in yours as well. Just buy a pound of it and keep it in a ziploc in your freezer. If you only have active dry yeast, just be sure to proof it in some 105˚ water before adding it to the rest of the recipe, and then subtract the amount of water you use for proofing from the overall recipe.
**Take a small piece of dough and slowly stretch it. If you can stretch it so that it is thin enough to see light through (like a window pane), the gluten is sufficiently developed, and your bread will have a connected, stretchy crumb inside. Otherwise knead for a few more minutes.