Polenta Bread

I’ve been baking a lot lately.  It’s just something about the wintertime, I think.  Baking is an activity I enjoy, so it cures my boredom on days when I’m cooped up inside the house.  It warms up the apartment and makes everything smell delicious.  However, for some reason, I’ve recently lost some patience and planning when it comes to baking.  I’ve just been waking up and deciding that today is a day I’d like to have some fresh bread.  Then I spend some time looking through all of my books to see what I can bake that day.  Any two-step breads that require an overnight soaker of any kind are usually not an option, because I haven’t planned ahead very well.  Sourdough isn’t really an option either, because I always forget to refresh the starter.  As a result, I’ve been baking a lot of sandwich, pan-baked loaves of bread.  Which has been delicious and practical.

Today, however, when the urge to bake struck, I found a recipe that I’d been thinking about for a while – and today seemed like the perfect afternoon for polenta bread.  After all, I had cornmeal in the pantry, and a small block of parmesan in the fridge, so the stars seemed aligned for polenta bread.  For the record, I know that the recipe says that the cheese is optional, but if there’s an option for cheese, I take it.  It’s just how I live my life.

Recipe from Bread, by Nick Malgieri

Ingredients

  • 340 grams room temperature tap water, approximately 75 degrees
  • 7 grams instant yeast
  • 400 grams bread flour
  • 120 grams stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 45 grams finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, optional
  • 9 grams fine sea salt

one

Directions

  1. Pour water into a bowl, whisk in yeast.  Wait 30 seconds, whisk in again.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal and cheese.  Use a rubber spatula to stir this into the water and yeast a little bit at a time.  Make sure there is no dry flour left on the edges of the bowl.
  3. Mix on a stand mixer on low (or knead by hand) until the dough comes together, about 1 – 2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
  4. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and sprinkle in the salt.  Continue mixing (or kneading by hand) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 2 – 3 minutes.  The dough should be very soft and sticky.
  5. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, and turn over so that the top is oiled.  Allow it to ferment and rise for 3o minutes.                          two
  6. Fold/turn the dough, and allow it to rise for another 30 minutes.
  7. Shape the dough into a boule loaf.
  8. Place the dough on a heavy cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper or dusted with cornmeal.  Cover with a towel or oiled plastic wrap, and allow it to rest until it starts to puff, about 30 minutes.                                     four
  9. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  10. Once the dough has proofed to about 50% of it’s original size, flour your hands and gently press it to flatten to about 1 inch thick.  Use a razor blade or knife to score the bread in a cross.  Be careful to not cut too deeply into the loaf – you don’t want it to spread too widely in the oven while it bakes.
  11. Spray the loaf with water, place pan in the oven.  Wait 5 minutes and spray the loaf again, and reduce the temperature to 425.  Bake until it is well risen and deep golden and the internal temp is 200 degrees, about 20 – 30 minutes.
  12. Cool on a rack.  Store the bread loosely covered at room temp on the day it is baked, wrap and freeze for longer storage.  Reheat at 350 degrees for 5 minutes and let slightly cool before serving.

five

Recipe Notes:

  • A great boule shaping instructional video, from an excellent bread blogger, Wild Yeast: Video and blog.
  • When letting dough rest, I recommend covering it with oiled plastic wrap instead of a towel – this prevents the dough from drying out and forming a skin.  This is especially important if you happen to live in a drafty apartment.
  • I hesitated to flatten this dough as much as the recipe recommends, in step 10.  It’s not typically a step that is taken after the final bench rest of the dough.  I was feeling adventurous and rebellious, so I simply skipped this step, and didn’t press down the dough.  I’m glad I didn’t – there wasn’t much oven spring, so if I had flatten the dough, the loaf would have been even more compact.  Anyway, the crumb was fine and even, so as far as I can see, you don’ t have to flatten this bread unless you really feel like it.

I liked this bread – I was looking for something a little bit different, and this bread definitely was.  The crust is thin, and didn’t come out particularly crisp.  It has a closed, delicate crumb, with a good texture – I liked that.  It tasted primarily like the cheese though – I didn’t get much of a sense of the cornmeal in this bread, and to look at it and taste it, I certainly wouldn’t know that it was any variety of polenta bread.  That said, a nice soft loaf of bread that tastes like Parmigiano Reggiano, well, that’s a good thing to have around the house.  I had a few slices with a little bit of butter and honey as a sweet and savory dessert – delicious.

six

Posted in Baking, Bread | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Blizzard Baking: English Muffins, Take 1

It’s January 7, 2014, and Buffalo NY is firmly in the grips of the Polar Vortex.  It’s a silly name, and you think to yourself, “So what? It’s just another blizzard, this is Buffalo, it’s no big deal, I’m just going to put on my boots and go about my business.”  NO YOU ARE NOT.  This is some serious weather – the Thruway is closed across half the state, the mall is closed, businesses are closed, even bars are closed for the day.  Right now, it’s not even snowing that hard in the city (the suburbs south of the city, however…tons of snow down there!) but it is so very windy that the visibility is almost zero.  There are driving bans and the county is in a state of emergency.  It is absolutely frigid, dangerously cold outside.

Needless to say, I have no intention of leaving the house today.  It’s a perfect day to stay inside and do some baking!  This morning I woke up, looked out the window and started baking my first ever batch of English muffins for a blizzard breakfast.

Long story short, we ate breakfast at noon on some very round, puffy rolls that only ever so vaguely resembled English muffins.  Not exactly a success, but definitely not a failure, either.  It’s the first step in a new mission for 2014 – perfect homemade English muffins.

I followed the English Muffin formula from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

English Muffins – adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice 

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces bread flour
  • .25 ounces granulated sugar
  • .19 ounce (3/4 teaspoon) salt
  • .14 ounce (1 and 1/4 teaspoon) instant yeast
  • .5 ounce unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 6 to 8 ounces milk or buttermilk, at room temperature

IMG_1887

1.  Stir together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl.  Stir in (or mix on the lowest speed of your stand mixer) the butter and 6 ounces of the milk, until the dough forms a ball.  It should be soft and pliable, not stiff.

IMG_1888

2.  Knead, or mix using a dough hook on medium speed, for 8 to 10 minutes.  The dough should be tacky, but not sticky.  It should pass the windowpane test and register 77 – 80 degrees.  Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough, coating it with oil.  Ferment at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.

IMG_1890

3.  Wipe the counter with a damp cloth, and transfer the dough to the counter.  Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, each should be 3 ounces.  Shape into mini boules.  Place on prepared sheet pan (cover sheet pan with parchment paper, spray with non-stick spray oil and dust with cornmeal). The balls of dough should be about 3 inches apart.  Cover with plastic wrap or a towel (I recommend plastic wrap if you have it, it does a better job of keeping the dough from drying out and forming a skin) and ferment for 60 to 90 minutes, until the dough nearly double and swell both up and out.

IMG_1894

4.  Heat a skillet (or flat griddle) to medium, and preheat the oven to 350.

5.  Spray a little spray oil into the pan.  Place the balls of dough on the pan – don’t crowd the pan.  They should be about an inch apart.  Cook for 5 to 8 minutes on each side.  The dough should flatten in the pan and spread slightly, and then puff slightly. Each side should be deep golden brown – cook for as long as you can on each side, but flip them before they burn.  When both sides are cooked and flat, move the muffins to the oven and finish baking for another 5 to 8 minutes to ensure the center is cooked through.

6.  Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving.  Full disclosure, we waited approximately 3 minutes before slicing open the first muffin.

IMG_1896

IMG_1897

So, um, clearly, these muffins did NOT flatten out in the pan.  At first I was upset, but then we just laughed at them, because they look really silly.  They taste just like a regular white bread, enriched roll, which is exactly what they are.  Nothing great, nothing bad about them.

I’m not sure what went wrong – Evan thinks that it would have helped to flatten them out when I shaped them and we grilled them.  I think that maybe the bench rise went a little bit too long, and that they over proofed just a bit, and that’s why they didn’t flatten out at all in the pan.  We looked at other recipes, though, and some use a dough with a higher hydration, which is the classic way to get a more open crumb.  There are a lot of other versions of this recipe, and I’m excited to try them, and see what it takes to get the perfect homemade English muffin.  Or at least a decent homemade English muffin.  Or even just something that looks more like an English muffin.

For today, though, we still had a delicious blizzard breakfast.  As with most things in life, there’s nothing that a toaster, a little bit of cheese and a fried egg can’t fix.

IMG_1899

Posted in Baking, Bread, Rolls | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Welcome to 2014!

I am officially putting my first year of baking and blogging into the success column for 2013.  I made a lot of progress this past year – I learned a lot about baking and bread, I learned to be brave and keep trying new things, and I found that as I tried new recipes, I enjoyed baking even more.  It’s also been really fun to see things in the store or on menus, and think to myself, “I bet I could bake that at home.”

I’m not sure yet what direction this blog will take this year – but I fully intend on continuing to bake, try new things, and to keep blogging about it all.  So stay tuned!

Since this is the internet, here’s a short list of things I learned this year about baking:

1.  Dinner rolls make fantastic breakfast sandwiches.

2.  An egg wash is important for a crust, so don’t forget it.  But don’t over do it.  Turns out, even though the directions call for an entire egg, you don’t have to use it all.

3.  Grill gloves are the best thing to use when baking hearth style bread in a 500 degree oven.  That shit is hot, and regular oven mitts aren’t cut out for the job.

4.  Not all commercial yeast is created equal – some is stronger and works a lot faster!

5.  No matter what the dough looks like, or how badly you think you messed it up, always bake it!

And, to wrap up the year, here’s a highlight reel of what Evan and I have been baking lately, but never got around to blogging:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Brioche Rolls

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Quest for the Perfect Dinner Roll of the Holidays 2013 is officially concluded.  Here’s why:  I was talking to a very good friend of mine about this quest that I’ve been on.  I was telling her how I can’t possibly choose a dinner roll, there are so many different kinds and they’re all tasty, and describing how I am a tortured genius in the kitchen, etc.  She said to me, “So, are you just going to make a spread?”  HOLD THE PHONE.  THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. Why had it never occurred to me that I could make more than one type of dinner roll?!  Why limit myself, and all my friends and family that I’ll see over the holidays and force to eat these rolls, to just one kind?  My friend Christy is a goddamn genius.

Now, when Christy suggested this to me, Evan and I had already invited our family out for the weekend, with the express purpose of tasting rolls and planning a Thanksgiving menu.  We also took them around (okay, we made them drive us) to buy food in a variety of places around Buffalo, like we always do. (Goat meat from Painted Meadow at the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers Market, sausages and sauerkraut from Spar’s Sausage Shop, and wine from Gate’s Circle Liquors.  We also went to Wegmans, duh.  And the next day we went to Trader Joe’s.)  Aside from all the shopping, we also sampled a bunch of beers and played with Evan’s adorable niece.  Evan and his brother made a delicious goat stew and Evan baked some really good sourdough loaves from our starter.  That’s usually how weekends go when they come to visit, and it’s slowly becoming a fantastic tradition.  In addition to all this, I baked these brioche rolls.

I used the No-Knead Brioche Rolls Recipe, from Cook’s Illustrated.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 1/4 cups (17 3/4 ounces) bread flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 7 large eggs (1 lightly beaten with pinch salt)
  • 1/2 cup water, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) sugar
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

IMG_1775

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk 6 eggs, water, and sugar together in medium bowl until sugar has dissolved.

This was me, patiently waiting for the butter to cool after I melted it.  Evan walked in the kitchen and laughed when he saw me taking this picture. IMG_1777

Whisk in butter until smooth. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir with wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains, about 1 minute. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for 10 minutes.

At the initial mixing, it’s going to look like this, and you’re going to feel nervous:

IMG_1779

Just keep stirring.

IMG_1780

 

It’s still going to look and feel like cake batter gone wrong, but don’t worry about that.

2. Holding edge of dough with your fingertips, fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 45 degrees; fold again. Turn bowl and fold dough 6 more times (total of 8 folds). Cover with plastic and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat folding and rising every 30minutes, 3 more times. After fourth set of folds, cover bowl tightly with plastic and refrigerate for at least 16 hours or up to 48 hours.

It’ll look a lot better after the folding and resting.  This is my dough before I put it in the fridge overnight.  Still vaguely cake batter-y, but that’s okay.

IMG_1783

3. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer dough to well-floured counter and divide into 10 equal pieces.

Dough out of the fridge:

IMG_1784

Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, pat dough into disk. Working around circumference of dough, fold edges of dough toward center until ball forms. Flip dough over and, without applying pressure, move your hands in small circular motions to form dough into smooth, taut round. (Tackiness of dough against counter and circular motion should work dough into smooth, even ball, but if dough sticks to your hands, lightly dust top of dough with flour.) Repeat with remaining dough.

Now, I found that dividing the dough into 10 pieces would have made huge rolls – they’d be fine if you wanted to make hamburger buns, but they would be way too big for dinner rolls.  I’ve found that my rule of thumb of 2 ounces of dough for each roll has worked out really well, so that’s what I did.

I made separate rolls:

IMG_1785

And pull apart rolls, per Evan’s request:

IMG_1786

 

Now, you’ll notice that we are out of parchment paper, and these rolls are on aluminum foil.  We sprayed one pan with non-stick spray, and we didn’t spray the other…so one tray of rolls stuck, and one didn’t.  I recommend using a non-stick spray.

4. Arrange buns on prepared sheets, 5 per sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and let rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours. Thirty minutes before baking, adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees.

5. Remove plastic and brush rolls gently with remaining 1 egg beaten with salt. Bake until golden brown and internal temperature registers 190 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating and switching sheets halfway through baking. Transfer sheets to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer buns to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Annnnnd…..

IMG_1791

IMG_1795

IMG_1796

IMG_1797

IMG_1794

 

We were so excited to try these that we tasted them without letting them cool completely.  When I first tasted them, I was not happy – they were flaky, but I didn’t love the flavor – I felt like they didn’t taste like much of anything.   When they cooled enough, and I tasted them again, I was thrilled.  After fully cooling, these rolls have a delicious, light flaky texture – almost like a croissant.  The flavor is rich and buttery, and just slightly sweet.

We talked a lot about the utility of these rolls for sopping up gravy, and we decided that these rolls could work for that, but they are also delicious on their own.  We also discovered that these rolls make a damn good breakfast sandwich with eggs, cheese and bacon.  (Can’t you just imagine the turkey sandwich you could make the morning after Thanksgiving? I can.)

These rolls are officially on the Thanksgiving menu!

Posted in Baking, Bread, Rolls | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Buttermilk Dinner Rolls

Here we are, friends, well into our quest for the perfect holiday dinner roll.  This week, I baked buttermilk dinner rolls.  I used this recipe from Saveur.   It measures by volume, not weight, but it turned out okay.

(Sidenote: if you happen to have 40 venison meatballs at home, and you’ve run out of spaghetti – take some homemade dinner rolls out of your freezer, thaw them out, melt some parmesan cheese on them and make mini meatball subs…you won’t regret it.)

INGREDIENTS:

¼ oz. active dry yeast
½ tsp. sugar
1¾ cups buttermilk
1 tbsp. honey
5 cups flour
1½ tsp. kosher salt
Unsalted butter, for greasing
1 egg
2 tbsp. sesame seeds
IMG_1761

I left out the sesame seeds and the butter, since I didn’t have to grease a pan.

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine yeast, sugar, and ¼ cup water heated to 115°; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

IMG_1762 Foamy.  Nice.

Whisk in buttermilk and honey; add flour and salt. Mix on medium-low speed until dough forms a ball and pulls away from the side of the bowl, 6–8 minutes. (Sprinkle in a little water if dough seems dry.)

Um, yeah, does this look a little dry to you?  I added 3 tablespoons of water.  In retrospect, I probably could have added more buttermilk instead of water.

IMG_1763

I kneaded this by hand for 12 minutes until it looked and felt right.  It’s a stiff dough, so the kneading took some work.  But:

IMG_1764

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let dough rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

2. Heat oven to 400˚. Grease a 9″ round springform pan with butter. Uncover dough; divide into 12 portions. Roll each dough piece into a ball; transfer ball to pan; repeat with remaining dough. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside to let dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Now, I don’t have a springform pan.  And frankly, I couldn’t really see the benefit of using one in this recipe – sure, the rolls look nice in the pan, but then you take them out to serve, and all the ones on the edges are unnaturally shaped.  So I went with the usual pull-apart roll style that’s become my dinner roll MO.  Because it’s fun and it looks cool and I can do whatever I want with my dinner rolls in my kitchen.

IMG_1767

This is also 24 rolls, twice as many as the recipe claims to make.  But those rolls would have been huge if I only made 12!  My rule of thumb is each roll is made using 2 ounces of dough.

So I let these rise, and they start to slightly take over the pan:

IMG_1770

In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 1 tsp. water. Uncover dough and brush egg mixture over the top; sprinkle with sesame seeds. (I left off the sesame seeds, but I bathed these things in egg wash.  A little goes a long way, I never use the entire egg, and I always feel like I’m using so much!)

Bake until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of dough registers 190°, about 15 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking.  (If you make only 12 larger rolls, bake them for 35 minutes, as the original recipe says).  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

IMG_1773IMG_1772IMG_1771

(Can you tell I was doing my own photography tonight?  Evan is much better at this.)

Things to be careful with:

1.  I overcooked these.  Since they are smaller than the recipe originally called for, I didn’t watch closely enough and they’re a little dry.

2.  I used way too much egg wash – like, there are tiny bits of scrambled eggs in the crevices between the rolls.  Whoops!

Despite that, though, these rolls are pretty tasty – they have a heartier, denser texture.  However, the flavor is just, well, fine.  Not amazing.  It’s made us realize that maybe a heartier roll isn’t really what we want, after all – because as soon as we tasted these, we missed that light, airy texture of the potato roll. But as far as flavor goes, I still want more from the potato roll.

I’m starting to think that maybe I need to stray from the traditional roll that I had been planning – maybe the Holiday Season of 2013 isn’t time for a basic, soft dinner roll – maybe it’s time for something different.  Something exciting, something new!  I think it’s good that I started this quest so early, because now I have time to really branch out and work on new things.  I’m thinking some kind of herb roll, maybe a cheddar roll, maybe a brioche roll…stick around because I think things are about to get interesting.

 

Posted in Baking, Bread, Rolls | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Potato Rolls, Briefly

So, this is a very short chapter in the quest for the best dinner rolls.  I had started to make potato rolls, and had grand plans to blog the recipe and results.  I went to grab my camera, and realized that the battery was dead.  So, I have a photo I took with my phone of the finished rolls, and I’ll post the recipe.

Cook’s Illustrated Potato Dinner Rolls

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 1/4 cups (12 1/3 ounces) bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, 1 lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water and pinch salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place potatoes in medium saucepan and add water to just cover. Bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Transfer 5 tablespoons potato water to bowl to cool; drain potatoes. Return potatoes to saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, shaking pot occasionally, until any surface moisture has evaporated, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Process potatoes through ricer or food mill, or mash well with potato masher. Measure one very firmly packed cup potatoes (8 ounces) and transfer to bowl. Stir in butter until melted.
  3. Combine flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in bowl of stand mixer. Add warm potato mixture to flour mixture and mix with hands until combined (some large lumps are OK). Add 1 egg and reserved potato water; mix with dough hook on low speed until dough is soft and slightly sticky, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Shape dough into ball and place in lightly greased container. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until almost doubled in volume, 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Turn out dough onto counter, dusting with flour only if dough is too sticky to handle comfortably. Pat gently into 8-inch square of even thickness. Using bench knife or chef’s knife, cut dough into 12 pieces (3 rows by 4 rows). Separate pieces and cover loosely with plastic.
  6. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time and keeping remaining pieces covered, form dough pieces into smooth, taut rounds. (To round, set piece of dough on unfloured work surface. Loosely cup hand around dough and, without applying pressure to dough, move hand in small circular motions. Tackiness of dough against work surface and circular motion should work dough into smooth, even ball, but if dough sticks to hands, lightly dust fingers with flour.) Arrange rolls on prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and let rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes. While rolls rise, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.
  7. Brush rolls gently with egg wash. Bake rolls until deep golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Transfer rolls from baking sheet to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

2013-10-22 22.09.52

I know, the photo isn’t very impressive.

Some recipe notes: you don’t need to cook an entire pound of potatoes to get a half pound of mashed potatoes.  But go ahead and cook a pound anyway, because who doesn’t love some extra mashed potatoes to eat?  Delicious.

These rolls are remarkably airy.  And even though they are more than half potato, they don’t really taste like potatoes.  They have a very delicate flavor.  We really marveled over the texture, though…until we drank a bottle of wine and got hungry.  We decided to do a back to back taste test of warm, buttered dinner rolls, because it’s a delicious snack.  And when we did that, we realized that these potato rolls weren’t that texturally different from the previous pain di mie dinner rolls that I’d made the week before.  The main difference was the flavor.  The pain di mie dinner rolls managed to still be light, but at the same time have a greater depth of flavor, and a heartier taste.

This was when we learned that we want the best of both worlds – we want a rich, flavorful dinner roll that still has a soft, light texture.  We are not willing to compromise or sacrifice, at all, on this goal.  Onward, in the quest for The Perfect Holiday Dinner Roll of 2013.

Posted in Baking, Bread, Rolls, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Dinner Rolls: Version 1

I’m really excited about Thanksgiving.  I’ve been planning and reading all our Thanksgiving themed food magazines for weeks.  In that spirit, this year, I am on a Quest For The Best Dinner Rolls.  I know it’s not even Halloween yet, but I’m not made of free time here, people.  So I decided that this week would be the best time to start testing out a few roll recipes.

This is a Peter Reinhart recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  It’s a version of pain de mie, a white bread that I’ve baked before.  As a sandwich loaf, pain de mie is basic and good.  As dinner rolls, it’s fantastic.  I made pull apart rolls, because they’re fun, and a few knotted rolls, because I wanted to try it.  That’s what testing a recipe is all about!

Ingredients:

  • 21.5 ounces of unbleached bread flour
  • .38 ounces salt
  • 1.33 ounces milk
  • 1.66 ounces sugar
  • .22 ounces instant yeast
  • 1.65 ounces (1 large) egg, slightly beaten, at room temperature
  • 1.66 ounces butter melted
  • 13 to 14 ounces of water, at room temperature
  • 1 egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water until frothy, for egg wash
  • 3 tablespoons of melted butter for butter wash
  • Sesame and poppy seeds for garnish

1.  Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a 4-quart bowl.

IMG_1733

Pour in the milk, egg, butter and 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon water and mix with a large metal spoon until all the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball.  If the doughs very stiff and dry, trickle in more water until the dough is soft and supple.

IMG_1735

2.  Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading adding more flour if necessary, to create a dough that is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky.Continue kneading for 6 – 8 minutes until the dough is about 80 degrees and passes the windowpane test.  Lightly oil a large bowl, and turn the dough to coat it.  Cover the bowl and let it ferment for 90 minutes to 2 hours or until it doubles in size.

IMG_1738

IMG_1739

3.  Divide the dough into 2 ounce pieces.  For pull apart rolls, shape dough into tight rounds and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place the rolls so that they are just touching.

IMG_1740

For knotted dinner rolls, follow this guide for tips.

IMG_1742

Place the rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Spray all the rolls with spray oil and cover with a towel.  Let them rise for an hour to 90 minutes, until about doubled in size.

IMG_1746

4.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Brush the rolls with whatever wash you chose – I used a coating of butter on half of them, and an egg wash on the other half.  I garnished the knotted rolls with sesame and poppy seeds.

IMG_1748

IMG_1749

5.  Bake the rolls for 15 minutes, until golden brown and the internal temperature is just about 180 degrees in the center.  Remove from pans immediately and cool on racks for at least 15 minutes.  Then, impress your dinner guests – or just yourself and your boyfriend, in my case – and enjoy!

IMG_1756 

 IMG_1754

 IMG_1757

Now, these photos make it clear that the egg wash gave the rolls a much better golden color.  You can see below that the rolls on the right side of the pull-apart rolls are much more golden.  The butter wash, on the left side, didn’t do much of anything, from what I could tell – the rolls were less golden and there wasn’t much a taste difference, either.  So, I really prefer the egg wash.

IMG_1755

The knotted rolls look really fun, and it was good dough shaping practice.  But taste wise, I prefer the pull-apart rolls.  The knotted rolls had more exposed surface area and were slightly drier – if I made knotted rolls again, I would take them out of the oven just a little bit sooner.  But they do look impressive, if I do say so myself.

IMG_1753

These rolls were delicious.  It’s funny – in almost any other circumstance, I prefer a crusty, rustic, artisanal type of bread and roll.  But there’s something about Thanksgiving that just requires a warm, soft dinner roll for sopping up gravy.   These are perfect for that.  We also learned that these are perfect snacks before dinner and perfect with eggs and bacon on a Saturday morning.  All in all, these are an excellent classic American dinner roll, and really easy to make!  

We aren’t stopping there, though.  This is a quest for The Best Thanksgiving Dinner Roll of 2013, and there are more things to try!  I’m planning on making these again, only using buttermilk, and I’m also going to try a potato roll.  Stay tuned…  

Posted in Baking, Bread, Rolls | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments