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.
- 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
1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk 6 eggs, water, and sugar together in medium bowl until sugar has dissolved.
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:
Just keep stirring.
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.
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:
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:
And pull apart rolls, per Evan’s request:
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.
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!