Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Ultimate Fluffy, Buttery Dinner Rolls

Thanksgiving dinner is one of those meals that requires some serious organization and advance planning, particularly if you’re cooking for a crowd. I think it’s nice when you can get guests to bring along something, whether it’s a side dish, pie or even a condiment. If you can con someone into bringing the turkey then you’ve got

 it made. Then you can focus on all the other goodies and put together a smashing meal without sending yourself to the nervous hospital. The more things you can prepare in advance, the better, even if you have to freeze them. Freezing is not a dirty word, by the way – it’s done ALL THE TIME in professional kitchens,

particularly in pastry shops.
            Though I usually try to avoid eating bread during dinner, on Thanksgiving I throw my sensible eating plan out the window and eat a little bit of everything. And there’s nothing quite like a fluffy, warm roll spread with good butter to complete a meal. Luckily, my copy of a new book, Della Fattoria Bread by Kathleen Weber, just

arrived. In it there’s a recipe for a dinner roll that’s an ideal accompaniment to a grand feast. The yeast dough is enriched with eggs and butter, and the rolls are topped with the poppy, sesame or fennel seeds or dehydrated onions. I topped some of them with Maldon sea salt, which ended up being my favorite. You can make these up to a month ahead and freeze them – wrap them in foil and store them in a plastic freezer bag. Defrost them at room temperature, and then warm them up in the oven before dinner. I like to serve them with a good French butter, such as Plugra.

Dinner Rolls

From Della Fattoria Bread by Kathleen Weber (Artisan, 2014)

3 ½ cups plus 1 tablespoon (500 grams) all-purpose flour
2 ½ tablespoons (30 grams) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (26 grams) non-fat milk powder
1 ½ teaspoons (5 grams) instant yeast
1 ¾ teaspoons (10 grams) fine gray salt
1 cup plus 2 ½ tablespoons (270 grams) warm water
1 to 2 large (58 grams or 3 ½ tablespoons) eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten
5 tablespoons (75 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Sesame, poppy, or fennel seeds or dehydrated onions or Maldon sea salt, or a combination of all
2 large egg yolks, whisked with 1 teaspoon heavy cream, half-and-half or whole milk for eggwash

1. Lightly oil or spray a deep 4 ½- to 5-quart ceramic or glass bread bowl.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, milk powder, instant yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer running on the lowest speed, add the water, followed by the egg, and finally the butter. Increase the speed to low and mix for 7 minutes.
3. Flour the work surface. Using a plastic bowl scraper or rubber spatula, turn out the dough and knead it a few times. This is a very smooth but loose dough. Place it in the prepared bowl. Cover the bowl with a piece of lightly oiled or sprayed plastic wrap and place it in a warm, draft-free place to proof until the dough is very puffy and about doubled, 1 ½ to 2 hours.
4. Spread the seeds and/or onions on a dinner plate. Set a small bowl of the egg wash next to it.
5. Flour the work surface. Turn out the dough and, using a bench scraper, divide the dough into 16 equal pieces (about 56 grams each). Cup your fingers around one piece at a time and roll it against the work surface to form a ball.
6. Dip the top of each ball in the eggwash, letting any excess run back into the bowl, then dip into the seeds. Place seam side-down on the prepared pan, in 4 rows of 4 rolls each.
7. Cover the pan with a piece of plastic wrap and set it in a warm, draft-free spot to proof until doubled in size, 1 ½ to 2 hours. When the dough is pressed gently with your fingertip, the impression should remain.
8. About 30 minutes before baking the rolls, position a rack in the center of the oven, set a baking stone on it, and preheat the oven to 375°F.
9. Place the pan on the stone and bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops are a rich, golden brown. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the rolls cool completely.