Food For Thought: Department Of Dinner Rolls

Dec 21, 2016

When it comes to dinner rolls, Nancy goes fancy, while I opt for the straightforwardly simple.  After describing what are now my all-time favorite rolls, I dared her, "Top that, Leson."

As always, she was equal to the challenge.

She's still making the rosemary/olive dinner rolls she was turned onto at the original Cafe Juanita.  They've been her stand-by recipe for years, but of course she couldn't leave well enough alone. 

She's now substituting store-bought tapenade for the original mix of coarsely chopped green and kalamata olives.  She likes the addition of the capers and roasted red pepper bits the tapenade includes.

       Rosemary Olive Rolls

   (makes 18 rolls)

Nancy’s Note: If you’ve got a standing mixer, this recipe is a breeze. And it’s pretty easy even if you’re using a large mixing bowl, a sturdy spoon, and your hands. The dough can be prepared earlier in the day for baking later. Just keep it covered, and keep punching it down till baking time. Feel free to make the rolls smaller. Reduce the size of the dough-balls to tangerine size, and you’ll get two dozen.

Ingredients:

2 cups warm water

1 scant tablespoon yeast (active dry or instant/rapid-rise, your choice)

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1/2 cup mixed olives (kalamatas, green olives, pitted), coarsely chopped or substitute coarse tapenade (available in the olive bar at many supermarkets)

5 ½ to 6 cups bread flour (or substitute all-purpose flour)

1/4 cup fine cornmeal (or substitute semolina flour)

1/4 cup melted butter

1. Warm the mixing bowl, rinse. Add the water to the warmed bowl, sprinkle in the yeast and sugar. Stir to combine and allow to mixture to sit for 5 minutes.

2. Add salt, chopped rosemary and chopped olives (or tapenade) and stir.

3. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the bowl and is no longer sticky. If you’re using a standing mixer, keep testing the dough by pinching it between your fingers. Start doing this after you’ve added about 5 cups of flour. (And it wouldn’t kill you to “finish” the dough by kneading in the last cup or more of flour by hand – the better to get the feel for the proper amount of stickiness).

4. Let dough rise in an oiled bowl (covered with plastic wrap) until doubled — about an hour, though longer is even better.

5. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

6. Briefly knead the dough, divide it in half and divide each half into 9 pieces. Form dough into rounds — about the size of a tennis ball — and place on a cornmeal-lined baking sheet. Let the rolls rest and rise for 30 minutes, loosely covered with plastic wrap.

7. Slash the top with two crisscross cuts (kitchen shears work great), then brush with melted butter.  Bake until the tops begin to brown, about 15 minutes.

All very well, but I'm still knocked out by by Stella Parks' fluffy, crusty and chewy dinner rolls from Serious Eats.  And because you can do most of the work the night before baking it's convenient for holiday dinners.

I was intrigued by the incorporation of two techniques from opposite sides of the globe.  From Japan, a yukone – a flour and water roux heated and stirred to a thick consistency, then added to the dough mixture.  From Eastern Europe comes the practice of boiling the shaped rolls prior to baking.  This gelatinizes the starches on the surface and makes for a delicately crackly crust.  Here's the recipe:

Dick's Tips

1. Park's recipe says to bake for 35 minutes at 400°.  Could be my oven runs hot, but mine were done at about 25.  To prevent the bottoms from scorching, start checking at about 20 minutes.

2. After the shaped rolls have risen on parchment paper overnight in the 'fridge, the recipe says to cut the paper in between them so that each rests on its own square.  It's much easier to just cut up a bunch of squares first and perch each roll on one prior to the overnight rise.

And a carbo-riffic happy holidays to one and all from Nancy and me.

"Ford and the world Fords with you.  Rolls and you Rolls alone."  – Anonymous