Weeknight dinner rolls

I am going to start this post with an entirely banal statement.  Homemade bread is amazing.  I know I’m not staking out a highly contentious position with this, but I feel like I need to make my position on this topic clear from the beginning.  Unfortunately, good yeast breads tend to take longer than I want to devote to cooking on a week night, so I’ve been relying on the take and bake loaves of bread from the local Kroger.  These are all well and good for the crusty bread fix, but there’s nothing quite like a fresh pan of rolls.  On a whim, I looked around on Pinterest and found a one hour buttermilk dinner rolls recipe and decided to try it out last week.  The results were promising, but a little dense and pale in our oven. I made the recipe again yesterday with a few tweaks, and we have a winner.

Buttermilk dinner rolls

Buttermilk dinner rolls

 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups AP flour
    • (EDIT: For wheat rolls, use 3 cups AP flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp rapid rise dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup water

Method

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add all of the dry ingredients (including yeast), and stir briefly to combine.  In a microwave-safe container, mix the buttermilk, butter (sliced into smaller pieces) and water.  Heat until butter is melted.  With the dough hook attached and mixer running, slowly add in the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients.  When combined, turn speed up to medium low until dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  If it’s too dry after a couple of minutes, add another tablespoon of buttermilk, and if it’s too wet, add some flour.  It is better to err on the side of sticky.  When the dough has had about 5 minutes on the mixer, remove the hook, cover the bowl and stash in a warm place for 10 minutes.  This allows the dough to relax a little bit before you shape the rolls.  While you’re rising the dough, preheat the oven to 170 degrees F, or as low as it will go.  After your 10 minutes are up, turn the dough out onto an oiled board, and shape into rolls (I like breaking it into twelve rolls).  Place rolls in a greased 9″x13″ pan, turn OFF the oven, cover the tray and allow the rolls to rise in the oven for 20-25 minutes. When the rolls have risen, remove them from the oven (VERY IMPORTANT) and preheat to 400 degrees F.   Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, covering them loosely with aluminum foil if they start to brown too much.  Remove from the oven and allow them to cool as long as you can before consuming in a frenzy of butter and crumbs.

 

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While they do take a little longer than an hour with these modifications (about 75 minutes), the results are worth it.  These are light, fluffy rolls that are great with dinner, or as rolls for sandwiches.  This is definitely going to be entering our bread rotation in a big way.   It’s also a short enough process that I can make the dough, and let them rise and bake while we’re working on the rest of dinner, which makes these absolutely manageable as a weeknight bread option.

 

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Rustic Bread

For Christmas this year, I was assigned bread. I made another batch of the hot potato rolls, then I also made a couple loaves of a rustic bread recipe, found here. I made this bread again yesterday, and it was improved over the first attempt. To include my own notes, I’m recreating the recipe here as well. This recipe does take some advanced planning.

Day 1
Ingredients
1 lb bread flour
9.5 oz water
1/8th tsp yeast
1/2 tbsp salt

Method
Mix ingredients together until dough forms. For me, this is best done in a stand mixer. The dough will probably be pretty stiff-that’s ok. Once together, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and stash it out of the way until the next day. It should sit, undisturbed for 12-16 hours. From what I’ve been able to gather, this is basically a biga.

Day 2
Ingredients
10 oz bread flour
6 oz whole wheat flour
12.5 oz water
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast
Day 1 Dough

Method
Mix new ingredients together to form a dough. Then, with dough hook in and mixer on, gradually incorporate small pieces of the biga until you have it all together. Let kneed another 5-10 minutes, until the mixture is fairly homogenous. Place dough in greased bowl, cover and let rise for 1-1.5 hours. Punch down, let rise again. Punch down once more and let rise. At this point, shape dough into loaves (2 works for me). Let rise again. Halfway through this rise, preheat oven to 450 degrees. I have a baking stone that I use, which I really enjoy. Also, if you use a tray for water or ice cubes, get that in there when it was preheating. Then, score loaves, and put them in the oven (with water or ice cubes added at the same time). Let bake about 30-35 minutes. I find that I can bake on a tray with cornmeal dusted parchment for about 20 minutes, then I remove the tray and place loaves upside down on the stone for the remaining time. This allows them to get a nice even brown all the way around. Remove from oven and let cool.

The resulting bread is a really nice, lightly nutty wheat loaf, with the characteristic wheat bread taste, but not the cardboard characteristics too many whole wheat breads have. While I still need to work on my own technique with this (more kneading time when assembling), I’m still very pleased with this recipe, and I look forward to further refining my execution of it.

English Muffins

For the past five plus months, I’ve been watching what I eat. As part of this new lifestyle change, I’ve been eating a lot of egg white sandwiches on toasted english muffins for breakfast. There seem to be two primary schools of thought in the commercially available english muffins. Some of them are a denser texture, with a tighter crumb and are more bread like. Others have a loose and chewy texture, with many holes and internal topographical variations. While I appreciate this second type for butter and jam applications, either work well for the breakfast sandwich. This weekend, we finally had enough time to try our hand at homemade english muffins. While they’re not perfect, for a first attempt they’re pretty good-far better than when we tried to make them 3 years ago (we managed to have both burned and raw batter…it was not pretty). I got the original recipe from this web site. This batch made about 19 muffins, but my cutter is a bit on the small side, so I imagine a properly sized cutter would result in about 14-16 muffins.

Braised Short Ribs

Since it has finally turned towards fall weather, Chris and I decided to braise some short ribs. We used our standard braising method (as described in our pot roast recipe), and came up with a really lovely meal. I also made a loaf of English muffin bread. It’s pretty tasty bread, and seems to be a better base for a Schlotzsky’s loaf, but some tweaks will need to be made. We didn’t have any powdered milk, so I used milk in place of water. In retrospect, I should have used only 1/2 to 1/3 the amount of liquid as milk, with the water. We rounded the meal out with mashed potatoes, peas, and a really lovely gravy made from the braising liquid.

Soda Bread

In addition to the previously posted soda bread recipe, I also made some additional recipes found here. I made both the brown bread, and the soda bread, and both were well received. I was very pleased with the texture of the soda bread, as it was very soft and pillowy (and got a great golden color from the unbleached flour I used). Neither of these breads had a particularly strong soda flavor, which was also a plus.

Mrs. O’Callaghan’s Soda Bread

So in this month’s issue of Bon Appetit, I found a recipe for Irish soda bread that looked really good. Ever since I was a kid, my mom made James Beard’s Soda bread recipe, and it’s good, but the soda taste is very pronounced. I’ve made it the past few years for Chris’ family’s St. Patrick’s day corned beef dinner, but I always keep my eye out for a better recipe (with NO raisins!). I gave this new recipe a try (you can find it here, at epicurious). Chris and I both really like it. It has a pronounced nutty wheat flavor and is slightly sweet from the brown sugar. With a nice smear of butter, it’s probably the tastiest soda bread I’ve had. Next time I’ll either make it into two boules or bake it in the loaf pan (this time I just made a free form loaf-it turned into a bread-monster).

Sweet Potato Rolls

We had a massive sweet potato on hand that we had picked up before Christmas to make some pie. Now, after Christmas we are pretty much tired of desserts, so I decided to make some sweet potato dinner rolls out of it. For the first batch I tried, I used the recipe here, as written. They were good, but at 4 oz a roll, were a little too big for what we were looking for. The buttermilk also added a slightly jarring note that I think detracted from the sweet potato flavor (I love buttermilk rolls, but not with my sweet potato). Today I threw another batch together with the remainder of the mashed sweet potato. I based it on the same recipe, but made a few changes.

Ingredients
1 cup mashed sweet potato
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted
2 cups milk
5 tsp yeast
1 egg
2 1/2 tsp salt
6-7 cups bread flour, as needed

Mix all ingredients except the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the flour 1 cup at a time until smooth, and soft. Knead for a few minutes by hand (the dough is soft, but shouldn’t be sticky). Let rise until doubled twice, punching down each time. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Portion out 3 oz pieces of the dough, and knead into rolls. Place in a buttered lasagna pan, or whatever your preferred roll baking device is, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on top.

This batch is tastier than the first, and will definitely be repeated.