Monday, November 1, 2010

Simple Dinner Rolls

This is the first article published in my new cooking column in the Longmont Ledger.

You don't need special equipment or ingredients to make good bread – or rolls. This recipe proves it. It's the simplest dough I've ever made, in terms of ingredients, equipment, and the work required.

One key to making bread is developing the gluten, which forms the network that holds in the bubbles that make breads rise.

Gluten develops as you knead, but it also develops over time, which is one reason this recipe is successful with so little work.

Simple Dinner Rolls

1 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) yeast
2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Cornmeal (for the baking sheet)

Add the sugar and yeast to the water in your measuring cup, stir to combine, and let it sit until it’s bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Put the flour and salt into a medium bowl. Stir to distribute salt.

Add the water/yeast mixture to the the flour, and stir to combine all the ingredients as best you can.

Dump the dough and any remaining flour onto your work surface. Knead for a minute or two, only adding flour as necessary to keep it from sticking. You don't need to knead until the dough is stretchy and elastic - just until it's a nice cohesive mixture. Form it into a ball.

Drizzle the olive oil into a zip-top bag and plop the dough into the bag. Make sure the dough is completely coated with olive oil, zip the top, and stash it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, take the bag out of the fridge and massage it a bit, still in the bag, to mash out all the bubbles in the dough. You may need to open the bag to let the air out; reseal it. Leave the bag on the countertop until the dough has come to room temperature – an hour or two. It will rise and expand a bit during that time.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet, or use parchment paper.

Sprinkle some flour on your work surface, and dump the dough out. You don't need to squeeze every bit of olive oil out of the bag, but don't try to hold it back, either. Knead and fold the dough to incorporate the olive oil, then divide the dough into 12 roughly equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball.

Put the balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and let them rise until doubled – about 30-45 minutes.

Remove the plastic wrap. If you want decorative tops, snip an X into the top of the rolls with small, sharp scissors.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned.

Note: You can also use this dough to make a loaf of bread instead of rolls.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.