Thursday, December 07, 2006

Best American Dinner Rolls (Thanksgiving 2006)

From Cook's Illustrated September/October 2006

Excellent recipe! NB: it takes a lot longer to rise at 68 degrees than the recipe specifies, so start early. Also, to shape the rolls I just pinched off 2 oz. pieces and rolled them into balls. They could also be formed into a Parkerhouse shape, like Jim's mother makes. She tucks a little piece of butter inside each pocket. --Pamela

For this recipe, the dough is made and the rolls are shaped and refrigerated a day or two before being baked and served. Be sure to plan accordingly, as the refrigerated rolls require about six hours to rise before they're ready for baking. For the best flavor, let the rolls rise at cool room temperature, about 68 degrees. Depending on the brand, instant yeast is marketed as "rapid rise," "quick rise," or "perfect rise" yeast, or sometimes as bread machine yeast; if it's necessary to use active dry yeast in its place, see page 30 for more information. If your cake pans have a dark nonstick finish, bake the rolls in a 375-degree oven to moderate the browning. This dough should be moister than most; resist the urge to add more flour than is needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. Made on a humid day, the dough may require more flour than if made on a dry day.

Makes Sixteen 3-inch Rolls
3/4 cup whole milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted, (reserve 2 tablespoons for brushing on rolls before baking)
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 large eggs , room temperature
1 package rapid-rise yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons), may also labeled "instant"
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus additional flour as needed (see note above)

1. TO MAKE THE DOUGH: Bring milk to boil in small saucepan over medium heat; let stand off heat until skin forms on surface, 3 to 5 minutes. Using soup spoon, skim skin off surface and discard. Transfer milk to bowl of standing mixer and add 6 tablespoons melted butter, sugar, and salt; whisk to combine and let mixture cool. When mixture is just warm to the touch (90 to 100 degrees), whisk in eggs and yeast until combined.

2. Add flour to bowl; using dough hook, mix on low speed on standing mixer until combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-low and knead about 3 minutes more; when pressed with finger, dough should feel tacky and moist but should not stick to finger. (If dough is sticky, add another 1 to 3 tablespoons flour.) Continue to knead on medium-low until cohesive, elastic dough has formed (it should clear sides of bowl but stick to bottom), 4 to 5 minutes longer.

3. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Knead dough by hand 1 to 2 minutes to ensure that it is well kneaded. Dough should be very soft and moist but not overly sticky. (If dough sticks excessively to hands and work surface, knead in flour a tablespoon at a time until dough is workable.) Lightly spray medium bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to bowl; lightly coat surface of dough with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm, draft-free location until doubled in volume, 2 to 3 hours.

4. TO SHAPE THE ROLLS: Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray; set aside. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Pat dough into rough 12 by 10-inch rectangle (see illustration 1, below), gently pressing out air; starting from edge farthest from you, roll dough into cylinder (illustration 2). Using palms, roll dough back and forth until cylinder is about 18 inches long and of even thickness. Using bench scraper or chef's knife, cut cylinder in half crosswise, then cut each half into 8 evenly sized pieces (illustration 3).

5. Working with one piece at a time and keeping remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap or kitchen towel, form dough pieces into smooth, taut rounds (illustration 4). Set piece of dough on unfloured area of work surface. Loosely cup hand around dough (not directly over it); without applying pressure to dough, move hand in small circular motions. (Tackiness of dough against work surface and circular motion should work dough into smooth, even ball.) Arrange shaped rolls in prepared cake pans (one in center and seven spaced evenly around edges) (illustration 5); cover cake pans with plastic wrap lightly coated with cooking spray, then cover pans securely with foil. Refrigerate at least 24 or up to 48 hours.

6. TO BAKE THE ROLLS: Remove foil (but not plastic wrap) from cake pans; let rolls rise in draft-free cool room-temperature location until doubled in volume (rolls should press against each other), 6 to 7 hours. When rolls are nearly doubled in volume, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove plastic wrap. Brush rolls with 2 tablespoons melted butter; bake until deep golden brown, 14 to 18 minutes. Cool rolls in pans on wire rack about 3 minutes, then invert onto rack; re-invert rolls and cool 10 to 15 minutes longer. Break rolls apart and serve warm.

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