This one is my favourite. It didn’t leave me truly shocked at the beauty and impressiveness of my own creation, like the Doughnuts. It didn’t taste so divine I actually HAD to share it with my colleagues, like the Raisin Toast. And it wasn’t an endurance event like the Sourdough. Instead it was a slice (well, not an actual slice…more a series of bundles) of mundane perfection.
Six months ago, if I found myself home early from work on a weeknight I would never have considered googling ‘crusty dinner roll recipe’ with the plan of whipping up a batch to accompany an unremarkable Hello Fresh meal. I certainly wouldn’t have scrolled through a few, settled on a good looking one, and immediately combined yeast, sugar and warm water. Perhaps moving so hastily was a mistake, because it was only after I’d done this that I realised my bread flour stores were depleted. Depleted because I bake so much goddamn bread now. Six months ago I didn’t even own bread flour, so I wouldn’t have had ‘depleted stores’ because there wasn’t even a store to deplete. (At what point does using the word ‘deplete’ become so overwhelming it loses meaning?) (I think I passed it already.) Figuring that I was supposed to give it (the yeast) 10 minutes of alone time anyway I wandered down to the shop, picked up Tipo 00 flour instead (there was no bread flour and the Tipo has high protein and how different could they possibly be?) and wandered back. The yeast had a leisurely 25 minutes to gobble up the sugar and seemed no worse for wear despite my neglect.
It (the bread) proceeded to be exceedingly well behaved through kneading, proving, shaping, resting, baking and eating. I kept eating it to confirm my suspicions that it was, in fact, quite heavenly and completely devoid of hidden tricks. A hidden trick with a bread would be, like, remembering that you had to use a starter prepared lovingly for years. Or discovering that, although delicious warm, the bread becomes solid rock the moment it is left unattended. Or realising that what looked like a lot of filling in the preparation stage has actually dissolved into tasteless doughiness during the bake. These unpretentious rolls had no such malice. They were crusty and brown on the outside and doughy and delicious on the inside.
Convinced they were too good to be true I took one to work. Once again it had the inauspicious task of accompanying the unremarkable Hello Fresh (this time the HF was made still more unremarkable by virtue of being Left Overs). Once again it rose to the challenge and was every bit as delicious as the night before. It is no exaggeration to call it the highlight of my lunch. Maybe even of my day.
Buoyed by my continued success I decided that dinner the following night would make the rolls the star. I reincarnated them as cheesy garlic bread, added a supermarket soup to give the illusion of a meal, and found my only regret was not preparing twice as many for myself.
This recipe is a straight up winner:
1. What? Only 2 and a half hours to make? That’s basically light speed for bread!
2. Incredibly resilient even though I initially neglected it and then gave it a fancy flour substitute
3. Never made me nervous by misbehaving or being difficult
4. Not even when I reheated it or turned it into garlic bread
5. Extremely easy
6. Really cute
I originally wrote a different list of attributes but I wished I had made it an acrostic poem. So I went back and rewrote it into one. Wishes really do come true.
Crusty Dinner Rolls
With full credit to Allrecipes.com
500g high protein flour (turns out Tipo 00 will do just fine if bread flour stores are depleted)
7g sachet instant yeast
350ml warm water
2tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg white (optional)
Mix yeast, water and sugar together in a large bowl and leave for 10 minutes (or more!). Yeast will become frothy.
Add the oil, salt and half the flour to the yeast mixture and stir to a paste, then add the remaining flour gradually.
Once a dough forms, tip out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead. I went for 10 minutes with brief rests every 2-3 minutes. My dough was very soft and a little sticky so I added a touch more flour, but I tried to be very sparing. The final dough was smooth and elastic, but definitely on the soft side.
Lightly oil a bowl (the mixing bowl you just used, for example) and return the smooth and elastic dough to it. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove for an hour, or until doubled in size.
Deflate the dough, turn out onto a floured surface and divide into 16 equal pieces. Mine were about 50g each. Roll each into a little ball – I tried to recreate the ball forming technique I described in the Doughnuts: “Press each piece flat and fold the sides in. Flip the dough so it is seamside down and then cup your hand around the tiny blob and use firm pressure to roll it on the bench until it forms a nice tight round ball with a smooth even surface.” I said it then and I’ll repeat it now: I have no idea if this method is necessary or helpful. The recipe this is taken from advocates plain ‘roll the dough into balls’ so…I guess maybe don’t overthink it as much as I did?
Place your rolls onto a baking tray sprayed with cooking spray (I lined mine first for extra non-stickiness). Keep rolls at least 5cm apart and then cover with the damp tea towel and leave to prove for another 40 minutes – 1 hour (aka until they double in size again).
Pre-heat your oven to 200°C Fan.
When rolls have risen you can either add the optional egg wash (brush with beaten egg white, I did this because I love how shiny it makes things) or just biff them straight in the oven. The original recipe reckons these take 18-20 minutes, but I baked mine on two separate trays. The first had 9 rolls and was in the oven with something else and did take around 20 minutes. The second had 7 rolls and was in the oven alone and took more like 13 minutes. Keep an eye on them – the beautiful brownness is a good indicator. Or be a psycho like me and double check with your thermometer that they’ve reached 100°C.
Want to turn left overs into garlic bread? Turn your oven to grill and the temperature up to the max. Crush a couple of cloves of garlic and mush it into some butter – I did 6 rolls and used 2 cloves and about 100g butter. I also added salt and pepper and some oregano, but I couldn’t really taste or see that so I suspect that was a waste of time. Cut your rolls in half and spread with the garlic butter. Grate some parmesan over for a cheesy bonus. Grill for 5-8 minutes or until the buns reach your desired level of cheese melted:crispy ratio and the buns are at the perfect toasted:fluffy ratio. You know your preferences best.