Thanksgiving is almost here and we all need a good recipe for dinner rolls. This recipe was a gift from a nice lady named Dee, who also gave me her bread machine. Her family was PCSing (military lingo for moving), and her husband promised her a brand new Zo as a house-warming gift on the other end. Her machine was 10 years old at the time, but still worked great. I ended up using that Zojirushi for 6 more years, until Mark bought me a new one a couple of years ago. It’s the best bread machine out there if you are in the market for one; kind of expensive, but worth every penny.
This was her Grandmother’s recipe, and works great in a bread machine. However, lots of people bake bread manually, so I decided to bake this batch manually and show you some of the neat rolls you can make for the holidays. After you get the hang of it, don’t limit yourself to holiday baking. This recipe is so versatile and easy that you can use it all year-long.
After the dough has been shaped and has risen (but before baking), you can brush it with beaten egg whites and sprinkle on herbs, sesame seeds, nuts, garlic, etc. If you decide to bake a loaf instead of rolls, you can flavor it by rolling various herbs or seasonings inside, as well as sprinkling them on top. It makes a great base for sweet breads, too. I’ve made this dough into cinnamon-raisin bread, cinnamon-swirl bread and even cinnamon rolls.
If you decide to serve this bread for Thanksgiving, bake it ahead of time so that you don’t have to fuss with it on the big day. I either bake it the day before, and leave it in a large Rubbermaid container out on the counter, or bake it a week ahead of time and freeze it.
Be sure and check your ingredients if it has been a while since you last baked. My yeast was old and the first batch did not raise well, the dough was heavy and tough, sort of like little hockey pucks. To check your yeast, place 1 teaspoon yeast in a cup of warm water. Add 1 Tablespoon sugar and wait 10 minutes. If your science project has a lot of foam, the yeast is good, if not…pitch it and start fresh. I should have checked my yeast first, I ended up having to throw the batch of dough out.
You’ll also notice that this recipe uses all-purpose flour, not bread flour. I’ve used both, I’ve even used white whole wheat flour. When using the all-purpose flour only, you’ll notice that the rolls are very light and springy. The dough becomes heavier with the addition of bread flour or wheat flour. If you’ve never used the other flours before, I suggest that you start by replacing 1 cup of the all-purpose flour with either bread flour or white whole wheat. You can actually replace the entire 3 1/2 cups with bread flour, but I wouldn’t substitute more than 1 cup of the whole wheat flour or else the dough will become too dense and heavy. Enjoy!
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk or water (I prefer milk, it makes for a richer tasting bread, but water works fine)
1 beaten egg
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon yeast
1. Mix together sugar, salt, yeast, and 2/3 of the flour.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk (or water) and the butter, until warm. Test it on the inside of your wrist, it should be very warm, but not scalding.
3. Pour the warm liquids into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Using a mixer or wooden spoon, stir and mix the ingredients until you can no longer move the spoon through the dough (about 2-3 minutes).
4. Pour the last 1/3 of the flour on a hard surface and knead it in to the dough. You will probably have to knead it for about 4 or 5 minutes. Once the dough has absorbed the flour, place it in a large bowl that has been sprayed with Pam. Place a piece of plastic wrap (that has also been sprayed with Pam) over the bowl, and a clean kitchen towel over the plastic. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free spot and allow to sit for 45-60 minutes, or until it is doubled in size (I sometimes sit in on the stove and turn the oven to 300°F. so that the heating vent hits the bowl).
5. Punch down the dough, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Shape the dough as desired (some ideas follow), and place a clean kitchen towel over the shaped dough. Let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
6. After the dough has risen, either:
A. bake it as is and then brush it with melted butter once you remove it from the oven (restrain yourself from gobbling down the hot, buttered bread)
B. brush it with beaten egg whites before you bake it and sprinkle on seasonings, herbs, nuts, garlic, etc.,
C. brush it with milk and sift a thin layer of flour on the tops.
7. Bake rolls for about 18-20 minutes, remove from oven, then remove from pan and place on a rack to cool (if you let them cool in the pan, they will become soggy).
Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Divide 1 portion of dough into three equal-sized pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place into a greased muffin cup. Allow dough to rise until doubled in size. Bake for about 18-20 minutes at 350°F.
Big Dinner Rolls
Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion of dough into a big ball, being careful to smooth the edges and bury them inside the ball of dough. Place each piece of dough into a greased muffin cup. At this point you can leave them as is, or for added flair, you can cut a cross into the rolls with a pair of scissors. Allow dough to rise until doubled in size. Bake at 350°F. for about 18-20 minutes.