Today’s Recipes: Brioche Cloverleaf Rolls and Tom Colicchio’s Parker House Rolls.
Imagine this … watching the miracle of yeast dough rising, forming the perfect rolls and baking them, the aroma wafting through the house, pulling them hot from the oven, perfectly golden brown. Now imagine that you are pulling one apart and slathering it with butter, just about to take that first bite … Yes! You can make these for your Thanksgiving dinner, I promise!
One of the best things about making fresh bread or rolls is that your house fills with the incredible scent of baking. I immediately get a smile on my face when I walk past a bakery and smell the bread. Just the aroma of yeast proofing in a bowl makes me salivate. This year for your Thanksgiving dinner I hope you make your own rolls, but even if you buy them from a bakery or the grocery store, reheat them in the oven to get that amazing aroma.
Making bread is a very sensuous experience. The smell of the yeast, the feel of the dough as you knead it, changing from a sticky glob into a smooth and satiny dough, the satisfaction you feel when it comes out of the oven, perfectly risen and golden brown. I started baking bread in high school and was immediately hooked. This was long before the big mixers we have today so I would spend a long time kneading the dough by hand until it was just right. It is really good training because you learn to trust how the dough feels. There is nothing quite like it and the sense of accomplishment you feel when it turns out is worth all the time and effort.
Now is a good time to go out and buy new packages of yeast. If yours are nearing or just past the date on the package, it is safer to buy new. Always proof your yeast to make sure it is still alive! If it isn’t actively foaming up, it is dead. There are a few things than can kill the yeast, but the most common is that your liquid is too hot. Use an instant read thermometer to measure it. For those of you who own a bread machine, you can use your machine to mix and knead the dough, then take it out and place in a buttered bowl to rise. Just follow the directions for your specific machine, layering the ingredients in the order given.
These recipes are very flexible and give you lots of options on taste and timing. If you want, you can add minced herbs or garlic to the dough when you mix it. Rosemary and dill are favorites of mine. You can make and bake them all in the same day if you are having dinner later in the day, or you can make the dough a day ahead and let them rise overnight in the refrigerator, and then do the final rise and baking the next day. You can even make and bake them a week ahead, freeze them, and then thaw and reheat for your dinner. Your guests will never know you baked them early.
Yeast converts the sugar into carbon dioxide which raises the dough. Most recipes use regular granulated sugar, but Tom Colicchio’s recipe uses barley malt syrup, a molasses-like sweetener that gives the dough a slight malty flavor that is addicting. You can find malt syrup at most grocery stores or you can buy it online. But if you can’t find it, dark corn syrup works just as well.
If making rolls from scratch adds too much to an already very busy day, you can make store-bought rolls seems like homemade. I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I’ve learned over the years, LOL. Dust them lightly with flour before reheating them to make them look more rustic. Also, make an herb butter and brush it on the hot rolls. People will swear you made them from scratch! One of my favorite compound butters is minced shallots slowly cooked until the butter is infused. Then you can strain the solids out or leave them in. Add some fresh herbs and let it sit off the heat for a few minutes. Minced thyme, rosemary, and dill are all great with shallots. Herbed compound butter makes everything taste better!
Brioche Cloverleaf Rolls
Slightly modified recipe by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 12 rolls
Time: about 6 hours plus overnight refrigeration
1/4 cup warm water (110°F to 115°F)
1/4 cup warm whole milk (110°F to 115°F)
3 tsp active dry yeast (empty two envelopes into a bowl and measure)
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tbsp granulated sugar
12 tbsp (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1 tbsp cubes
1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp water (for egg wash)
Combine 1/4 cup warm water and warm milk in bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Sprinkle yeast over the top and stir to moisten evenly. Let stand until yeast dissolves and becomes foamy, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Add flour and salt to yeast mixture. Blend at medium-low with the paddle attachment until mixture becomes shaggy, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in sugar. Increase mixer speed to medium; beat until dough is smooth, about 3 minutes.
Reduce speed to low. Add butter, 1 tbsp at a time, beating until blended after each addition, about 4 minutes (dough will be soft and silky). Increase speed to medium-high and beat until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and climbs the paddle, 8 to 9 minutes. This effectively kneads the dough, developing the gluten, without adding any additional flour that can make the dough tough.
Lightly butter large bowl. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat entirely with butter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise in a warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour 15 minutes to 1-1/2 hours. The top of the refrigerator works well, or you can turn the oven on for 1 minute then turn it off and set dough in oven to rise.
When doubled in volume, gently deflate dough by lifting around edges, then letting dough fall back into bowl, turning bowl and repeating as needed. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and chill, deflating dough in the same way every 30 minutes until dough stops rising, about 2 hours. Chill overnight.
The following day, butter 12 standard (1/3-cup) muffin cups. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces; cut each piece into thirds. Roll each small piece between palms into ball. Place 3 balls, side-by-side, in each prepared cup (dough will fill cup).
Place muffin pan in warm draft-free area; cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise until light and almost doubled, above the top rim of muffin cups, about an hour. After 30 minutes, position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Fully preheating the oven guarantees the rolls will bake properly.
Place muffin pan on rimmed baking sheet. Gently brush egg glaze over risen dough, being careful that glaze does not drip between dough and pan (which can limit the final rising in the oven). Bake brioches until golden brown, tenting with foil if browning too quickly, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack. Cool 10 minutes. Remove brioches from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Tom Colicchio’s Parker House Rolls
Modified from a recipe on Saveur.com
Yield: 10 to 12 rolls
Time: about 4-1/2 hours from start to finish
3/4 cup milk, heated to 110°F (about 45 seconds in a microwave)
1 tsp barley malt syrup or dark corn syrup
1 packet active dry yeast, about 2-1/4 tsp (buy new packets before the holidays for the “freshest” yeast!)
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp kosher salt or 1/4 tsp of table salt
2-1/2 tbsp butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, softened
3 tbsp melted unsalted butter
Fleur de sel or other coarse salt for sprinkling on top (don’t use if you brushed the tops with regular salted butter)
Butter a medium glass bowl*; set aside. Stir together milk and malt syrup in a small bowl. Stir in yeast and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of your heavy-duty mixer.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Add to milk mixture along with butter and mix (using the paddle attachment) on low speed about 1 to 2 minutes, until a dough has formed and is wrapping around the paddle and cleaning the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly for 2 to 3 minutes until satiny and no longer sticky.
Roll into a smooth ball, set into the buttered bowl and turn so all the surface are coated with the butter. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set in a draft-free warm place to rise until doubled in volume. The first rise will take about 60 to 75 minutes. If you are mixing the dough by hand, stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is satiny and no longer sticky, up to 5 or 6 minutes.
If your room is cold the dough will take longer to rise. You can turn your oven on for 1 to 2 minutes then shut it off. Place the covered bowl in the oven with the door cracked open for 5 minutes. Then shut the oven door and let rise. If you are baking something in the oven you can set the bowl near the oven vent to stay warm.
When dough has risen, uncover and press it down in the center, deflating the dough. Form into a smooth ball again, cover and let sit until risen again. The second rise will take another 60 to 75 minutes.
Butter an 8×8-inch baking pan. Portion dough into fourteen equal pieces and roll into 1-1/2″ diameter balls, about the size of a ping pong ball, (a bench scraper cuts the dough beautifully) and transfer to prepared baking pan, distributing them evenly. They do not need to be touching, but as they rise, they will merge together. Cover loosely with the kitchen towel and let sit until doubled in size. The third rise will take about 2 hours.
To make ahead, instead of letting the dough do the third rising, form the rolls and place in baking pan as directed. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let them rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature about 2 to 3 hours before baking.
To Bake: 30 minutes before rolls are ready to bake preheat oven to 375°F. Fully preheating the oven guarantees the rolls will bake properly. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with coarse salt if desired, and bake until puffed and tops are lightly golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. If they are browning too quickly, tent loosely with a piece of foil. If they are not browning quickly enough, raise temperature to 400°F. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Once cool you can store the rolls in a resealable plastic bag at room temperature overnight. Refrigerate if holding longer.
NOTE: This dough surprised me. First, the recipe makes very little dough. It took forever to rise and I did the final two risings on the top of the stove where it was warmer than I normally would use to raise a bread dough. I got fewer pieces than the original recipe said and they didn’t seem as though they would fill the pan. Even as I put the rolls in the oven they didn’t look very tall. But they did finish rising in the oven and came out fine.
* Using a glass bowl allows you to see how much the dough is rising without disturbing it. When you first set the dough in the bowl, put a piece of tape on the outside marking the initial level. Then compare the new height to the original height. Don’t forget that if the dough expands to fill the bottom of the bowl without rising much vertically, it is still increasing in volume.
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