A friend invited me over for a Sunday dinner this past weekend. It was a perfect day for a spring dinner as it was our second 70 degree day of 2011. The tulips are blooming and the cheery trees (I mean cherry trees, but they are definitely cheery) are packed with white or pink flowers. There was not a cloud in the sky--hooray!
I asked her if I could bring something (hoping it would be cake) and she suggested I bring rolls. As I said, "okay," my mind began running through my baking books in search of a roll that would be suitable for a Sunday dinner and easy enough for a beginner.
Fannie Farmer's Baking Book is a book I often overlook but shouldn't. Not only is it a thick and unassuming book with about 800 recipes (many old school recipes from America's past), but Marion Cunningham tries to make the learning of new skills as easy as she can. She is no Rose Levy Beranbaum, but with a supportive voice she guides you through the basics of each type of baking skill in what she calls her master recipes. I flipped back and forth between her master recipe for bread and her recipe for these dinner rolls and apparently she guided me well as these rolls were well received at dinner.
May 1, 2011
Name of bread: OMG I Successfully Baked Bread!
Occasion: A Spring Dinner with Friends
Constituents: a rich roll, made with milk, butter, and an egg
I am really excited about this successful attempt at bread. I have only made bread a few times before and once it was disappointing (whole wheat with pecans and raisins) and the second time, delicious (bara brith). I am also a bit worried because if I start thinking I can bake bread along with cake I will be in carbohydrate overload. If anything, I should learn to bake sprouted bread since that's what I regularly buy.
I proofed my yeast as I have had it in my refrigerator for so long I can't remember when I bought it or why. Happily those little organisms were alive and well so bread making was on!
I decided to mix and knead the dough by hand in order to get better acquainted with it. Plus, it is more fun to do it by hand. At first the dough was super sticky and generally noncompliant, but after adding in almost another cup of flour and some vigorous kneading, the dough looked satiny and elastic enough for the first rise.
I discovered I could let it rise for only 20 minutes, shape the dough, and give it a longer, slower, second rise in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. So that's what I did. I shaped the dough into 24 rolls of uneven size (oops), arranged them in two buttered 9 inch cake pans, covered them with plastic and put them to bed in the refrigerator.
This morning, they looked like they hadn't risen much at all, so I set them atop the oven while it preheated. A couple of hours later the rolls looked puffy and about doubled, so I brushed them with melted butter and set them in the oven.
Twelve minutes later, the rolls were golden and baked. I let them cool in the pans before turning them out to take to dinner. One of the rolls was pretty tiny so I ate it. I figured, if the bread sucked ass I could leave home a little early and pick some up at the store. Luckily, the bread did not suck ass. It was light, and rich, with a thin, crisp crust. The partygoers enjoyed the rolls too, and there were only a few left at the end of dinner.
I'm thinking a loaf of brioche is in my near future.