There is really very little I can serve that makes my family as giddy as a basket of fresh dinner rolls, still warm from the oven. It just reeks of special occasion. This single white dough recipe can be shaped and finished in a number of ways. With just a few subtle changes, you will look like an expert baker. (Or at the very least a very enthusiastic hobbyist!)
½ cup warm water
1 ½ cup milk, divided
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ¾ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoons sea salt
2-3 cups bread flour
½ milk for wash
Additional finishing salt – finish with the same salt, or add something unique, such as a smoked salt, a charcoal infused black salt, or a salt infused with rosemary, sesame, onion, celery alt, olive, curry, paprika, or saffron
- In a large bowl stir together water, ½ cup of milk, sugar, yeast, and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Use a fork to stir in milk and all-purpose flour to create a loose batter. Cover and set aside in a warm spot until it begins to bubble, 45-60 minutes. This is the sponge.
- Add to the sponge remaining milk, egg, butter, 1 teaspoon of salt, and enough bread flour to create a firm dough. (I like to stir this in with a fork, because it’s less cumbersome than a whisk or spoon, and way easier to clean.) Turn out onto a floured surface and knead, adding flour only as necessary to reduce stickiness. Knead 8-10 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Return to the bowl, cover with a warm damp towel and set aside to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Coat two baking sheets with pan spray. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Cut it into a few equal pieces, then shape it into ropes that are about 3-inches in diameter. Cut 2-inch pieces off of these ropes, and roll each piece into a tight ball. (Balls should be smooth on the top, with a small seam or dimple on the bottom.) Place balls 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet, seam side down, and dust lightly with flour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to proof for 30 minutes, until slightly puffed.
- Just before baking. Brush lightly with remaining milk, and sprinkle with finishing salt. Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Rotate pan as necessary to promote even browning.
Parker House – This roll was created at Boston’s Parker House Hotel in the 1850’s. After the dough is risen, roll it out to about ½ inch thick. Cut out rounds using a biscuit cutter. Brush both sides of dough into melted butter, fold in half, then place on prepared pan about 1/3 inch apart. (The dough should grow together during baking.) Cover lightly and proof for 30 minutes, then sprinkle with finishing salt and bake as directed above.
Clover – When the above dough is risen, and the dough ropes are formed, cut off 1-inch pieces. Roll them into tight balls, and set three of them together in a muffin tin that has been coated with pan spray. Proof and bake as directed above. After baking, brush with melted butter while hot, then sprinkle with finishing salt.
Butterfly – After the dough is risen, roll it out into a rectangle that is about ½ inch thick. Brush melted butter over the entire surface, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and finishing salt. Roll up on the long side, jelly-roll style, creating a spiral rope. Cut the rope every two inches. Using a wooden dowel (or wooden spoon handle) press the down firmly into the center of each 2-inch section, pushing the spiral edges up and out, like a butterfly wings. Proof and bake as directed above.
Crescent – After the dough is risen, roll it out into a rectangle ½ inch thick. Brush melted butter over the entire surface, and sprinkle with finishing salt. Use a pastry wheel to cut into 4×3 inch rectangles. Cut each rectangle into two triangles. Roll each triangle up from the wide base into a croissant shape. (Pull and stretch the base of the triangle as wide as you can before rolling for the best crescent shape.) Bend the outer legs down to form a crescent, and place on prepared baking sheet. Egg wash, then proof and bake as directed above.