Easy, simple dinner rolls. Quick to make and lovely to bite into. This is what I was looking forward to when I started into the Soft Butter Rolls, one of the September Breads from the Mellow Bakers challenge. You can find this recipe on page 326 of Jeffrey Hamelman’s book Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes.
(Yes, this post is late seeing as I’m finishing it up in October. But then, we’re MELLOW bakers for a reason!)
Looking over the recipe, it seemed to be the case. However, looking over the posts other bakers had put up as they were pumping these guys out, it seemed there were a few steps one needed to be wary of. I took these into consideration and went ahead; I’ll point out where one needs to divert from the recipe a little. Nothing major, however.
Let’s start with our Mis en Place. Or actually, let’s not and cover what that is and why you would want to do it first.
What is a “Mis en Place” anyway?
Mis en Place (pronounced “meez awn plass”) is a french term meaning “Put in its place” and refers to the setting out of your required ingredients, all measured and ready, before you start building your bread (or whatever you’re baking or cooking). So you’d go through your recipe, measure and weigh out your flour, water, butter, salt yeast and so forth ahead of time, making sure you aren’t short of anything and everything is right there for you. You’ve seen this on a million cooking shows, the host always has everything ready and pre-measured.
Why do it? To avoid surprises mid-baking and the potential of missing an ingredient if you are in the habit of scooping or spooning out as you go along. Did you add those three teaspoons of butter already? Did you forget to put in your salt? If the salt is still on the counter then it’s easy to see you did not. If the little salt bowl is empty, it’s easy to see you did. If you normally pour it into the bowl from the container, you may not recall.
And yes, that does happen. I’ve had it happen, other big-time bread folks mention it’s happened to them… No one is immune from the “did I or didn’t I?” slip up. A momentary distraction, you lose your flow and now you miss an important ingredient. It may not be until you server your fresh loaf that you suddenly realize that bread with no salt can be incredibly odd tasting.
It also lets you confirm you do in fact have that cup of buttermilk on hand so you don’t go to the fridge and suddenly realize you need to rush to the store when you’re halfway into mixing the dough. All in all, it’s a simple way to be prepared so you can focus on simply putting your dough together.
And here’s the Mis en Place for our rolls:
We have: flour, softened butter, egg, salt, water, sugar, yeast and dried milk powder (whole, not skim). If you don’t have milk powder, you can use whole milk instead of water.
Everything goes into the mixing bowl and mixed until shaggy. The beater is switched out for the kneading hook for the next few minutes until the dough windowpanes then the whole thing is set into an oiled bowl to bulk proof for 1 hour.
After proofing, I rolled the dough into a log form in order to easily divide it into the number of pieces I needed. Here’s where I made an impromptu recipe change: I decided to make a dozen cloverleaf rolls; Mr Hamelman suggests that you can also made individual rolls, hot dog or hamburger buns or a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. The recipe says this dough can make 24 small rolls but after dividing some of it into 1/24th, these looked downright tiny, so I went with a dozen instead. This recipe makes just under 2 pounds (890 grams) of dough so dividing this by twelve should be about 74 grams per roll. I therefore went ahead and divided the log in 12 pieces.
Taking one divided piece of dough, I spread it out into a rectangle and, having on a whim decided to try making cinnamon raising cloverleafs, I sprinkled some sugar and cinnamon mixture and a few raisins.
The resulting rope of rolled dough is then sliced into three pieces…
… and these are then arranged, cut side up to show off the sugar design, into a greased muffin tray. This is repeated for the next five rolls.
For the remaining six roll, I simply divided the dough in three (approximately) and formed balls that again are placed into the muffin tray.
And here they all are, ready for a final proof. The book doesn’t say exactly how long to let them go except “until light to the touch”. I figured at the point they increased as you see on the right, they were proofed enough. They then get a smothering of cool melted butter and go into a 400ºF oven. The book says for 15 minutes BUT (and here’s where there’s more diverting from the recipe) others had said their rolls got much too dark and dry at that temp and time. So I popped them in and watched like a hawk. I pulled them out at about 11 minutes when they’d gotten nicely golden but not too dark.
And here they are right out of the oven, given a second smothering of butter.
These were cooled somewhat quickly, being small individual rolls, so after just a couple of minutes I dug in.
And the verdict is:
They’re okay. They’re indeed soft though not terribly buttery. The flavour wasn’t anything amazing but it wasn’t at all bad. So they would get a C mark: passable, not excellent. Even the cinnamon raisin ones were simply “nice”. Better than store bought, I suppose. They don’t survive well for very long so it’s probably best to keep to 12 rolls and eat them all in the next day; the couple I didn’t get to went stale by the end of 48 hours.
So should you make these? Sure, if you are needing buns, they’re easy and as I said, not bad tasting. But don’t look to these to impress your guests, there are better breads to make that will wow them.