Monday, November 01, 2004


That’s what I used to call them when I was a kid, because of their cloverleaf shape. My mom would make them often, and I’d eat a lot of them. As far as I’m concerned, the only way to eat a bumpy roll is to pull the three sections apart slightly (leaving them connected at the bottom), spread them with butter, and microwave them for 30 seconds or so until the roll is hot and tender and the butter is molten. I’m sure they would also be good with honey. They’re really the perfect basic wheat dinner roll, and fun to eat at that.

I’m not much of a baker, but I thought it would be fun to give breadmaking a shot yesterday. I wouldn’t say it was the easiest thing I’ve ever made, but I also think it would be much easier with practice, when one wasn’t so concerned about the potential to mess things up at every turn. I did have a good time—the chemistry of baking is always interesting (though yeast freaks me out somewhat—those little crumbs are alive), I do love the feeling of kneading dough, and the entire apartment still smells of fresh bread—I dare you to name a cozier smell than that. It was a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, as I could do one of the recipe steps, go do laundry or cleaning or an errand while the dough rose, and then come back and do the next step. Despite my fears, the rolls turned out tasting nearly as good as mom’s (Me: “They’re not quite the same.” A: “Maybe you forgot to add love.”), though the first batch I put in the oven got a bit dark on the bottom. Excessively pleased with myself, I proceeded to eat about four of them, with chicken noodle soup on the side. A happily devoured a few as well, and I froze the remaining two dozen for later. Now I’m eagerly eyeing the bread recipes in my books—we’ll see what comes of that, if anything.

2 packets (2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2½ teaspoons salt
4 cups white flour
¼ cup instant nonfat dry milk or 1¼ cups milk
¼ cup honey
2 cups wheat flour
3 tablespoons soft shortening

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast with 1 cup warm water, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ cup white flour. Beat this with a whisk until it's smooth, and then cover the bowl with a damp dishtowel and let it stand in a warm place for about 15 minutes (other recipes I consulted suggested the warm place should be about 80-85 degrees, so I put my bowl in the bathroom with the door shut and turned on the odd little heating unit on the wall; it seems a more conventional method is to put the bowl in the oven—which should be turned off—and put a pan of hot water on the lower rack).

2. When the 15 minutes are up, heat 1¼ cups milk almost to boiling in the microwave, let it cool until you can stick your finger into it comfortably, then add it to the bowl (you can use 1¼ cups warm water with ¼ cup instant nonfat dry milk, if you prefer). Add the honey, the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, the wheat flour, and the shortening, and then beat the mixture for 2 minutes with an electric mixer. Gradually stir in (by hand, with a wooden spoon) about 3½ cups white flour to make a very stiff dough. (This was probably the most laborious part of the process—I kept thinking the dough wouldn’t possibly take any more flour, but it always would, after I expended a lot of arm power stirring it up.) Next, spread a little flour on the counter, dump the dough out of the bowl, and knead it until it was smooth. Wash the bowl out, grease it lightly with shortening, place the kneaded dough inside, cover it with the damp dishtowel again, and let it rise until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

3. When the dough has risen, lightly grease muffin tins with shortening. (You’ll want three if possible, as this recipe makes about 36 rolls.) Uncover the dough, punch it down, and begin pulling off little bits with your fingers and rolling them into small balls. In each muffin slot, you want to place three balls of dough, each about one inch in diameter, touching one another at the edges like the leaves of a clover. Fill your pans, cover them with the damp dishtowel, and let the rolls rise until they have doubled in size, about 30 minutes. (Because I only have two muffin tins, I had some dough left, so I just kept that in the bowl, covered it, and let it rise again as well, figuring it couldn’t hurt--and it didn’t.)

4. Near the end of the 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the rolls have finished rising, put them in the oven for 15 minutes, until the tops are light brown. Remove them from the tins and cool them on wire racks. (At this point, if you have remaining dough as I did, wash out one of the muffin tins, regrease it, punch down the remaining dough, shape it into rolls, let it rise 30 minutes, and bake it as well.)

Makes: about 3 dozen rolls
Time: about 2½ hours, but only 30 minutes of that is actual work

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