Friday, April 08, 2011


Apparently I need to remember to bake bread more often, because when I told A I would be making rolls for our BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches instead of buying them, he looked surprised and a little alarmed. (Probably, not unfairly, he was envisioning the fit I would throw if they didn’t turn out and we had to run to the store to buy emergency bread at the last minute.) But when I fell in love with those sandwiches last summer, part of the charm was the delicious rolls we’d found at the farmers’ market to accompany them. The sandwiches became a regular feature of our menu rotation, but it turned out that the rolls were not such a regular feature of that bakery’s offerings. After a few disappointing iterations of subpar grocery-store replacements, I became convinced that the only solution was to learn to make my own sandwich rolls. Luckily, I had bookmarked this recipe from Baking Bites several years ago.

As usual when I bake bread, the process was fraught with uncertainty, even though this recipe is very simple and not too labor-intensive. My dough seemed really sticky, even after I added all the flour to it—in retrospect, I probably could have added even a little more flour, but I was afraid of making the rolls too stiff and dry. Consequently, it was really hard to knead and then hard to shape. My rolls weren’t very neat-looking, and then I worried they were too close together on the baking sheet. But what do you know, they turned out beautifully anyway. Baking smoothed out all their little imperfections, and even though they grew together, they were easy enough to pull apart again. They tasted delicious (just your standard white bread, with a mild tang from the yogurt and sweetness from the honey) and the texture was absolutely perfect: delightfully moist, pillowy, tender enough to bite into easily but with a tantalizing bit of chew and enough integrity to hold their juicy contents without getting soggy and falling apart. These will be my go-to BBQ chicken vehicles from now on; I think they would also be great hamburger buns, if I ever get into making my own burgers, and I’m sure they would be lovely with cheese and some simple cold cuts on a summer picnic. I can vouch that they are very satisfying with butter and jam, as well.

3½ to 4½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt (I used Greek-style)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1½ teaspoons salt

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine ½ cup flour, the yeast, the honey, and the warm water. Stir well and let sit for 10 minutes, until slightly foamy.

2. Stir in yogurt, vegetable oil, salt, and 2 cups of the remaining flour. Gradually stir in more flour until you have a soft dough that sticks together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (This can all be done in a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, as well.)

3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding additional flour if necessary to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, or about 5 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

4. Turn risen dough out of bowl and onto a lightly floured surface. Gently deflate, pressing into a rectangle. Divide dough into 10 even pieces with a board scraper or a pizza cutter. Shape each piece into a round roll. (To do this, take all the corners of one of the squarish pieces you just cut and pull them together, pinching them to create a seal. This will pull the rest of the dough tight across the top of your roll, giving you a smooth top.) Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough. Once all rolls have been formed, press down firmly on each one to flatten. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise for 25 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

6. Bake rolls for about 20 minutes, until deep golden on the top and the bottom. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Yields: 10 rolls
Time: About 2½ hours
Leftover potential: Good; will stay soft and moist for several days in an airtight container at room temperature, or can be frozen.

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