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Dinner rolls

DInner rolls are great as a “palate cleanser” between dishes. They are also great for dipping into soups or sauces, as they don’t get very soggy. They are basically fancy-looking, tougher biscuits.

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Makes 16-24 rolls. Preparation time: about 2 1/2 hours.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water, heated to 105 degrees F
  • 2 tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring work surfaces
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

In a large bowl, stir together the water, yeast, and sugar. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. This is just basic “proofing” of the yeast.

Slowly stir in two cups of flour. Let stand at room temperature until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes. Doing this gives the yeast a good head start, before we add two ingredients that can discourage yeast fermentation: salt and vinegar.

Stir in the vinegar and salt.

Stir in two more cups of flour. Slowly add more flour, stirring, until the dough comes together in a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The amount of flour you will need to create a dough that is smooth and not sticky will be somewhere between 4 and 5 cups, depending on your flour and the temperature humidity of the air. We add it a bit at a time so that we can find the sweet spot between a dough that’s wet and sticky, and a dough that’s dry and tough.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead for ten minutes, slowly adding more flour until the dough isn’t sticky and springs back when you press your finger into it. When you sprinkle more flour onto the dough, it will be smooth and dry for a minute until the flour is assimilated, and then it will start getting sticky again — right up until you hit the sweet spot when it stays smooth and pliable. When it hits the sweet spot, try not to add any more flour.

Return the dough to the bowel, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about one hour. If you have the time, you can let it rise overnight in the refrigerator. It will rise more slowly, but it will have more time to generate flavor in the bread dough.

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Line two half-sheet baking pans with parchment paper.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface again, punch down, and divide into 16-24 equal-sized pieces. Whether to make 16 or 24 is simply a question of how large your want your rolls to be. Roll out the dough into a log, then cut it into two equal halves. Repeat with each half, giving you four pieces. Repeat again, making eight pieces. For sixteen rolls, repeat one more time. For 24 rolls, divide each of the eight pieces by three.

Roll each piece of dough into a small ball and place on the baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart from each other. You can shape them as you like; some prefer them round, while others make them “football” shaped.

Bake at 400 degrees until browned on top, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve warm or at room temperature. Seriously, serve them warm.

Tips and suggestions:

  • This is a recipe where using the dough hook on your stand mixer to mix and knead the dough helps tremendously, leaving you to focus on adding the flour until the dough is no longer sticky.
  • You may have noticed that there is no fat in this recipe. You can try adding a tablespoon of olive oil; it will give the rolls a slightly softer texture and another dimension to the flavor. Add the oil with the vinegar and salt.

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