Who can resist warm yeast rolls, fresh from the oven? I know I can’t! There’s just something about warm, pillowy soft rolls that keep you grabbing for more even when your belly is about to burst. These homemade dinner rolls are surprisingly easy to make and the taste is far superior to anything you will ever buy from the grocery store. For this recipe, the dough is made and the rolls are shaped and refrigerated a day or two before being baked and served, making them ideal for holidays when you have plenty of other dishes to worry about making.
You start these dinner rolls by scalding the milk before adding the rest of the ingredients. Scalding the milk is a very important step in this recipe and should not be overlooked. The whey protein in milk can weaken gluten and prevent the dough from rising properly. That protein is removed when the skin that forms on the scalded milk is skimmed off and discarded. Hence rolls made with unscalded milk will not rise to the level of rolls made with scalded milk. After the skin is skimmed off the surface of the milk it is set aside to cool before the eggs and yeast are whisked in. Flour is then added to the bowl and kneaded until the dough is cohesive and elastic. Once cohesive, the dough is turned out onto lightly floured work surface to continue kneading. You will notice that the dough will be very soft and moist (but not overly sticky). Resist the urge to add more flour than is needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. If too much flour is added the rolls will be tough. The dough is then placed in a bowl, covered in plastic wrap and allowed to rise for 2 to 3 hours. After the dough has doubled in size, it is turned out onto a lightly floured work surface where it is patted, rolled, and cut into sixteen pieces. Each piece of dough is formed into smooth, taut rounds before being placed in cake pans, covered, and refrigerated at least 24 or up to 48 hours. On the day you are ready to bake them, let rolls rise in draft-free cool room-temperature (68 degrees) location until doubled in volume, about 6 to 7 hours. When rolls are ready to bake, brush with melted butter and bake until deep golden brown.
Yield: 16 rolls
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 14 minutes
Total Time: 34 hours
3/4 cup whole milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, (reserve 2 tablespoons for brushing on rolls before baking)
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 package rapid-rise yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons), may also labeled "instant", "quick rise," or "perfect rise"
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus additional flour as needed (see note above)
1. To Make the Dough: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring milk to boil. Remove from heat and let stand until skin forms on surface, about 3 to 5 minutes. Using soup spoon, skim the skin off the surface and discard. Transfer milk to bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add 6 tablespoons melted butter, sugar, and salt; whisk to combine and let cool. When mixture is warm to the touch (about 90 to 100 degrees), whisk in eggs and yeast until combined.
2. Add flour to the bowl; using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until combined, about 1 to 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-low and mix about 3 minutes more; when pressed with finger, dough should feel tacky and moist but should not stick to finger. (If dough is sticky, add another 1 to 3 tablespoons flour.) (This dough should be moister than most. Resist the urge to add more flour than is needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. If they are made on a humid day, the dough may require more flour than if made on a dry day.) Continue to mix on medium-low until cohesive, elastic dough has formed and it clears the sides of bowl but stick to bottom, about 4 to 5 minutes longer.
3. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough by hand (1 to 2 minutes) to ensure that it is well kneaded. Dough will be very soft and moist but not overly sticky. (If dough sticks excessively to hands and work surface, dust only your hands with flour until dough is workable.) Lightly spray medium bowl with cooking spray. Transfer dough to bowl; lightly coat surface of dough with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm location until doubled in volume, 2 to 3 hours.
4. To Shape the Rolls: Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray; set aside. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Pat dough into rough 12 by 10-inch rectangle, gently pressing out air; starting from edge farthest from you, roll dough to form a even cylinder, stretching to 18-inch length. Using a bench scraper or chef's knife, cut cylinder into 16 equally sized pieces.
5. Working with one piece at a time (keeping remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap or kitchen towel) form into smooth rounds. Set piece of dough on unfloured area of work surface. Loosely cup hand around dough (not directly over it); without applying pressure to dough, move hand in small circular motions. (Tackiness of dough against work surface and circular motion should work dough into smooth, even ball.) Arrange shaped rolls in prepared cake pans (one in center and seven spaced evenly around edges) and cover cake pans with plastic wrap lightly coated with cooking spray, then cover pans securely with foil. Refrigerate at least 24 or up to 48 hours.
6. To Bake the Rolls: Remove foil (but not plastic wrap) from cake pans; let rolls rise in cool room-temperature location until doubled in volume (rolls should press against each other), 6 to 7 hours. When rolls are nearly doubled in volume, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. (If your cake pans have a dark nonstick finish, bake the rolls in a 375-degree oven to moderate the browning.) Remove plastic wrap. Brush rolls with 2 tablespoons melted butter; bake until deep golden brown, 14 to 18 minutes. Cool rolls in pans on wire rack about 3 minutes, then invert onto rack. Break rolls apart and serve warm.
Source: Cook's Illustrated, September 2006
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