Fantail Rolls

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These are our standard white rolls for the restaurant. They are crisp and yet soft and break into segments good for scooping up sauces. They were originally called New England buttermilk rolls and came from a cookbook I bought 20 years ago, never having made bread before and desperate to find something not too difficult. But the recipe has moved and mutated over the years.

First buttermilk became awkward to find, so we used a mixture of skimmed milk and cream of tartar instead, then we eliminated the teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda called for in the original recipe because it didn’t seem necessary. Now my wife Anja, who makes all the bread for The Merchant House, doesn’t put cream of tartar in the dough either. The fantail rolls are still my favourite and this recipe has certainly been well practised, if nothing else.

Ingredients

  • 25 g (1 oz) fresh yeast (1 × 1 oz cake)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 450 ml (16 fl oz/2 cups) skimmed milk
  • 750g (1 lb 10½ oz) strong white flour (5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 75g (3oz/¾ stick) butter
  • 1 medium egg, beaten (1 large egg)

Method

In a bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in a little of the skimmed milk and leave for 10 minutes to froth.

Pour this liquid, plus the remaining milk, onto the flour and salt and mix to a dough. Knead it for 5 minutes – less if you are using a dough-hook on a mechanical mixer.

Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm, draught-free spot for about 1 hour to rise. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside until needed.

Knock back the dough, kneading for a few seconds so that it collapses back to its original volume.

Divide the dough into two pieces and roll out until about 3 mm ( in) thick. Brush the top of both pieces with the melted butter.

Cut the dough into strips 5cm (2 in) wide and lay these strips on top of each other in piles about four strips high. Cut them into squares of 5cm (2 in).

Pinch one corner of each square together to seal the layers. Stand the squares, sealed edge downwards, in buttered Yorkshire pudding tins or muffin pans and leave the bread to rise for about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7). Dab a little beaten egg across the top of each roll and bake for about 15 minutes, by which time they should be golden brown.

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