Elegant Dinner Rolls

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    12

    individual rolls

Appears in

I always find serving guests individual rolls more festive than passing slices of a larger loaf of bread. Maybe I got that impression from a photograph I saw as a child of the dining room of an extremely fancy Parisian restaurant, where each plate was topped with a stiff-looking folded white napkin and each napkin bore an elaborately knotted individual roll. These are really easy to make and you may shape them several ways. They’re also easy to make in advance and freeze in case you do want to make them for a party.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup warm water, about 110°F (45°C)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Egg white wash

  • 1 egg white well beaten with a pinch of salt
  • 1 cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan lined with parchment or foil

Method

  1. Combine the Hour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix.
  2. Whisk the yeast into the water in a small bowl, and whisk in the egg, egg yolk, and butter. Pour the liquid into the food processor bowl and pulse repeatedly until the dough forms a ball. Let the dough rest in the food processor bowl for 10 minutes.
  3. After the dough has rested, run the machine continuously for 15 seconds. Invert the food processor bowl onto a floured surface to turn out the dough. Carefully remove the blade and transfer any dough on it to the surface. Use a bench scraper to fold the dough over onto itself several times. Place the dough in a buttered bowl and turn it over so that the top is buttered. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it has doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of the room.
  4. Scrape the dough onto a floured surface and divide it in half. Roll each half into a cylinder about 6 inches (15 cm) long. Use a bench scraper or a knife to divide each cylinder into 6 equal pieces.
  5. Place all the pieces of dough on your left and sweep away any excess flour or bits of dough from the work surface directly in front of you. Make sure there is a clear area to your right. Taking one piece of dough at a time, cup your right hand over it so that the top of the dough barely touches the inside of your palm. Gently press and move your hand in a circle to round the piece of dough into a sphere and tighten the skin on the outside of it. Place the rounded piece of dough to your right and cover it with a towel or plastic wrap. If the dough is sticky, lightly flour the palm of your hand—not the dough or the work surface. If you are left-handed, put the cut pieces of dough on your right and the rounded ones on your left.
  6. You can leave the rolls round, or you may roll the palm of your hand over each one to make a small cylindrical roll before arranging them on the pan. For knotted rolls, elongate the cylinders of dough to about 4 inches (10 cm., then tie them in a single knot, leaving one end of the strand protruding slightly at the top and the other end under the roll.
  7. Arrange the formed rolls on the prepared pan, leaving about 2 inches (5 cm) all around each one to allow room for expansion. Cover the pan with a towel or buttered plastic wrap and let the rolls rise until they have doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.
  8. About 20 minutes before the rolls are fully risen, set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°F (200°C).
  9. Immediately before placing the rolls in the oven, gently and carefully brush them with the egg white wash. Bake the rolls until they are well risen, well colored, and firm, about 20 minutes. Slide the rolls on the parchment paper onto a rack to cool.

Serving

Serve the rolls in a napkin-lined basket. For breakfast serve them with butter and preserves or marmalade.

Storage

Keep the rolls loosely covered with plastic wrap on the day they are baked. Wrap tightly and freeze for longer storage. Defrost the rolls and reheat them at 375°F (190°C) for 3 to 4 minutes, and cool them before serving.

Variations

However you choose to shape the rolls, you can sprinkle them with a pinch of poppy seeds or sesame seeds immediately after brushing with the egg wash.

For medium sandwich or hamburger rolls, divide the dough into a total of 8 pieces and form into rounds, cover, and allow them to rest for 5 minutes. Wrap a flat-weave (non-terry cloth) towel around a small heavy saucepan. Flour the cloth on the bottom of the pan. Slam the pan against one of the rounded pieces of dough 2 to 3 times to flatten it into a hamburger shape. Arrange on the pan and continue with the remaining pieces of dough, lightly flouring the cloth on the bottom of the pan as needed. After the rolls have risen, paint with the egg wash and sprinkle with either type of seeds, if you wish.

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