There is always one stand out food
That everyone swoons over;
Sometimes it is the spiral cut ham
With a crusted glaze of cinnamon and brown sugar;
Other times it is the homemade lemon pie
With meringue piled so high that it defies gravity;
More times than not,
It is the tomato sauce that my mother has been simmering all day
Until it is thick and so flavorful that the pasta is a mere afterthought;
And while I'm not a gambling kind of gal,
I would definitely make a wager
That at this week's dinner,
There is going to be a new family favorite:
A good dinner roll begins with yeast. This is instant yeast, also known as rapid rise yeast. What I love about instant yeast is that there is no need to proof it in warm water first. It has finer granules that can be added directly to the dry ingredients. It saves you time and gives a much faster rise, what's not to love?
I add the yeast to my favorite flour, Daisy Organic Flour from Lancaster County. Locally grown and milled, this all natural flour is not only non-GMO, it is also pretty awesome in the flavor department.
I mix the dry ingredients in my stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Besides the yeast and flour, I add a good dose of salt and something very unusual when it comes to yeast baking: baking powder.
It is no big secret that patience is not one of my virtues. I want my rolls to rise up quickly, hence the instant yeast; but if I add too much yeast the resulting rolls would taste, for lack of a better word, 'yeasty.' This is where I balance the leavening duties between the yeast and baking powder. Baking powder is double acting which means it will help with the initial rise, and again when the rolls hit the heat of the oven.
I melt a few tablespoons of butter in the microwave in a large liquid measuring cup.
To the melted butter, I add local organic wildflower honey from Chester County Honey, whole milk, a few tablespoons of vegetable oil,
And a little Hawaiian flair with a double dose of pineapple in the form of crushed pineapple and pineapple juice. This may seem like a lot of pineapple, but believe it or not, the resulting flavor in the baked rolls is subtle and pleasant.
I return the measuring cup to the microwave for another 20 seconds. The liquid should be just warmer than room temperature.
If it is too cold, the yeast will take longer to rise; if it is too hot, you risk killing the yeast and won't have any rise at all. The optimal temperature is between 120-130 degrees, but I can't be bothered with a thermometer, I just use the knuckle test and a little common sense.
If I can hold my knuckle immersed in the liquid without flinching, I know it is perfect yeast loving temperature.
I mix the warm liquid with the flour and one whole organic egg from local Alderfer Egg Farm. I also toss in an extra yolk to add a little richness and beautiful golden hue to the rolls.
The dough will look wet and shaggy at this point.
It is time to knead the dough. There is a dough hook attachment for the Kitchen Aid stand mixer which is meant for the very purpose of kneading, but mine is buried like a needle in a haystack among a tower of moving boxes that I have yet to unpack. I am a little embarrassed to tell you that it has been almost two years since we have moved.
I could knead the dough by hand, but I opted to continue on with the paddle attachment. It worked like a charm as the dough went from a shaggy mess to a satiny smooth dough that formed into a ball in just 5 minutes.
Now the dough needs to rest and rise for one hour.
I cover it with plastic wrap, but the most difficult part of the process, is finding a draft free and warm place to let it rise. My kitchen is warm but certainly not draft free because the kitchen door is opened and closed like it is rush hour at Grand Central Station.
So I put the dough in the oven with the heat turned off, of course; within an hour, the yeast and baking powder have worked their magic.
The dough has doubled in size. You can see the big bubbles of air pockets, and at this point in bread baking, I always have the urge to announce in the creepiest of mad scientist voices, "It's alive!"
I turn the dough out to a floured surface. It will stick to anything it comes in contact with, so I use a generous sprinkling of flour on the counter and on my hands so that the dough is easier to work.
I form the dough into a ball which is noticeably less sticky now.
I roll out the dough and cut out 24 rolls with a cookie cutter. This is the easiest way to keep them uniform in size.
At this point, you can cover the rolls and refrigerate until you are ready to bake. They will keep for up to three days.
I am ready to bake them now, so I let the rolls rise until double in size, about 1 hour,
Then I bake them in a 350 degree oven until dark golden brown.
Here is a little trick to keep the rolls soft and moist: As soon as they come out of the oven, drape a damp dish towel over the top. It will 'steam' the rolls and eliminate any hard crusty edges in the corners.
I brush the warm rolls with melted butter because it is the right thing to do.
These are soft, tender rolls that I like to serve family style. Everyone can pull apart their own rolls, but not before I remind my crew to wash their grubby hands before dinner.