October 22, 2011

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Crusty Rolls

Do you Food 52? If you don’t, you really should. It’s a great website founded by Amanda Hesser (of NY Times fame) and Merrill Stubbs. The site is a wonderful resource for recipes from people just like you and me-home cooks. Each week there are contests on a particular theme or ingredient and the readers decide on their favorite. Fifty-two weeks of favorites have been turned into a cookbook with 140 recipes which is about to be released in the next few days.

What I love about Food 52 is that all the entries are available on line. Yesterday when I decided at the last minute that I wanted to bake some crusty rolls to go along with our dinner, I immediately turned to this site to find a recipe. Turns out there had been a contest for dinner rolls and in a matter of minutes I found exactly what I was looking for.

Crusty Rolls (from Food 52 courtesy of Mrs. Larkin)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (not rapid rise)
1 cup lukewarm water, like around 80 degrees or so
olive oil
coarse sea salt

Place flour in large bowl. Stir in salt.
Dissolve yeast into water. Pour into flour and stir with a beautiful wooden spoon until it comes together. Dough will ball up onto the spoon. Remove spoon.

Drizzle a teaspoon or so of olive oil over the dough and along the sides of the bowl. I use an oiled plastic bowl scraper to help knead the dough, scraping, folding and pressing as you would for any kind of kneading. Do this for a couple minutes.

At this point, lift the dough ball up with your lightly oiled hands and hold along one edge of dough, letting the rest of the dough hang down and stretch out. Move along the entire edge of the dough, turning it in more or less a circular steering wheel motion. Don’t be tempted to add more flour. Do this 5 or 6 times, folding the dough back up into a ball each time. Total turning and stretching: a few minutes.

Fold the dough up over itself, gather it into a ball and place back in the oiled bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, lay a dish towel over it and place in a warm spot. I always stick my bowl of dough in the microwave, a warm and out of the way place. Sometimes, before putting it in, I heat a mug-full of water, to get the microwave nice and warm. (I love this tip for a warm place to let your dough rise. My house never seems warm enough and this worked perfectly!)

Let rise for 1 hour. Then deflate dough with your fingers, and let rise for another hour.

When the second rise is done, place baking stone on center rack of oven. Place a large cast iron skillet on bottom rack. Preheat oven to 435 degrees F. You want the oven good and hot.

Pinch off dough into small pieces-you want to ten balls of dough. Now, don’t squish the balls. Form your hand over it like a cage and start rolling in a circle and roll into a smooth, firm ball. Place dough balls on a parchment-lined heavy-duty sheet pan, at least 1 inch apart. Take a long sheet of plastic wrap and brush it lightly with olive oil, or spray it with Pam. Lay the oiled plastic over the buns. Let rise for 30 minutes.

Remove the plastic from the buns. Sprinkle some coarse sea salt over over each. Just before placing the sheet pan in the oven, very carefully, and using oven mitts, pour ½ cup very hot tap water into the cast iron pan that you already set on the bottom rack. Keep your face averted, as the hot steam will billow up. Immediately place the sheet pan on the baking stone and quickly close oven. After 10 minutes, open the oven door to let the steam out. Total bake time is around 20 – 30 minutes, until tops are a deep golden brown. The bottoms will sound hollow when tapped. Slide rolls, parchment and all, onto a cooling rack. Serve warm.

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