Lately I’ve been reading a bit here and there about the return to homemade bread, a day at a time. I’ve started making small batches of bread that we can finish off fairly quickly–e.g. pumpernickel made in a compact loaf so that we’re not overwhelmed by it. The other night I was craving good dinner rolls, and I also thought with the weekend coming up that it might be a good time for cinnamon rolls. Then it came to me, how about if I pick a little sweeter dough for the dinner rolls and then use the same dough for the breakfast rolls? So here is the dough, ready for two appearances on the family table. And, although with butter and sugar I wouldn’t call these rolls health food, the whole grains make them a good addition to your dinner and breakfast.
- 1 tablespoon yeast (about a packet, if you buy yeast that way)
- 1/2 cup warm water (good, warm bath tub temperature)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/3 cup whole oat flour
- 1/3 cup wheat gluten (With all this talk about “gluten free” products these days, I feel the need to tell you that wheat gluten is not evil if you are not sensitive to it. It gives the springiness to the bread, especially whole-grain breads It’s protein!)
- 1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
- one scant teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons honey (okay to use less)
- 1/4 cup hot milk, at a warm bath water temperature
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
You can make this dough in the food processor (fitted with the chopping blade) or by hand. Since I’ve been fighting a cold and wanted to handle the dough less, I used the food processor. Start by putting the first three ingredients–yeast, sugar, and warm water–in the food processor, and process briefly to mix.
Why warm water? How warm? Yeast is a living organism that is dormant in the state where we usually see it. In order to wake it up, put it in a bath of water that would make a nice warm bath for you. Give it a little to eat–wheat flour, sugar, etc.–and it’ll start to eat the yeast and then create bubbles to help your bread rise. Remember: if it’s too warm for you, it’s too warm for the yeast.
After the yeast mixture starts to bubble (proving that it’s working), start adding in the rest of the ingredients. I think it’s easier to add the milk, butter, and honey if you mix them together. Pulse the food processor as you add ingredients. Continue pulsing until the dough forms a ball. Stop! It’s really easy to over-process bread dough and make the gluten break down. Now put the dough ball in a buttered bowl about twice its size, turn it to cover in the butter, and cover. Put in a warm place to rise for an hour or two. You’ll know when it’s done rising when you push your finger in and the dough doesn’t pop back. Punch down the risen dough by punching your fist into the middle of it. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes, and then get ready for Act One.
Act One: Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
We’re going to make six whole-wheat cloverleaf dinner rolls, using a muffin pan. First, get a 6-muffin muffin tin and grease the bottoms and sides of the cups. Pinch off a good-sized handful and roll into balls each about the size of a golf ball or a tiny bit smaller. Make 18 balls. If you want to be more decadent, melt a tablespoon more of butter and dip the balls in butter. Then push three dough balls into each muffin cup. Let the rolls rise in a warm place for about forty-five minutes to an hour. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 20 minutes. Eat. Enjoy. Listen to your family say “thank you.”
The Second Act
What? You say you have dough left? Good! We’re going to use that. For now, put it in the refrigerator, coated in oil or butter and covered well. You can leave it there for a few days. When you’re ready, take it out and let it warm up to room temperature. It should be smaller than a grapefruit but bigger than an orange. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
- cinnamon to sprinkle on your bread board
- 2-3 tablespoons softened butter
- 2-3 tablespoons cinnamon
- 2-3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 teaspoon milk–no more!
- shake or two of nutmeg
On a dough board sprinkled with cinnamon (or, if like me, you could not find your bread board, a cutting board will do), roll out your dough using a rolling pin. Try for a square or rectangular shape that is at least 5 inches on one side and 7 inches on the other. The dough will be about 1/4-1/3 inch thick. You may need to turn the dough over as you roll it out.
Now spread the softened butter all over one side of the dough rectangle. Sprinkle on the sugar and cinnamon. Roll up the dough from one side, forming a thick worm. Cut into at least four pieces of roughly equal size, an inch or inch and a half high. Put in a small, buttered, heavy pan (preferably glass like Pyrex or Corning or cast iron), with the ends down. Note: I used muffin cups for mine. I would not use them again. I think the extra exterior space made them too dry. Make sure that your rolls fit the pan you choose well but not tightly. Let the rolls rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, mix up the glaze. This is easy. Just stir together the glaze ingredients listed above. When the rolls are baked, pull them out of the oven and immediately pour on the glaze. It should caramelize before you eyes. If you want, though, you can pop the rolls back in the oven for one minute to do the caramelization.
Serve warm. Mmmmmmm.