Right up front, there is something you need to know: I think these rolls are way more work than they are worth. Are they tasty? Yeah, sure, they are pretty good dinner rolls, with a chewy, rigid crust that envelopes a moist interior, but I have had rolls with chewier crusts and lovelier crumbs. Plus, this recipe requires around 3½ hours rising time broken up into 5 sections, meaning you need to hang out near your bread for a while. I am happy to make this sort of time commitment with ciabatta because I don’t often find ciabatta that is better than my own. These rolls, however…..

Anyway. Here we are so off we go: Rustic Dinner Rolls from America’s Test Kitchen’s Bread Illustrated.

Rustic Dinner Rolls!

Total time: 6 hours – 23 hours
Yield: 16 rolls
Special Equipment: 2 Round Cake Pans

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (16½ oz) bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
  • 1½ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1½ cups (12 oz) plus 1 tablespoon water, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1½ teaspoons salt

For those who are curious, here is the percentage breakdown:

  • Total Flour Weight = 492 grams = 100%
  • Yeast (5 grams) = 1%
  • Water (340 grams) = 69%
  • Honey (14 grams) = 2.8%
  • Salt (9 grams) = 1.8%

From the percentages, I can tell that this dough will be slightly more difficult to knead by hand than, say, a sandwich loafThat’s because hydration usually tops out around 70%. With 69% hydration, these rolls should have a more uneven crumb.

Crumb is the distribution and size of the air pockets within a loaf.
A loaf with an even crumb, like a typical sandwich loaf, has many, many tiny bubbles.
A
loaf with an uneven crumb has larger, fewer air pockets

Before you get rolling, a couple suggestions:

  • Decide if you want to knead by hand or by machine. As usual, I’m taking the manual approach with this recipe.
  • Clean your work space. I live with roommates who also spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I like to give them notice that bread baking is about to occur. A perimeter of dish towels never hurts, either.
  • Pour a small amount of flour into a bowl so you have that close by and ready. You might need some if you find the dough is way too tacky.

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Step 1. Whisk together dry ingredients (minus salt); whisk together wet ingredients

Whisk the flours and yeast together in a large bowl, and whisk the honey and water together in a separate bowl/measuring cup until the honey is completely dissolved.

Sometimes you don’t need to mix the liquid ingredients together before adding to the dry ingredients. I think, in this case, the separate mix helps distribute the honey more evenly.

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Step 2. Pour the wet stuff into the dry stuff

Yep. That.

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Step 3. Everyone loves a good mixer!

Stir up all that gloopy goodness! I started this process using my bowl scraper, but dry spots kept evading me. That is, they evaded me until I remembered my absolute favorite mixing method: smearing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smearing is a great way to make sure all of the flour makes contact with liquid. Since gluten development isn’t the goal at this point, you are free to manhandle that dough all you like for about a minute or two. Until you have no dry pockets.

I decided to smear when I realized the salt had yet to be added, ergo, the next little rise is all about making sure the flour is hydrated. And the smearing is another way to efficiently hydrate the dough. Is there a jump in there? Sure.

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Step 4. Rest.

Let the dough hang out on the counter or in a bowl for about 30 minutes. You won’t be looking for any rise, so just stick pretty close to 30 minutes.

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Step 5. Salt Bae + Kneading

Time for the salt! I had a rough time incorporating the salt at the beginning, but just keep at it. Try kneading, but smearing a little might not be the worst idea.

Things got a little weird for a minute

 

Continue kneading—or, if smearing, start kneading once the dough looks less glittery—for about 8 minutes.

After 3 minutes of kneading

 

I’m not including a picture of my fully kneaded dough because I have my reasons, ok? Here’s a picture of a happy windowpane test, though!

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Step 6. Rise

Put the fully kneaded dough into a lightly greased bowl (I use spray vegetable oil) and cover tightly with plastic wrap.

Let the dough sit out for 1-1½ hours until it has doubled.

My house is always pretty warm, so this rise only took me about an hour.

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Step 7. Fold + Rise Again

Tuck your hand under the far side of the dough, grip lightly, and gently stretch this section out before folding over the center. Pretend the dough is a square and repeat on the 3 remaining sides. Judging by the picture below, you might not think any folding occurred, but it did! This dough is just super airy and remember, the hydration is high. Any potential form quickly melts back into the main blob.

Recover bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for about 30 minutes.

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Step 8. Again…

Repeat step 7.

See how airy the dough is getting? Plus, it’s retaining shape much better.

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Step 9. Punch it

Gently! Gently. Apply pressure to your super lovely, airy dough in order to degas. You see those big bubbles on the surface? Those are less than ideal for our rolls. Maybe pretend you’re slo-mo Breakfast Club punching the air.

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Step 10. Plop and Shape

Flour your work surface and dump out your dough. Sprinkle the top with flour.

Divide the dough in half. This doesn’t have to be incredibly precise, just, ya know. Be cool about it.

Roll each piece out until it’s about 16 inches long. Be cool with this too. I tried to be too precise with my length and ended up kinda flattening everything. Also, I have this problem where, when I roll strips of dough out (like that one time I made challah), they get weirdly stringy and dry. I don’t like it. Maybe oiling the surface would be better, rather than flouring. Anywho.

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Step 11. Make flowers

Grab those round cake pans and get them oiled up.

Cut each dough log into 8 pieces and place them in your cake pans so that they resemble flours. Aw, yes, quite cute.

Now, you can bake these the same day by letting the shaped rolls rest for 30 minutes. Another option, however, is to stick those daisies in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours. I went with the delayed gratification option (mostly because, as you might tell from the yellowish tinge that haunts the earlier photos, I started these rolls in the afternoon and didn’t get to the shaping until way past my bedtime). I would suggest going with a shorter ferment because I left my dough in the fridge for 16 hours (or maybe 18) and did not like the results as much as the rolls from my first attempt at this recipe which included no refrigeration. Slow, long fermentation imparts the final product with boozier flavor, which can be desirable, but there’s a line. I crossed it. The alcohol—one of two major byproducts produced by yeast’s interaction with sugar—was too strong with this batch.

You may decide to go the refrigerator route (you do you), in which case you will need to let the dough sit at room temperature for 1½ hours before baking.

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Step 12. Baking Part I

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 500°F. Do this either right after shaping your dough or an hour after taking it out of the fridge.

If you are fancy like me and have a dedicated bread-baking spray bottle, spray the tops of your rolls with water. Flicking water also works, but don’t tell my ego that.

Bake for 10 minutes. In this downtime, grab a sheet pan and your best oven mitts/pot holders. The intricacy continues.

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Step 13. Baking Part II

Pull those rolls right back out of the oven and dump them out onto your sheet pan.

Turn the oven down to 400°F, allowing the rolls to cool a bit because you’ll need to handle them. A spatula or pancake turner could work well here. I recently acquired some sick grilling gloves, though, so I separated the rolls and flipped them over by hand.

The reason America’s Test Kitchen tells you to do this is because the sides of the rolls need some love. In the cake pan, all smooshed together, the rolls would turn out great on the top but undercooked on the sides. This way, all the parts of your roll are nice and crispy. As annoying as this extra step might be. *grumble grumble grouch grumble*

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Step 14. Baking Part III

Once you have dismantled your roll flowers, put the sheet pan in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the rolls have acquired a nice, dark brown hue.

Remove the rolls from the over, transfer to a cooling rack, and allow to cool for at least an hour before serving. Or don’t. Just eat them. You put enough work into these rolls and you deserve some fresh bread warm from the oven.

 

Get pumped for the next post: BAGELS. And as always, leave comments and/or tell me if you tried the recipe!