Like most in America, my family views Thanksgiving as an act of collaboration, of community. We each contribute what we can. My grandmother makes pies. My sister brings freshly tossed salads. My father buys the wine. My mom labors over stuffing. My aunt roasts a turkey. My husband prepares a vegetarian casserole. And I bring rolls.
To me, no meal is complete without a piece of bread. Ideally, a knotted soft roll with a dab of melted butter.
While some people look forward to the turkey and others to the pecan pie, I anticipate pulling out a cookie sheet brimming with steaming soft rolls.
A piece of bread should have a distinct exterior and interior. A slightly crunchy outside (or a VERY crunchy outside if you're making a hearth bread) and a soft, pillowy center. A place warm and welcoming.
The flavor should be developed. As I take my first bite of bread, I want a note of sweetness, a dash of saltiness, a layer of nuttiness, and a slight reminder of the presence of yeast. Complexity is what makes bread or these soft knotted rolls stand out on a table filled with other more seemingly savory or sweet dishes.
This recipe for soft knotted rolls guarantees superb flavor and texture. Even better? They are easy to make. After combining the dough and a quick knead with your stand mixer or hands, the dough immediately goes to the refrigerator where it rests for at least one night. As it slowly rises in this colder environment, the flavor develops and deepens.
It is a trick that will make your bread stand out....and there couldn't be an easier one.
These soft knotted rolls will make everyone at your Thanksgiving table happy to have feasted with you. Can you imagine how lovely this would taste with a heaping spoonful of your cousin's cranberry sauce? Or dipped in a creamy pile of gravy? I certainly can...and I'm looking forward to it.
1 tablespoon (.33 oz) yeast
1 3/4 cups (15 ounces) buttermilk or whole milk, lukewarm, 95 degrees F
6 1/4 cups (28 oz) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (2.75 ounces) sugar
1 large (1.65 ounces) egg, slightly beaten, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, at room temperature, or vegetable oil
1 egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water until frothy, for egg wash (optional)
sesame or poppy seeds for garnish (optional)
1. Whisk the yeast and lukewarm milk until dissolved. Mix together the flour, salt, sugar in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Pour in the egg, butter, and milk mixture and mix with a large metal spoon (or on low speed of the electric mixer with the paddle attachment) until all the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball. If the dough seems very stiff and dry, trickle in more milk until the dough is soft and supple.
2. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook), adding more flour, if necessary, to create a dough that is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky. Continue kneading (or mixing) for 4 to 5 minutes. (In the electric mixer, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick ever to slightly to the bottom.) Whichever mixing method used, end by kneading the dough by hand for 1 minute, then form it into a ball.
3. Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days.
4. Remove the dough 2 1/2 hours before you plan on baking it. Pull off chunks of dough in 2 oz increments. Roll into a 10 inch rope and then tie into a loose knot tucking each end under and on top. Place rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Mist the rolls with spray oil and cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature for 2 hours. About 15 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
5. Brush rolls with egg wash (1 egg + 2 TBSP water) a few minutes before baking. Garnish with seeds, if desired. Bake for 12 to 18 minutes, or until just lightly golden.