I have been, and will continue to be a believer in simple good recipes that follow great technique. I often feel as though complicated directions and hard to find ingredients set us up for disappointment and failure. Don’t get me wrong. I understand the law of diminishing return. That today’s worlds best recipe will be boring tomorrow.
We need to search out new tastes, techniques and flavors but it is also important to return to the classics. For me, I also like to share my childhood favorites with my children. These rolls are a part of me. They connect me to my past, and by sharing them, they connect me to my children. At restaurants, to the horror of my parents, they are the rolls of which I would pluck out the doughy center, butter, and then tuck with a piece of steak and eat as a mini sandwich. I also ate them at school. The yeasty smell would cling to the air and walk down the hall between classes teasing each and every student. One roll each was never enough.
This recipe makes a lot of dough. I like that fact. It makes 32 two-ounce rolls and a loaf of white bread. For Thanksgiving I make the dough in advance, shape the rolls, put them into a tray, or muffin tins, and freeze them till the morning of Thanksgiving at which time I remove them, set them onto the counter, and let them go through the final rise before I bake them early in the day.
I always like to bake them in advance, one, hot dough just out of the oven is terrible for your stomach and, two, I like to free up the ovens. The loaf is very southern, soft white bread perfect for turkey sandwiches with mayonnaise and black pepper on one side and unsalted butter and salt on the other. Cap it with an iceberg garnish for crunch, smush it together and eat. Obviously I get as excited about leftovers as I do the Thanksgiving meal. Patience is the key to all good bread making. Makes 32 two ounce rolls and one 2 pound loaf of bread
3 1/2 cups water
1 medium potato
1 cup whole milk, cold
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
11 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1. Peel the potato and place it into a sauce pan large enough to hold it and the water. Place it over medium high heat and bring it to a boil. Cook the potato until tender.
2. Fish the potato out of the water with a sloted spoon. Place the potato into a large mixing bowl and mash it. Measure out 3 cups of the potato water and add it to the mashed potato.
3. Add the milk to the mixing bowl. Using your index finger or a thermometer test the heat of the water. It should be around body temperature. If it feels hot to your finger let it cool down some more.
4. Sprinkle the yeast over the top of the liquid and let it dissolve. Add the salt, 2 tablespoons of butter, and lard or shortening.
5. Using a sturdy wooden spoon add in the flour a cup at a time. After adding three cups of flour add the eggs Adding it this way will make it easier to combine rather then dumping it all in at once. You also may not need all the flour so by adding it a cup at a time you can judge the consistency of the dough. Add enough flour to make a soft, maybe a wee bit sticky, dough. It should by no means cling to your hands and fingers.
6. Remove the dough from the bowl to a counter dusted with flour. Knead the dough for 5 minutes adding any additional flour by dusting.
7. Shape the dough into a ball. Place it back into the bowl. Cover it with a clean, damp-with-warm-water dish towel and set it in a warm place to rise. Let it rise until doubled, about and hour.
8. Deflate the dough. Shape it into dinner rolls, clover leaf rolls or loaves of bread. Melt the remaining butter. Using a pastry brush paint the rolls and loaves with half the butter. Heat the oven to 375 F.
9. Cover and let the dough rise until doubled. Bake the rolls for 25 minutes and any loaves for 45minutes. Remove the rolls, or loaves, or both from the oven and paint them with the remaining butter. Remove the bread from the pans to a cooling rack to cool.
Notes: If you plan to freeze them do so after the first rise. I always shape my dough before freezing that way they are oven ready.