Ask 100 people to describe to you their ideal hamburgers, pancakes, cinnamon buns, etc., and you will most likely get 100 different opinions some of which are entirely incompatible and all of which are subjective. But isn’t that the way it is with pretty much everything in this world? How, then, can we evaluate all these opinions and decide which one(s) we should allow to influence our position regarding the issue at hand?
Personally, when it comes to matters in which there is no clear right or wrong, I often find myself influenced by people who can aptly, logically, and eloquently outline the reasons behind their position. This is why it’s kind of sad that some valid opinions in this world are dismissed because they are ineptly presented, oftentimes with the underlying belief that the louder or insistent one is, the more authoritative and, consequently, the more convincing one appears.
In my opinion, old-fashioned “homey” dinner rolls — the kind that I want alongside of tender pot roast or beef stew — should be:
These dinner rolls fit the aforementioned description.
One added benefit is that they are very easy to make. Forget that whole soaker and biga thing; just dump all the ingredients all at once into your stand mixer bowl or a mixing bowl and mix with the machine or manually. It’s one of those things that exist to prove that cheap, easy, and seemingly unsophisticated are not to be sneered at.
With that, I present to you —
Old-Fashioned Dinner Rolls As I Think They Should Be
(Makes 18 3-inch rolls)
Mix together, with a machine or by hand, 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water, 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder, 2 teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/4 cup (56 g) butter (softened), 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Gradually add in enough of King Arthur bread flour (the only flour I use for this recipe — if you have it, use the best bread flour you can find in your locale) to create a ball of dough that is not so sticky that you can’t knead it, starting with 3 cups. Add more flour as you go, as needed. Knead until the dough is satiny smooth and when you stretch it out, it forms almost translucent “gluten window” without tearing apart.
Transfer the dough to a greased bowl and let it rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in volume, about an hour. Deflate the dough gently and form it into 18 balls. Place them side by side in a greased ceramic or glass pan (10-inch in diameter or 8″x8″), cover, and let rise in a warm place for an hour. Bake at 350° F for 40-45 minutes or until the tops are brown and the rolls sound hollow when tapped.
Did I convince you? Or did I fail? How would you describe a perfect dinner roll?