For the second year in a row, I’m a guest at Thanksgiving dinner instead of the red-cheeked frazzle-haired organizer/ chief cook and bottle-washer. I could get used to this.

We’re bringing a few dishes, but that’s nothing like being the poor sucker who’s up ’til midnight to drop the bird in the icy cold brine, then up again at six a.m. to wrestle that slippery carcass back out of its icy-cold bath, to say nothing of the array of side dishes and appetizers.

I’ve already prepped a dish of garlic-braised greens with chili-seasoned mushrooms and lemon: everything’s blanched or sauted or sliced as necessary and packed up to go, so I can flash it in a pan right before tomorrow’s dinner.

I expect The Fella’s contribution to be met with fanfare: roasted butternut and caramelized garlic in yeasted olive-oil dough. Packed with fresh sage and a taste of parmesan, they’ll make a lovely salty-sweet contrast to the turkey and trimmings, and also make a gorgeous entree for the vegetarians. I’ll try to snap a photo before they’re all snarfled up.

Tonight, I finish the rolls my mother requested for Thanksgiving dinner. Bored with all my standard recipes and looking for something without milk, I decided to try a riff on Average Jane’s dinner rolls.

My adaptation follows.

update 24 November: I brought a batch of these rolls to both of the Thanksgiving dinners we attended this week, and at each the rolls got rave reviews. They’re a snap to make, the dough kneads up beautifully unlike most sticky doughs, and the oven-spring is spectacular. Try them.

I am participating in NaBloPoMo.

I’ve already made one batch, and they were lovely, with a fine crumb and a firm but not heavy texture. I placed the shaped rolls in a 13 x 9 inch pan update: a parchment-lined pan*, and even after a long slow rise and doubling in size, they rose spectacularly in the oven — so much so that I reluctantly deemed them too big for a lavish holiday meal, when everyone takes just a bit of each dish and ends up stuffed anyway. I’m making a second batch, this time using both the 13 x 9 inch pan and a 9-inch square pan.

* For the most recent batch, I shaped the rolls into small ovals with the diameter of a ping-pong ball, placed them on a parchment-lined lightly oiled high-sided baking sheet, also known as a jelly-roll pan, spacing them with about a half-inch on each side. They rose to nearly fill in all the gaps, then sprang up in the oven so their soft sides baked together, making a lovely pull-apart roll with a toasty top and downy sides.

1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. shortening
3 1/2 tsp kosher salt*
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. boiling water
2 eggs, well beaten
3/4 c. warm water
2 scant TBS active dry yeast
6 cups (or slightly less) flour, half white, half wheat

Though the above recipe works like a dream, I decided to try cutting out a little of the fat and sweetness for a more neutral-tasting bread. It’s marvelous, too. The ingredients are only slightly altered. Notice that I add a little extra water to allow the dough to take in enough flour. I also reduced the quantity of yeast quite dramatically, to let the wheaty flavor shine through.
1/4 c. butter (or shortening)
3 1/2 tsp kosher salt*
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. boiling water
2 eggs, well beaten
3/4 c. warm water
1 full TBS active dry yeast
6 cups (or slightly less) flour, half white, half wheat

Dissolve shortening, butter, salt, and sugar in boiling water. Let cool til lukewarm. Beat in eggs.

Bloom yeast in warm water. Mix with shortening/water mixture, stir in 3 c. flour. Let sit 20 minutes.

Add flour until stiff enough to knead. Do so!, adding flour as necessary. Knead five to eight minutes. Dough will be slightly sticky. In airtight container, chill overnight.

Punch down dough. Shape into approximately 30 rolls and lay down in lightly buttered pans, loosely nested. Allow to rise until double in size; rolls should swell so their sides touch. The resulting rolls will bake together and you’ll pull them apart at the table.

Brush with egg white wash: one egg white mixed with 2 tsp water. Scatter thickly with sesame seeds.
Bake at 350F for twenty minutes or until deep golden brown.


*Different brands of kosher salt have different densities, so beware of oversalting. In this recipe, I’m using Morton Coarse Kosher Salt.

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