I've been reading a lot of novels lately. Modern novels, like the cozy genre of culinary mysteries that I so enjoy, seem to contain much more information about food than in times past, including baking methods, detailed instructions, and recipes. Not only am I hungry for more reading when I finish a book these days, but I'm also hungry for food! Some of my recent favorites can be found in the collage below, but I think the book that had the biggest culinary impact on me was Judith Ryan Hendricks' Bread Alone. Reading the book, I could almost smell the bread baking. Throughout my reading I hungered (if you'll pardon the pun) to make some bread of my own.
So last night, while making meatballs for dinner, cutting out cookies from the shortbread dough that had been in the fridge a bit too long, and testing recipes for peanut butter ice cream topping, I made these rolls. They are wonderful!
I'd expected them to be very dense and chewy like the cranberry nut rolls I've gotten from Whole Foods and Breadsmith in the past, but these were lighter. They reminded me a bit of the Sally Lunn bun that I had at the Sally Lunn's Historic Eating House & Museum in Bath, England years ago, but they're not exactly that either as I find Sally Lunn tends to deflate a bit when speared with a knife. These are just tasty, wonderful rolls that work equally well for dinner as they do for breakfast. For the dinner rolls I sprinkled the tops with Fleur de Sel after brushing them with egg glaze. For the breakfast rolls I sprinkled the tops with the raw sugar the recipe called for; both versions were equally good.
When I make them again (and I will), I'll soak the cranberries in a bit of orange juice to plump them up and will add some orange zest to the dough.
This morning I had a sugar-topped roll, slightly warmed in the oven, spread with clotted cream and Sarabeth's Raspberry Key Lime jam. Heaven!
From Bon Appetit, November 2009
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3 1/2 cups (or more) bread flour
1 tablespoon (packed) golden brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons quick-rising dry yeast (from one 1/4-ounce envelope)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus additional for coating bowl
1 large egg
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 large egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)
Stir nuts in dry skillet over medium heat until toasted, about 5 minutes. Cool.
Mix 3 1/2 cups bread flour and next 3 ingredients in bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Warm milk in small saucepan over low heat until instant-read thermometer inserted into milk registers 95 degrees F. Add oil; remove from heat. Add milk mixture and 1 egg to flour mixture. Mix on low speed until wet coarse ball forms, about 1 minute. Add nuts and cranberries. Replace paddle attachment on mixer with dough hook. Mix dough on low speed until smooth, elastic, and slightly tacky, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls as needed, about 4 minutes. Transfer dough to floured surface; knead 2 minutes.
Lightly oil large bowl. Shape dough into ball; place in prepared bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap; let dough rise at room temperature until almost doubled in volume, 1 3/4 to 2 hours.
Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer dough to unfloured surface; divide into 12 equal pieces. Using cupped hand, roll and rotate 1 dough piece firmly on work surface until dough piece pops up into cupped hand as smooth round ball, about 6 rotations. (This will make dough ball as smooth as possible; if necessary, wipe work surface with damp paper towel to help create traction.) Repeat with remaining dough pieces.
Transfer rolls to prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Spray rolls with nonstick spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let rise at room temperature until 1 1/2 times original size, about 1 1/2 hours. Brush rolls with egg glaze; sprinkle with raw sugar. Let rise 15 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.
Place rolls in oven; reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees F and bake 7 minutes. Rotate baking sheet; bake rolls until golden and slightly firm to touch, about 8 minutes longer. Cool completely on rack. DO AHEAD: Wrap in foil, then enclose in resealable plastic bag and freeze up to 2 weeks. Thaw rolls at room temperature. If desired, rewarm rolls wrapped in foil in 350 degrees F oven about 10 minutes.
* Also called turbinado or demerara sugar; available at most supermarkets.
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