Growing up, bread was served at virtually every meal. It was the store-bought, squishy kind, but it was there, slices piled high on a plate with homemade butter beside it. When dining out, it was customary to have a bread basket of crusty rolls or the soft fluffy rolls served as part of the meal.
Nowadays, with all the anti-carb hype, bread has lost its status as a mealtime staple. Even here we have bread primarily for French toast or the occasional sandwich; we rarely see bread baskets in restaurants. Times do change. Yet, the much beloved tradition of homemade rolls at the holidays is still very much alive. At holidays, my mother always made homemade rolls, usually cinnamon rolls, which were my favorite (and to this date, I cannot make them as good as I remember hers to be). I cannot consider a holiday or family gathering without homemade bread; it's ingrained.
The rub, though, is multi-tasking cooking. I have a wee Victorian with just barely enough room in to change my mind. When cooking and baking a big meal, space and time is a premium commodity. Sure, I can bake cakes or pies the night before, have the vegetables peeled and ready to be cooked, get my slow cooker involved for slower cooked mashed potatoes to free up a burner for the half dozen different vegetables and sauces I am wont to prepare. It seems no matter how much I do in advance, there is always a last minute rush to get everything hot on the table at the same time.
Especially the rolls. They have to be hot. I want to split one open, see the steam still rising, and the butter melting and spilling out. The thing with bread (and especially rolls because now you have to take the time to form them into shapes) is that they take precious time. Unless you make refrigerator rolls, of course.
I found these perfectly delightful rolls on My Kitchen Cafe. Melanie swears these are perfect and her absolute favorite to date. After trying them for myself, I think these are indeed excellent. These golden globes are beautiful to behold and toothsome (having a bit of a chew to them). I didn't try them as a refrigerator roll because I didn't plan far enough in advance to be able to bake the next day, but potato rolls make an excellent refrigerator roll. (As a matter of fact, my cats also liked them; they broke into my bag and bit into every single one that I had left over, naughty cats!) These rolls will be part of our Thanksgiving celebration this year.
Perfect Dinner Rolls
1 1/4 cups warm water (100-110 degrees Fahrenheit)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup instant potato flakes (instant mashed potatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, lightly beaten for glazing
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the water, oil, sugar and yeast, and allow the yeast to dissolve.
In a separate large bowl, add the flour, potato flakes (instant mashed potatoes), and salt. Stir to combine the ingredients.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring as you do so, until well combined. Continue to stir until the dough all comes together.
Then on a lightly floured surface, knead the dough, about six to eight minutes. This dough has a rough feel to it (because of the potato flakes) so it will not have the smooth silky feel of other non-potato doughs, even after eight minutes of kneading, but it will loose its shaggy appearance or an under-kneaded dough.
Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour and a half.
After the dough has risen, deflate it by punching it down. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. For the pieces into balls, either by cupping your hands and rolling it on a smooth, unfloured surface. Here's a U-Tube link that really explains it better than I can.
As the balls are formed, transfer them to a parchment-lined or lightly greased rimmed baking sheet (aka jelly roll pan). Once all the rolls are formed, cover lightly with greased plastic wrap (I usually tent with aluminum foil because I don't want to risk the wrap sticking to the dough and deflating the dough when I remove the wrap). If you are making the rolls for immediate use, allow the dough to rise in a warm area until doubled, about one hour.
If you are making the rolls for the following day, do not let them go through this second rise. Instead, cover them with the greased plastic wrap and place directly in the refrigerator. Take the rolls out 2 hours before baking to allow them to come to room temperature and complete the second rise.
Beat the egg, and with a pastry brush glaze the tops of the rolls.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the rolls for 15 minutes, or until a beautiful golden brown.
This recipe makes 12 ample-sized dinner rolls.