It’s time to talk about April’s baking challenge for Sally’s blog. This month she picked Soft Dinner Rolls. I was a little surprised that she picked something that seemed so simple for a “challenge”. But hey, that means an easy month, right?! April is already filled with a lot of spring activities and family gatherings, so I was all about something simple. Also, if they’re amazing, I could be the star of the show for Easter and bring homemade rolls.
I decided to try these out last weekend when I had nothing going on. I checked out the recipe ahead of time and saw that the rolls require two rising sessions as well as baking time. I figured I’d need a good long stretch of time to make these right. I even went to the grocery store a head of time to make sure I wouldn’t have to leave the house in the middle of baking. As fate would have it, I was lacking a few ingredients I thought I had laid eyes on in my apartment before going to the grocery store: whole milk, salt and sugar. What I actually had in the fridge was buttermilk, and in the cabinet, Stevia and an empty container of salt.
As an aside, this particular weekend here in Bloomington, Indiana is Little 500 weekend. Indiana University holds a men’s and women’s bicycle race on campus and it’s party central around town. That means that all of the college students are raiding the grocery store on my side of town for all of the alcohol, mixers, and snacks. Needless to say, I really didn’t want to leave my apartment. After searching through the fridge and my cabinets, I found cane sugar, garlic salt, and low carb milk. I figured these would be fine and went about making some buns. Turns out each of these ingredients played a part in ruining round one of these rolls.
The dough came together great and rose perfectly in both sessions. While in the oven, I made sure to move the wrack down to the bottom rung and rotated the rolls halfway through the bake time. Sadly though, they did not turn out well at all. They burnt on the bottom and the were very, very dense in the middle. I tasted one anyway to see how that went. Not good. The garlic salt was good in theory. I love garlic in anything!
But the cane sugar was too sweet for what I was trying to accomplish with the rolls. So one bite would be garlicky, and the next would be sweeter than expected. I looked back through Sally’s notes to see if the milk caused any of its own mayhem. According to her, you can use low fat milks, like I did, but the fat in the whole milk is what really gives that great flavor and texture we’re looking for. Boo. That’s what I get for trying to cut corners. Remember when I thought this would be an “easy” challenge?
So last night, I made sure I had whole milk, normal salt, and normal sugar, and I set about to make these again. Also, since I was at the store, I decided to grab some bread flour to give myself a little more edge. Things went about the same as last time. The dough came together and was getting pretty fluffy on the first rise.
You can see the difference between the texture of the first dough and the second. The first batch of dough was very porous and bubbly. The second batch is smooth. The other thing that was different this time was the second rise. The rolls got a little puffier, but it took them almost twice as long this time. The temperature in my apartment was pretty different as opposed to last time, so that may have been a factor.
However, these ended up turning out perfectly! I was so proud of the little guys! Sally recommended mixing melted butter with honey and brushing it over the warm rolls. I decided to go with the savory flavor instead and brushed them with salted butter. I know bread isn’t quite on my diet, but these will definitely be part of my next cheat day!
I know that some of these ‘mistakes’ may be a no-brainer for experienced bakers, but that’s why I love doing these challenges. I know I’ll mess things up and have to redo them, but I’m learning. And learning how and why things work instead of just following the recipe will make a better baker. Thanks for the challenge this month, Sally! Always keeping me on my toes. -Jen