Friday, November 23, 2012

Flaky Rolls

Thanksgiving morning started with the rolls. We weren't having guests come until 5:00, in part to give the yms time with my co-mother-in-law. But at 9 am, I  began dissolving yeast and scalding milk. I am renowned in my family for serving meals late. Bob complains that no matter what time he comes home, we always eat after 8:30. This time, I actually counted up the number of hours that the dough had to chill, rest, etc. and came up with four. Thus the  dissolving and scalding at such an early  hour.
Flaky rolls are like puff pastry.  The cook rolls out the dough into a rectangle! (As if.)  Then, the cook  divides the dough into three parts, butters the center, folds the edges over the center, butters the edges and  presses the dough to seal. Then comes a succession of hours chilling in the refrigerator, rolling out into a rectangle and folding it up and putting it  back into the refrigerator.
Honestly, if you have never  baked any kind of a yeast  bread  before, I would not choose this to start with. But, if you really want  to, make a test batch before your big day to see how it goes. And make sure you have wax paper. Always the wax paper.
I was permanently scared off  puff pastry or anything reassembling it in the least bit when I was about 12 or 13. My parents  had gone off to something; a wedding? a funeral?  on a hot summer day and given me strict instructions not to heat up the kitchen.  I looked through one of my mother's three cookbooks--I think it must have been The Settlement Cookbook, and  found this recipe for puff pastry. It had the same basic instructions, roll out the dough, spread it with butter, chill it, roll it out again, fold it up, chill it. I had no idea how to roll out dough, or that I had picked the worst possible day for my culinary adventure, since high temperatures make dough sticky and unforgiving.
The dough stuck to everything--to the rolling pin, to the counter, to the table, and to me. I ended up balling up the dough around the  slimy butter and sticking it back in the refrigerator as the oven heated the kitchen to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. My father, who always hated hot weather, was furious when he got home sweating in his suit and tie.
     As a result, I turned the page on flaky rolls for 30  years.  But one's baked goods do improve with experience, and I had had lots of experience, enough to fill in the blanks in the instructions. I  understood, for example, that  when the instructions say "knead  until the dough is smooth and elastic,"  that takes at least five minutes. Then   when it said to roll the dough out into a rectangle, I needed to  put the dough on a sheet of wax paper sprinkled with flour, because, if  I just put it on plain wax paper without the flour, the dough would stick to the wax paper like  billy-o, and have to be peeled off with a knife or a spatula.
I thought I had left plenty of time to  produce the rolls. Indeed I had, if only I had more than one oven. Bob, who has taken charge of the turkey in the last couple of years after discovering the spatchcocking process ,  pointed  out that we couldn't cook  both the turkey and the rolls simultaneously since the rolls had to bake at 475 degrees  and the turkey at 350 degrees. Oh.
"The turkey won't be ready until after 5:00," he said. I didn't say anything, mainly because I couldn't remember what time I had invited people for. It was either 4:00 or 5:00. I have been known to call my guests and ask them what time they were invited to come.
At 2:00,  while the dough was undergoing its last chilling, I drove off to Arlington to pick up my brother George. He normally takes Metro, but I didn't want to trust to Metro's Sunday/Thanksgiving schedule. When I got back, Bob was rolling out sections of dough, cutting the sections into triangles and rolling  the triangles into crescents.
The  rolls came out of the oven forty minutes later. Gluten or no gluten, I grabbed one off the cookie sheet and  ate it in all its hot, flaky, buttery goodness. It was worth the effort.

Flaky Rolls

1 package of active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup scalded milk, cooled to lukewarm
1 cup plus one tablespoon butter
1 egg  yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water.
2 . Put the flour and salt in a  bowl and make a well in the center. Into this, pour the cooled milk, the dissolved or softened yeast and one tablespoon of the  butter.
3. Blend well and knead until smooth and elastic.   (This takes between five and ten minutes.)  (If you have never kneaded dough, or want technique tips, look on You tube.)
4. Refrigerate dough on bottom shelf of the refrigerator  ( is this an old recipe or what?) 15 minutes. Roll out on a floured sheet of wax paper into a 12-by-18-inch rectangle.
5. Soften the remaining  butter. (If you're smart, you will put  your pound of butter on top of the stove when you start dissolving the yeast and scalding the milk. So then it will be soft when you need it.) Score the dough rectangle into thirds and spread half the softened butter over the center third. Fold one end of the dough over the  butter. On this spread the remaining  butter. Fold the other end over this and press the edges to seal.
6. Put a 24 inch sheet of wax paper over the dough. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a 12- by-18-inch rectangle.  Fold in thirds as  before. Wrap dough  in wax paper and chill one hour.
 7. Roll dough into 12-18-inch rectangle, fold in thirds wrap in wax paper and refrigerate two hours.
8. Roll out dough to one-eighth-inch thickness in a  12- by-18-inch rectangle. Cut into six-inch squares and then cut each square into four triangles. Starting with the wide end, roll t he triangles, then bend into crescents. Place on a  buttered  baking sheet.
9.  Cover with wax paper and refrigerate thirty minutes or longer.
10.  Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
11.  Blend the egg yolk with the cream and brush over the crescents. Bake five minutes and reduce oven heat to 400 degrees. Bake until crescents are golden, a bout ten minutes longer.
Makes 24.      

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