Friday, October 08, 2010

Refrigerator Rolls: Why Bake Today What You Can Put Off Til Tomorrow?

In my ever-annoying pursuit to make, not buy anything I can for this household, I came across a recipe for refrigerator rolls from an old (circa 1950s) farmhouse cookbook.

A refrigerator roll is nothing more than a yeast dough that you allow to proof slowly overnight in the fridge. The benefits being that not only do you get to put off the long process of proofing and benching and proofing and baking all in one spell, but also the flavor is enhanced by a longer proof time. Yeast is hardy stuff (as long as you don't take it above 140 degrees, where it will die). The more times a dough gets to proof, the more flavor a dough has because the yeast has more time to grow and eat and make bubbles. Which means after all the work, you'll actually want to eat the stuff.

And, if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer (or something of it's ilk), you really don't have to put much muscle into the process as well....although, there are many a day when one's frustrations have been taken out on a lump of yeast dough and the world was a better place for it....but I digress.

Let me also say, this recipe makes a substantial amount of dough (I got 2 dozen rolls out of it) so you may want to take half of the dough and freeze it for later. Just cut the blob in half after the first rising and wrap it in a bit of plastic wrap and seal it in a ziploc bag. When you are ready to use it again, remove from the freezer, place in the fridge over night and continue the process.

Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter or shortening
2 pkgs of instant yeast (fast acting seems ironic here but if you've got it, use it)
1/4 cup warm water (80 degrees or so)
5-6 cups of AP flour

Milk scalding
In a small saucepan, scald your milk. (Scalding is when you bring the milk up to an "almost" boil. When you start to see little swirls of steam rising from the milk, cut the heat). If you are new to yeast doughs, take the temp of the milk before adding it to your yeast or you may accidently kill the yeast before it's had a chance to really live. The temp should be between 80-120 degrees. More than that, you run the risk of murder most foul.

happy living yeast
To this milk, you can add your butter or shortening. The heat of the milk will melt the fat.

In the mixer bowl, blend together the sugar, salt and yeast. To this, add the milk mixture. Then the warm water. The milk will wake the yeast and the sugar will feed it. Wait 10 minutes and make sure your yeast is alive-you should see bubbles and happiness in the bowl. If, instead, it still looks like dirty water, you, my friend, have dead yeast so don't continue. Go pour yourself a drink.

Dough that needs more flour
See how the dough pools to
the bottom of the bowl?
Add a couple of cups of flour to the bowl and--with a dough hook attachment--begin mixing. Continue adding the flour until the dough has a soft but not overly sticking texture. Look into the bowl as the hook is kneading the dough--is the dough always stuck to the sides with no shape? Add more flour-slowly-a half cup at a time. (If you add too much flour, add a bit more warm water but expect to get splashed a bit by the mixing process).
Dough that has enough flour.
See how it pulls away from
the bowl?

Continue kneading the dough (yes, you can do this by hand if you so desire). The finished dough should be soft and smooth because you've worked the gluten bonds of the flour into bliss. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl, removing any bits of dough in the process. (This is also known as "benching" because a baker would knead the dough on a work bench).

Dough ready for
first proof.
Choose a large bowl and spray it with pan spray. Plop in the dough and spray the top of the dough as well. This will keep it moist as it proofs so you don't have any cracky dry spots (hmmm, sounds like my skin...huh?what?). Cover the bowl with a moist towel and place in a warm place. That could be on the top of your running dryer or on top of your stove, set to 200 degrees or in a sunbeam by a non-drafty window. Set a timer for one hour. In that time, your dough should double.
Happy dough from first proof

When the timer calls you back, press down the dough to remove the air (sounds counter productive but it's not-you are building flavor and texture). This process is also known as "punching" down the dough but I don't think there's any need for violence, do you? (that's a joke, kids).

Now, if you want to go to call it a day with friend yeast, return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge over night (or, actually, for a few days if you really are procrastinating). This is a simple but hardy dough. It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days....but I'd check on it now and then so it maybe doesn't take over the bowl. ("IT"S ALIVE!!!!")
ready to go night-night
Dough in the morning.
See how it doesn't even
have it's make up on?

By the way, putting unbaked dough in a cooler like this is also known as "retarding." Don't get all worked up, please.  It's simply called this because the cold air is "retarding" the yeast's process of eating and growing.

(*if you don't want to chill the dough over night, proceed to the next step)

Rolls before panning.
Remove the dough from its bowl and "punch" down again--give it a few turns kneading it. The dough will be stiff from the fridge but will warm up to your touch quickly (just like....oh, nevermind).

For rolls, cut the dough into even balls; I usually cut the dough, then divide again, then divide again until I have the amount I want. Like I said, I got 24 rolls from a full batch.  Now, smooth out the smaller portions by simply rolling them on your counter top. Remember, they won't magically smooth out when they proof and bake. If the dough looks rough when you put it in the pan, it will look rough when you proof and bake it (....of course, there are also ways around that).

I decided to cut a cross-hatch
in the top with a pair of
scissors and add
poppyseeds to my rolls.
Place the rolls in a greased pan--2 9x13's works well (called--you guessed it--"panning"). Cover with a moist towel and let rise again. If your dough feels cold to the touch still, this will take more than an hour so be flexible. I let mine go for nearly 2 hours.



IF you have ugly looking rolls when you place them in the pan, you could brush the dough with a bit of melted butter and sprinkle them with poppy seeds or sesame seeds or caraway. Actually, you could do this even if your dough isn't ugly. Do it before they start to proof-otherwise, you run the risk of knocking all that wonderful air out of the rolls and you'll have to let them proof longer.

About 15 minutes before they are ready to go, preheat your oven to 375. When the oven is ready, pop in the pans and bake for 10-15 minutes. The rolls should be golden on top and on bottom (if you are using glass pans, you'll see that.) If you choose to use aluminum baking pans, the rolls will cook faster so keep an eye on them.

As soon as you remove them from the oven, brush with melted butter (this added butter will keep them soft and they will last longer without going stale).

You'll note there are no pictures of the finished rolls....um, yeah....

Not much smells better than a house where bread is baking...

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