If you want to make Grandma proud this Thanksgiving, homemade dinner rolls are a sure thing.
You needn't mention that producing fluffy, flavorful rolls has become even easier.
While bread-and-butter plates mostly have gone the way of finger bowls, the idea of dinner rolls and the elegance they represent is worth preserving.
This is even more true when one basic dough recipe can be turned into a variety of shapes.
An easy how-to
The recipe here is for a soft dinner roll. Using oil with the butter makes them plush. As for instant potato flakes, added to dough recipes, they provide another level of flavor, and also make an especially tender bread.
Yeast also has been simplified, thanks to "instant" or quick-rise formulations for bread machines. No more proofing the yeast in warm water to see if it bubbles. Yeast dough, however, does benefit from a bit of warmth to jump-start the action, so the milk is heated just to the point where you can comfortably swirl your finger in the pan. Add the butter to melt a bit while you combine dry ingredients.
Make various shapes
Cloverleafs: Divide dough into 16 pieces. Divide each piece into thirds. Roll each piece into a small ball, then place 3 balls in each cup of lightly oiled muffin pans. (Pour some water into empty cups before baking.)
Fan tans: Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll one half into a 10-inch square. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into 4 equal strips. Brush each strip with butter, then stack them. With a sharp knife, cut stack into 8 equal pieces, then place each piece on edge in each cup of lightly oiled muffin pans. Repeat with remaining dough.
Crescents: Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll one half into a 10-inch circle. Cut into 8 wedges. Starting at the widest end, roll up each piece, taking care to tuck the "tail" under when placing it on a baking sheet lightly oiled or covered with parchment paper.
Knots: Divide dough into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a 10-inch strand. Make a loop halfway up the strand, bringing the "tail" up through the hole.
Bring the other end over the loop and tuck it inside the knot. Place on a baking sheet lightly oiled or covered with parchment paper.
Baked rolls may be frozen, then thawed at room temperature. Reheat in a foil-covered pan for 15 minutes at 300 degrees.
1 cup milk (do not use skim milk)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast (see note)
11/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup instant potato flakes
1 tablespoons butter, melted, if making fan tans
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds or coarse salt, if desired
Note: Instant yeast may be called rapid-rise or bread-machine yeast.
1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until you can just comfortably swirl your fingertip in the milk. Remove from heat and add butter and oil. Set aside.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour (fluff it up before spooning into a measuring cup, then level with a knife), yeast, salt, brown sugar and potato flakes. Using a mixer or by hand, stir in the milk mixture, beating until the dough comes together and "cleans" the sides of the bowl.
3. Scrape dough onto a very lightly floured countertop and knead by stretching half the ball of dough away from you, then folding it back upon itself. Give the dough a quarter-turn and repeat, stretching, folding and turning until the dough becomes smooth and springy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Try not to add any additional flour as that will make your rolls tough. If necessary, dust only your hands with flour. Place dough in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for an hour; the dough will look puffy.
4. Shape rolls as directed, cover with a light cloth and let rise about 45 minutes until puffy.
5. For a glossy crust, brush with 1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of water. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, or a few grains of coarse salt, if desired.
6. Bake on the middle rack of a preheated 350-degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on wire rack.
Nutrition information per serving: 136 calories, 4 grams fat, 22 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 5 milligrams cholesterol, 210 milligrams sodium, 1 grams fiber and 26 percent of calories from fat.