Fluffy Dinner Rolls

I am a closet fan of the TV series, America’s Test Kitchen. I was one happy camper when my daughter texted me and told me the series was on Netflix. I have a dream of attending a taping and, more importantly, tasting whatever they are cooking. I love listening to the cooks explain how they found “the perfect recipe” and the science that goes into developing the right texture and moistness and taste of everything.

The parent company that produces America’s Test Kitchen also has a magazine called Cook’s Illustrated that has many of the recipes shown on the TV show and is available online with your library card through Zinio. I downloaded all the issues that were available and enjoyed reading the helps, hints, the best cool kitchen gadgets and, of course, the recipes.

As I read through the issues I came upon the best recipe for fluffy dinner rolls in the January 2015 issue. In the magazine the chef talks about the research that went into developing this recipe which was very interesting. The technique used came from Japan and is called Tangzhong. It involves making a flour paste and heating it up so that it looks (and smells) like Papier Mache. Starting with this heated mixture allows the rolls to be extra fluffy and airy.

The recipe was easy to follow. It assumes you have a stand mixer and I don’t. I do have a dough hook attachment to my hand mixer and that was very helpful. If you do not have that type of attachment the dough will get completely caught in your beaters. You are probably better off mixing it by hand or borrowing a mixer from your neighbor. You can bribe them with a fresh roll!

The dough is really sticky and you need to be patient as you roll up the dough. It mentions not to put flour down as you are rolling the dough up as the extra flour will take away from the lightness of the rolls, so just be patient with it.

The end result was nothing short of miraculous! The rolls were amazingly light and fluffy with a perfectly brown top! I didn’t even need to put butter on them. The only down side was the recipe only made 12 rolls. I will have to at least quadruple it next time!

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Fluffy Dinner Rolls from January 2015 issue of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine
Makes 12 Rolls
We strongly recommend weighing the flour for the dough. The slight tackiness of the dough aids in flattening and stretching it in step 5, so do not dust your counter with flour. This recipe requires letting the dough rest for at least 2 hours before baking. The rolls can be made a day ahead. To refresh them before serving, wrap them in aluminum foil and heat them in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes.

Flour Paste:
½ cup water
3 tablespoons bread flour

Dough:
½ cup cold milk
1 large egg
2 cups (11 ounces) bread flour
1½ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1/2 tablespoon, melted

1. FOR THE FLOUR PASTE: Whisk water and flour together in small bowl until no lumps remain. Microwave, whisking every 20 seconds, until mixture thickens to stiff, smooth, pudding-like consistency that forms mound when dropped from end of whisk into bowl, 40 to 80 seconds.

2. FOR THE DOUGH: In bowl of stand mixer, whisk flour paste and milk together until smooth. Add egg and whisk until incorporated. Add flour and yeast. Fit stand mixer with dough hook and mix on low speed until all flour is moistened, 1 to 2 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes.

3. Add sugar and salt and mix on medium-low speed for 5 minutes. With mixer running, add softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue to mix on medium-low speed 5 minutes longer, scraping down dough hook and sides of bowl occasionally (dough will stick to bottom of bowl).

4. Transfer dough to very lightly floured counter. Knead briefly to form ball and transfer, seam side down, to lightly greased bowl; lightly coat surface of dough with vegetable oil spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

5. Grease 9-inch round cake pan and set aside. Transfer dough to counter. Press dough gently but firmly to expel all air. Pat and stretch dough to form 8 by 9-inch rectangle with short side facing you. Cut dough lengthwise into 4 equal strips and cut each strip crosswise into 3 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, stretch and press dough gently to form 8 by 2-inch strip. Starting on short side, roll dough to form snug cylinder and arrange shaped rolls seam side down in prepared pan, placing 10 rolls around edge of pan, pointing inward, and remaining 2 rolls in center. Cover with plastic and let rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

6. When rolls are nearly doubled, adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls until deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let rolls cool in pan on wire rack for 3 minutes; invert rolls onto rack, then reinvert. Brush tops and sides of rolls with melted butter. Let rolls cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

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