A new loaf, and baking things twice
September 4, 2016
While I have been about building my sourdough seed culture, I knew I needed a loaf of bread to see me through this week, as well as some rolls for Sunday dinner. Being that I had Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice out, I went paging through it to see what there was in the way of white bread.
Reinhart’s breads, for the most part, are multi-day undertakings, most of them involving beginning with a soaker, a “poolish” or a “biga” that is made on Day 1, fermented several hours on the countertop, then popped into the refrigerator overnight, and used to make the bread the next day. It’s the long fermenting of the yeast that lends the superb flavor to the basically bland ingredients of flour, water and salt.
But lo and behold, here was a Reinhart recipe that could be made all in one day. And it made either two loaves, or 18 dinner rolls, which by my math, means it ought to make one loaf and nine rolls. Done, and done.
So I set about making it, and was struck by something. (No, it wasn’t a truck, or something falling out of my badly overcrowded pantry.) You can take essentially the same ingredients and turn them into a totally different bread just by how you treat them.
Reinhart’s bread differs but little from my old standby, Miss Mary Lloyd Young’s white bread/dinner rolls. Reinhart’s adds a quarter-cup of dry milk, and leaves out the egg; otherwise, they’re just about identical. (Reinhart’s recipe is here. Miss Mary Lloyd’s, should you not own a copy of the Marion United Methodist Church cookbook, and if you don’t it’s your loss, is somewhere in the archives of this blog; you should be able to find it via the search function.) the big difference is that Miss Mary Lloyd’s gets a bare minimum of kneading and is a wetter dough. Reinhart’s gets a six- to eight-minute knead in the mixer, or what feels like half an hour if you’re doing it the old fashioned way.
The result — where Miss Mary Lloyd’s rolls are light, soft and puffy, the Reinhart rolls are dense and sturdy. Both are beautifully moist. I think Miss Mary Lloyd’s are my favorite for dinner, but I can see the Reinhart rolls taking it away as slider buns or sandwich rolls. MML’s bread makes marvelous toast, but doesn’t hold up for sandwich purposes, beyond the lightest of spreads; you can pile the corned beef and swiss and sauerkraut, or the bacon and tomatoes, on Reinhart’s bread, secure in the knowledge it’ll hold together for you.
As for the “baking it twice” thing — it was a one-day bread, on a Saturday, and I was really, really wanting fresh, hot rolls on Sunday. I’ve never had much luck with refrigerating shaped rolls overnight, so I decided to try my hand at par-baking these; that is, baking them 2/3 of the way done, taking them out, and then returning them to the oven to finish baking the next day. If Sister Schubert can do it, dammit, I can.
I retreated to Mr. Google to find out how one par-baked and stored bread. The results I found speak more to loaves than rolls, but I essentially gleaned the 2/3 thing from several articles. I put the rolls on a cookie sheet and the loaf of bread (which really could have stood a bit more time to rise, but hell’s bells, I was TIRED) in the CSO to bake at the same time.
And can I just tell you, the house smelled HEAVENLY, yes, it did.
I pulled the rolls at 10 minutes (Reinhart says bake ’em for 15), draped a kitchen towel over them on their pan, pulled the loaf out of the CSO 20 minutes later, turned it out onto a rack, and went to bed. Mr. Google says for par-baking, wait until everything cools completely and wrap it tightly and freeze. I was baking them the rest of the way the next day, so I saw no point in freezing, or even refrigerating, for that matter. And as for waiting until everything cooled — see above. I was TIRED. I’ve done that with loaves, and it doesn’t seem to hurt them much in terms of staleness. And I had my secret weapon — the CSO — to fix any drying-out issues on the rolls.
Next morning, I rolled out, threw a chicken on the grill to smoke (at 7 a.m.; my neighbors no doubt think I’m crazy), and bagged up the loaf, after slicing off a few slices for French toast, stashed the rest of it in a zip-lock, transferred the rolls to the CSO baking tray, and covered them in foil.
When it came time for dinner, I put the CSO on steam-bake, 350, for eight minutes. I knew only five minutes remained in the cook time, but I figured they were cold, and I’d give ’em a few minutes to reheat on top of their finishing time. They should have gone 10; they were the slightest touch of gummy in the very center (now, granted, we tore into them when they were still very nearly hot enough to burn your fingers).
People, I tell you, this is the way to go with rolls. I will do this every holiday meal from here on out. I can see baking those rolls a week or two in advance, wrapping them up good and tight, and freezing them. One site I read suggested wrapping them individually so you could finish off just enough for a single meal. Now, how smart is that?
Son-In-Law 2 loved ’em. The boy is sizeable — ex-football player, well over 6 feet and 200, and he likes his carbs. He said he likes these better than the MML rolls. I won’t throw either one of ’em off my plate.
Anyway, you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em try this bread recipe, and see what you think. It’s good bread; I don’t know that I can make much difference in it and Rose Levy Berenbaum’s white bread, which has been my sandwich bread of choice for the past several months.
I will tell you, though, that it can’t hold a candle to challah for French toast.