Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pesto Dinner Rolls

I have come to love Tuesdays.  I wake up itching for it to be 10:30 so I can drive the few blocks down to the community center and pick up my newest CSA box.  Even though I can look online and see what's in this week's box, it's still this fantastic package of surprises waiting to be opened when I get home.  Unwrapping the paper surrounding those fruits and veggies is like having a birthday every week.

I try to wash and bag up as much as I can when I get it all sorted, the whole time planning what fantastic dishes I'm going to make with each and every item.  A  few things get set aside with a promise to look up what the heck to do with them (lemon balm?  more peaches?).  Mostly, I get fantastically inspired, and yesterday was no different.  I ended up spending a very hot day (who builds houses in Southern California with no air conditioning?) in my kitchen making lemony yogurt-zucchini bread, some ranch-style baked beans and pesto dinner rolls.  The recipe for the rolls came from a Sur la table cookbook I found at the library last week  As soon as I saw the recipe, I knew I had to make them.  And oh, the smells that were coming from my kitchen....

Having already posted the zucchini bread recipe and not quite having perfected the beans, I settled on posting the recipe for the pesto rolls.  Please, please make them.  They're fabulous and I'll talk you through each step- lots to pictures too!  We enjoyed them with dinner (duh), but I'm also imagining them split, toasted, and sandwiching a juicy burger.  Oh boy...

Pesto Dinner Rolls
From The Art and Soul of Baking (A Sur la table book) by Cindy Mushet

2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1 tbs active dry yeast or 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
3 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour or bread flour

Step 1: Make the pesto
In a food processor, combine the basil, olive oil, parmesean cheese, and garlic and process until very finely chopped and paste like.

Step 2: Mix and knead the dough
Place the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the top.  Using a hand whisk, mix in 1/4 cup of the flour.  This will activate the yeast by giving it something to start eating.  Let this mixture rest on the counter for about 10 minutes or until the yeast becomes bubbly.  Add the pesto and whisk in by hand until well blended.

Add the remaining 3 cups of flour and the salt.  Using the dough hook of the mixer, blend on low speed until the dough comes together (about 3 minutes).  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.  The dough will absorb all the water and will become noticeably more cohesive and moist.  After the dough has rested, knead it on low speed until it is firm and elastic, about 5 minutes.
Step 3: The First Rise
Lightly oil a large bowl, scrape the dough into the bowl (it will be sticky), and lightly oil the top of the dough.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let it rise until it has doubled in volume, about 1 hour.  If you do it on a really hot day in a really hot kitchen like I did, it will only take half that time.
Before the first rise
After the first rise

Step 4: Shape the dough and the second rise
Turn the dough onto a work surface and gently press down to remove some of the air bubbles.  Don't go nuts with this step or the dough will become too springy to shape.  Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each one into a ball.  Place each dough ball onto a parchment lined baking sheet spacing them about 3 inches apart.  Cover them loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let them rise until almost doubled in size.  This should take 35 to 45 minutes.  While the rolls are rising, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone, set it on the rack before preheating.  It will help keep the baking sheet nice and hot which is essential to good bread.

Step 5: Bake the rolls
Remove the plastic wrap or towel from the rolls and slash a cross in the top of each one with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors.  Brush the tops with with melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt (if you don't have sea salt, kosher salt will do).  Bake the rolls for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden and cooked through.  Transfer to a cooling rack.

You can prepare the rolls through step 4 and them place them covered in the refrigerator overnight if making them in advance.   They can also be baked and then frozen for up to a month.  I don't know who could resist eating them in order to freeze them, but it is possible.

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