“Fast Food Fridays”, and Italian Rolls

Well it’s that time of year again. Flowers around here are all in bloom, cats are howling in the alleyways and chickens are laying more eggs. It’s almost spring and as far as southern California is concerned, it is well into spring. And this means…Lent.

I didn’t do a post on Ash Wednesday, but here it is Lent again. For many Christians and especially Catholics, this means times of fasting, extra prayers and some sacrifice as a means of denying our physical side in an attempt to strengthening our spiritual side and, hopefully, finding ourselves in a closer walk with God.

Along those lines, our church has, on each Friday night during Lent, the Stations of the Cross and “Fast Food Friday”. This by no means has anything to do with golden arches or drive through windows. But as a way of “fasting” and abstinence, we gather together and have homemade meatless soup and home baked bread. Tonight it is Pasta Fagioli (pronounced “fazool”) and Italian dinner rolls. Guess who is making the rolls. Well, aren’t you the smart one! I am making lots of them and a friend is making some as well. I will try to recruit some helpers tonight. But for those who want to make some crispy dinner rolls of their own at home, here is how I go about it.

resting and raising, 16 to a pan. Whats 16 x 4? plus 12? plus 24?

Lets sum up. You make a sponge a few hours ahead of time and let that froth up. Then you mix the dough, let it rest and raise. Shape the rolls. Let them rest and raise. Slice them and bake them in a 400 degree oven. See how easy?

This dough is fairly lean, but not as lean as say, focaccia or baguette. Here is the recipe:

The Sponge:

1 cup warm water (not hot)

1 1/2 cups bread flour

2 tsp yeast.

Mix these together until it is a gloppy dough in a big bowl. cover lightly and let rise for about 2 hours. If it rises too much, stir it down. After 2 hours (mine was 3 due to a trip out I had to make, but it worked fine. The longer the better really, as long as it doesn’t crawl out of the bowl you put it in.) as I was saying, 2 hours, you mix in the following:

1 cup warm water

1 Tbsp. sugar or honey

2 Tbsp. Olive oil

2 1/2 tsp. salt

4 cups of bread flour (start with 3 and work in the 4th)

I suggest if you have a standing mixer, you let it do its job with the dough hook for several minutes, adding flour until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and mixes neatly.

Now oil the top of this dough and cover with plastic or a damp tea towel. Let rise 45 min to an hour.

using a cutting board on an open drawer for space, I cut the rolls

At this point, you press down the puffed dough and divide it into rolls. You might want 2 oz. rolls or 3 oz buns. shape them and lay them on parchment lined baking sheet. Be sure to roll the little balls of dough into nice taut rolls.  One way to do this is to cup your hand over the bit of dough and rotate your hand in circles, round and round on the counter or cutting board. Do not use flour on the board. You want the dough to stick a bit as it rolls. This gives it a nine taut skin which helps you achieve a good shaped roll. Let them raise about 45 minutes.

Turn your oven to 375.

Now spritz them with water, preferably bottled. Put them in the hot oven spritz them in the oven too. Sit back with a napkin tucked under your chin and some sauce waiting to be dipped into. They bake about 25 minutes, more or less. Keep an eye and when they are a nice golden brown, they are ready. If you are making lots like me, rotate the pans, top to bottom half way during the baking.

If you want softer rolls, brush olive oil or butter on them when they come out of the oven. I did not in this case. In fact, I could have eliminated the oil from the dough altogether and had a leaner, crisper dough. It depends on my mood. Some days I feel lean, others, not so much.

Enjoy the rolls! Slather with butter, dip into soup or whatever your heart desires.

Yummy Italian Rolls
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