Sunday, January 01, 2012

Rustic Dinner Rolls - and a New Year's Eve Dinner

I've started watching America's Test Kitchen, and I'm fascinated by its best-recipe, try-it-again approach to cooking. It's fascinating to me because it's the opposite of the way I cook. Once I finish a recipe, I don't think about how to make it better; I think about what I'm going to try next. This is pretty obviously not the superior method since it means I never perfect anything. But I do get a lot of variety.

Because I was assigned the salad course (more on that later) for our annual progressive New Year's Eve party, I wanted to make a bread or roll that would be a good accompaniment. I'd seen one of the cooks on ATK work her little heart out on these rolls, so I figured they'd be just the thing. I also liked that they were made with a wet dough that, unlike Norm's Onion Rolls, would not burn out the motor of my new KitchenAid.

The rolls, titled Rustic Dinner Rolls, are pretty straightforward, although they do have some typical ATK quirks, born of their obsessive testing and re-testing.

For example: 3 tablespoons of whole wheat flour, no more no less. This is supposedly just the right amount to get a "nice earthiness." If I were an obsessive tester myself, I'd try again with no WW flour and once again with a half-cup.  They had a good flavor, though, so maybe there's no point to further experimentation.

The biggest quirk of this roll recipe is starting them out in round cake pans, so they grow together in their first ten minutes of baking.

Then, lightly browned, they come out of the oven and get turned over on a baking sheet, until they're cook enough to be separated. This initial baking is done at 500 degrees, to increase the amount of oven spring.  Then another 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees.

To my surprise, because of the trust I place in ATK, mine didn't spring very high. They actually look a lot like the photo that shows what happenes to a roll when you don't give it that burst of intense heat: they're flat and hockey-pucky, not tall and springy. In ATK's defense, I think this may have happened because I ran out of bread flour after measuring out about a third of the flour. (How does it happen that a bread blogger runs out of bread flour?)

Because these rolls were almost perfect, I'll admit that I'd kind of like to try them again, using all bread flour this time. But I already have a full list of breads to try for the first time, so I don't know when, if ever, I'll return to the rustic dinner rolls made with three tablespoons of whole wheat flour.

Some readers, who have been reading this blog for years (people, don't you have anything better to do with your time?), may remember that our New Year's Eve tradition is to have a neighborhood progressive dinner. When Jim remembers, he photographs the courses. I think he's only remembered once.

This dinner started out at the Niemiecs' house for appetizers. Appetizers are my downfall (I probably should say one if my many downfalls). I love having a little savory bite, or, let's face it, a lot of largish savory bites. Joan made a platter of crisp vegetables,

smoked salmon with onions and capers,

and spinach balls.

Then we moved to the soup house, which belongs to the Beiers. Master soup-maker Betty B. made leek and mushroom soup topped with brie toasts.

The third course was at our house. In addition to the rustic rolls, I made a fennel, watercress, and blood orange salad with champagne vinaigrette.

The piece-de-resistance was Beef Wellington, by Laurel Deloria, who has never found a recipe she's afraid to tackle.

She was also not afraid to tackle a Madeira sauce (delicious).

The Papanicolaous thoughtfully provided bowls of beautiful vegetables, so that we could delude ourselves into thinking we were eating healthily. (There was also an unpictured bowl of green beans).

Jim got a new timer for his camera so that he could take a picture of the whole group, including himself. However, he neglected to read the directions, and he never did get it to work, so he finally gave up and took a picture of everyone but Jim.

Unfortunately, he was so flummoxed by this photography failure that he completely forgot to take a picture of the dessert prepared by Doug Logeland: lemon tart with chocolate crust.  Too bad, because it was a memorable finale to a great dinner.

And a happy new year to you all!


doughadear said...

Happy New Year Marie!

What a lovely way to end the year with great food and your very nice rolls.

I hope to get back to regular bread baking soon.

Marie said...

I hope you get back into regular bread baking too--everything you make is always so beautiful!

Bunny said...

The menu for your party looks delicious! I get the test kitchen magazine and it pains me to think of making the same recipe 20 times to perfect it, ugh!

breadbasketcase said...

I'm so happy you said that! I feel like a slacker for not wanting to make the same recipe over and over and over.

Anonymous said...

One of these days I am going to find out where you live...not in a stalkerish kind of way...more so in a, "I want to move there and take part in these dinners" type of way! :)

I have been reading for years and sometimes still scan your archives for notes when I am tackling a new Bread Bible recipe.


Mary said...

Everything looks delicious and I'll wager a good time was had by all. This is my first visit to your blog, so I took some time to browse through your earlier posts. I'm so glad I did that. I really like the food and recipes you share with your readers and I'll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

breadbasketcase said...

You would be very welcome to stalk and join. Or just join.

Thanks, Mary. Sometimes I go through the old recipes myself--amazing how much you can forget!

Melinda said...

Well, I guess I am a long time reader and know way back about about the progressive meal fun at New Year! (And obviously have nothing better to be doing with my time.) Again, it looked both delicious and good fun!
So...did you upgrade your KA to something bigger?
I think you look very flash and pretty in your sparkly black dress!
Wishing you all good things for 2012!

breadbasketcase said...

Happy new year to you, my dear. My KitchenAid is an almost exact replica of the one that gave up the ghost. I hope it will last at least five years. (I hope I will too).
Speaking of "something bigger," I had to buy my sparkly black dress in a size larger than my usual size. And it still wasn't loose! So I hope one of the good things that's coming to me in 2012 is a drop in poundage. Or stonage, as some people say.

HanaĆ¢ said...

What a feast, Marie. Just gorgeous! Too bad Jim didn't get to include himself in the picture. Happy New Year to you both!!

Mangiandobene said...

That bread looks really delicious. I wonder how it will come out in my pizza oven ! I think I'll give it a try. Thank you!