Monday, October 06, 2008

Hard Rolls

In Chicago, we called these "Hard Rolls", but I've never run across the term anywhere else. The idea is that they are sturdy enough to withstand a hot roast beef sandwich with the liquid gravy. I think in some places that is called a "French Dip." Anyway, this is a roll that will stand up to any dressing you throw at it.

Once a week, I bake rolls for my husband to take his lunch to work. He's pretty easy to please and likes tomato and Swiss cheese sandwiches with mustard and mayo. These are the perfect rolls. They also freeze wonderfully if wrapped in wax paper and then tightly in cling wrap. The night before, I pull one out of the freezer and make his sandwich in the morning.

The recipe calls for a preferment so plan on making it the night before the day you plan to bake.

You Will Need:

For the preferment:

4 cups bread flour
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 tablespoon salt

Mix dry ingredients and add enough water to make a wet, but not liquid dough. Stir well, cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature overnight or up to 18 hours.

Next Day:

To the preferment, stir in:
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Then add:
3-4 cups flour (more or less possible)

You'll really need to knead ("need to knead", oh gosh-someone get me an editor) the flour into the preferment as it will be very elastic and rubbery. It helps to take breaks after a few minutes of kneading and let it rest before kneading more. You don't want the dough dry, so add what you can, but don't obsess over it if you can only get in another two cups of flour. Bread flours very quite a bit in ash content anyway, so depending on what you use, the results will differ. I use Dakota Maid, by the way.

Once dough is kneaded, place in an ungreased bowl (that's a change, but it won't stick) and cover. Let rise slowly in a cool spot 2-4 hours or until doubled in bulk.

Divide dough into six balls and let rest ten minutes. Shape into rolls and place on a cornmeal dusted baking pan. Dust lightly with flour, and cover with a cotton (not terry) kitchen towel. Let rise until almost doubled-about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. I create steam by keeping an old pan in the lowest rack into which I toss water. Use whatever method you prefer but for heaven's sake-make sure to remove your oven lightbulb and check the owner's manual just to be on the safe side-I cannot be responsible for you ruining your oven. Consider yourself warned. If you're too timid to steam, spray the loaves with a bit of water before baking (skip the dusting with flour step if using that method).

Bake 10 minutes, then rotate and bake 10-15 more or until an internal temperature reaches 200 degrees F. Rolls should be dark brown and sound hollow. Cool on racks completely before freezing.

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