Rice is nice, but any fool can push the button on a rice cooker. For a really stylish starch you’ve got to do dinner rolls. Even if it’s a feat you can pull off only on the weekend, you will be a hero.
Deliver a pan of warm rolls to the table just as the soup, stew or roast is ready and you’ve established your mastery of both time and yeast.
Last week in this space, the subject was taro rolls. Diane Kochiyama tried the recipe, pronounced it well worth the effort but then asked for the true object of her desire, an easy-to-make sweet dinner roll.
So here you go. These are not of the Portuguese sweetbread variety. That formula is more complicated, traditionally involving cooking and mashing potatoes as part of the dough. The recipe that follows is simple enough to be a beginner’s yeast project.
To that end, a few notes for the first-time bread maker: Yeast is a temperamental thing. You’ve got to keep it fresh, which means if you bought a few packets last year for some other bread project, they’re probably not good anymore (refrigerate yeast to prolong its life). Also, you need heat, usually in the form of warm water, to activate your yeast, but not too much heat or you’ll kill it. Experienced bakers can tell by touch when the water’s exactly right, but if you’re just starting out, you might want a thermometer.
I say this not to encourage fussiness, but because who wants to devote the time (a couple of hours) and ingredients only to find you have to start over because your dough’s not rising?
Back to this recipe. It’s flexible: Use more or less sugar, use vegetable oil instead of butter, use less milk and more water. Try it. You will be a hero.
SWEET DINNER ROLLS
1 package (2-1/4 teaspoons) yeast
3/4 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
5 to 6 cups flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar (if mixture does not get foamy in 5 minutes, your yeast may be old or the water you used may have been too hot or too cold).
Combine sugar, egg, milk and butter; beat in electric mixer until well combined. Add yeast mixture. Mix in flour gradually until a soft, cohesive dough forms (dough should form a ball and pull away from sides of mixing bowl).
Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead a few minutes until soft and elastic. Form into a ball and place in clean mixing bowl. Cover with dishcloth and let rise 60 to 90 minutes, turning once.
Punch down and knead dough lightly. Pinch off pieces of dough to form 1-inch balls. Place in greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Cover and let rise again, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.
If desired, brush tops of warm buns with a mixture of sugar and water, or with melted butter. Makes about 3 dozen rolls.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per roll (not including brushed toppings): 130 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 15 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 3 g protein
Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. Write "By Request," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.