A half dozen home baked dinner rolls dusted with flour appeared on my front rocker, a delightful Easter surprise from my friend Lou. If it hadn’t also been Passover, these petit and crusty rolls would have had zero chance of making it into my house. Instead, I tucked them into the freezer and waited for an optimal time to enjoy a leavened piece of goodness.
A few days later, out of the freezer they came to accompany a light lunch with a friend. A 30 second defrost in the microwave and a quick crisp in the toaster oven and it’s as if the rolls had just been baked. Just two delightful bites, perfectly crispy on the outside and airy on the inside and I knew I’d have to convince Lou to bake them with me.
It didn’t take more than a text for my generous and giving friend to start kneading the dough. But as usual with Lou, he works quickly and if you want part of it, you better drop everything fast. In other words, if you snooze you lose.
So, he gave me little (if no notice) to join him while his Kitchen Aid gave the dough a high speed 12 minute kneading. I was forgiven for missing stage one in creating the dinner rolls, but reassured that I could come over the next day after his dough had gotten a good fermented sleep, to cut, mold and bake.
Early the next morning I got a text from Lou asking when I’d be over since he needed to wake the dough up for a second two hour rise. Our bread baking date was scheduled for 10:30 am and I knew I couldn’t be late or I’d miss it all! So I rushed over to Lou’s that morning to find a puffy rectangle of dough resting on his flour cover granite countertops. He demonstrated how to cut the rolls using a dough scraper, first into a strip and then into small squares, making sure to give them an adequate dousing of flour before rounding them and placing them onto the baking sheet.
After his efficient demo, he let me do the rest, making sure I used an agreeable amount of flour and didn’t cut them too small. With an impending 11:15 appointment, I was eager to start baking (ok maybe I was rushing a bit) when I got a slap on the wrist for my impatience. “Don’t rush them!” Lou chided. “They need to rest another 10 or so minutes.” So I waited, watching them in slow motion as they perked up during their third rise before they were allowed into Lou’s 475 degree oven.
Once they were in and the timer was set for 12 minutes, Lou and I took a stroll through his backyard marveling at the various signs of a soon-to-be thriving vegetable garden. Our bread baking ended just a few minutes after the start of my next appointment but Lou let me slip out while the rolls cooled and return a few hours later. In my freezer rest 68 beautiful dinner rolls, ready to be brought back to life. Just a glimpse of these rolls and I think of my thoughtful friend Lou and reminded how lucky I am to have him in my life.
Lou’s Dinner Rolls (Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice)
Makes 70 or so petit rolls
6 cups flour (765 grams)
22 ounces ice cold water (40 degrees)
1 ¾ teaspoons yeast (9 grams)
2 ¼ teaspoons salt (14 grams)
Pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees.
Knead the flour, water, yeast and salt for 12 minutes on High Speed with a dough hook.
Transfer to a covered container and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.
The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and on surface well dusted with flour, form into a rectangle about 12 inches long and 8 inches wide.
Let the dough sit for approximately two hours.
With a lot of flour and a dough scraper (dough is sticky), cut into logs and then little squares.
Round the corners a bit and place on two non-stick baking sheets.
Let the rolls rest another 10 minutes.
Bake for 12-16 minutes until the rolls are golden.
Cool completely and freeze until ready to eat.