There are probably a lot of us that grew up with idea that bread was an essential part of every meal, especially dinner. I know I have even made decisions about which restaurant to go to based on the bread they serve before the entree comes to the table. Crusty rolls, garlic sticks, warm pita, dense rye bread, etc. can make an ordinary meal very special.
This recipe is fairly straightforward and produces a dozen soft and chewy rolls. In my world, bread merely serves as a "butter delivery system," but on their own they have a good texture and taste. What I particularly like about these rolls is that you can customize them to what you are serving them with or the mood you are in. Before baking, the rolls are brushed with beaten egg, and then you can be as creative as you like with what you sprinkle on top. Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, celery seeds, salt, course black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Parmesan cheese, etc. I happened to have on-hand some caraway seeds left over from making kapusta, so I put those and some coarse sea salt on top of this latest batch of rolls.
I love to bake in the morning, especially at the cottage. Without air conditioning, the cool mornings are the perfect time to turn the ovens on and get working. Then the whole house is filled with these wonderful aromas of things baking...is there a better way to start a day??
I am very lucky to have a large stand-mixer with a dough hook. This saves time and energy in mixing and kneading, but it would not be a hardship to make this recipe by hand (the dough is very manageable) and sometimes you feel more connected to the process by doing it manually. You just have to go by feel as to when the dough has been kneaded enough.
1 1/4 cups water (heat to 110-115 degrees. The microwave is handy for this as is an instant-read thermometer)
2 TBSP vegetable oil
1 TBSP sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 packet rapid-rise/quick-acting yeast
1/2 cup instant potato flakes
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
Turn your oven to 200 degrees. When it reaches the temperature, shut it off.
Combine heated water, oil and sugar in bowl and set aside. In your mixing bowl, add flour, yeast, potato flakes and salt. Gently stir dry ingredients together. Start your mixer (with dough hook attached) and gradually add in water/oil/sugar mixture to dry ingredients. Combine until dough forms and then continue on low-medium speed for 5 or 6 minutes and allow dough to knead. When dough looks smooth and pulls from the bowl it should be ready.
Transfer dough to an oven-safe bowl that has been sprayed with Pam. Turn dough over so both sides of dough is coated with Pam. Put plastic wrap over bowl and put in oven for 45 minutes. The residual heat in the oven should be enough to assist in rising. After 45 minutes, remove bowl and press dough down (it should have doubled in size). Remove dough from bowl and place on floured board. Cut dough into quarters, and then cut each quarter into thirds. This will give you 12 pieces of dough. Shape each piece of dough into a ball (you can do this by working with the dough and "stretching and tucking" into ball shape. On a baking sheet that has either been sprayed with Pam or lined with parchment paper (this is what I prefer), place 12 dough balls and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Put them back into the oven for another 20 minutes or so - they should almost double again. Remove rolls after their second rising and set oven temperature to 400.
Beat and egg in a bowl and lightly brush the tops of the rolls with the beaten egg. Then top each roll with your choice of seasoning - I used about a tablespoon of caraway seeds and a tablespoon of coarse sea salt mixed together. The topping will stick to the egg. Put rolls in heated oven for 15 minutes - or until they are nicely browned on the top. Remove rolls and let them cool on the baking sheet for another 10 minutes and then take them off and put them on a cooling rack. If you happen to have some butter handy this would be the perfect time to sample them!! Keep in an airtight container for a couple of days, but chances are good they won't last that long!