Friday, August 21, 2009



I have bread coming out of my ears. Everywhere I turn, I stumble upon a boulangerie: baguettes, ciabattas, pain de campagne, rustiques, white, whole wheat, multi-grain, dense and chewy, light and fluffy, the good, the bad and the ugly. Makes perfect sense. I mean, I live in the Land of Bread, Le Pays du Pain.

Yet, as the old saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, absence makes the heart grow fonder, Bob’s your uncle (no, sorry, not that last one. I just like the sound of it…). I am bored of baguettes, fatigued of flûtes, miches are monotonous, blasé of boules and simply tired of pain de campagne.

Now, I love good bread. I know which boulangerie has the best bread in the neighborhood and which stall at the market has the pain levain that I love. Bread and cheese to round off a meal with a glass of wine is one of this country’s true pleasures, or a hunk of cheese and a good baguette as the basis for an improvised picnic is a must. But as good as the bread is here, and don’t get me wrong it is very good, sometimes I crave what I just can’t get. A square of warm cornbread drizzled with honey, a dense, chewy bagel studded with sweet raisins, a slice of cinnamon-raisin swirl toast with butter melted on it, Jewish rye piled high with roast beef and slices of thick, ripe, juicy tomatoes or smeared with cream cheese and loaded with lox, and soft, light as air, warm-from-the-oven, big, squishy dinner rolls.

Big, huge white dinner rolls topped with salty butter were a restaurant treat for me as a kid: pulled apart and dipped into succulent, garlicky scampi sauce after an oh-so-adult meal at Peg Leg’s down at the end of De Soto Parkway, sopping up barbecue sauce from among the bones as we sit squashed together on long wooden benches at the bbq joint, piled high in cloth-lined baskets like clouds in the summertime at The Lobster Shanty snuggled up all cozy next to the golden delicious hushpuppies, high school cafeteria rolls that were lunch along with a carton of chocolate milk and occasionally a handful of fries for this 17 year old… I loved them. They were so fancy schmancy and somehow quite elegant, nothing that we ever had at home, so, oh, white bread, something to be served with roast beef and green beans or home-fried chicken, food that never saw the day at our house. We were more the rye bread and bagel type, bread that really served a purpose, bread that stayed with you, bread with substance and heft, not something as ephemeral, something as cloud-like as soft, airy dinner rolls.

They were always, truly, something otherworldly, like nectar of the gods.

The first time I tried making homemade dinner rolls I was a young, inexperienced bride (inexperienced in the art of bread making, that is), flipping through the pages of our brand new Paul Prudhomme cookbook. The photograph of his Mama’s dinner rolls blinded me with its beauty, made me yearn for something so magical and lovely, so ethereal that I knew I had to make the attempt. Sadly, and for lack of understanding, they came out hard. I had utterly failed. I felt that I just didn’t have the talent to make something so wonderful. I doubted my own capabilities. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. And for years after I stuck to cake and cookies, quick breads and muffins.

Years later, I tentatively returned to the task, determined to beat it, overcome the fear of yeast bread, conquer the mastery of bread baking. Trial and error, lots of reading, staring time and time again at bowls of frothing yeast, trying to break through the mystery. And, finally, here I am today, making Challah and pizza dough, whipping up bagels and bread sticks, focaccia rich with olive oil and sweet with cherry tomatoes, cinnamon buns the size of saucers, studded with chocolate chips and drizzled with glaze, everything I yearn for, anything I crave.

And last night I decided to attempt the heretofore unattainable, climb my own personal Everest, face my own private Waterloo, reach for the stars. And I was determined to conquer.

And, of course, this gorgeous success, this amazing triumph of breadly goodness, this story of small town girl done good goes to Susan at Wild Yeast for this week’s Yeastspotting, a showcase of all things yeast.

"By jove, my dear Watson, I believe that I've spotted the yeast!"

The desire to produce a fragrant pan of soft dinner rolls, the poke in the back, the encouraging whisper in the ear came from La Table de Nana on whose wonderful blog I saw them, the most amazing vision of light and fluffy. I ended up reworking the recipe to use what I had on hand, so instead of using yogurt and milk I used buttermilk and cream. And the rest, as they say, is history. Thank you Nana for inspiring me.

Soft Buttermilk Dinner Rolls is a very easy recipe perfect for those of you who are afraid of making yeast breads. It is extremely straightforward, no trying to figure out yeast required. Dry + wet + kneading pretty much sums it up to give you the most delicious, light-as-air dinner rolls. The next time I make them, I’ll let the shaped rolls rise and bake in a slightly smaller tin so they rise up rather than out, giving taller, narrower buns; more fluffy center and less top. I will also brush the tops of the rolls with melted salted butter as soon as I pull them out of the oven to give them the restaurant flavor that I remember from my childhood.


For 12 dinner rolls. Halve the recipe to make 6.

1 lb (500 g) bread flour
2 Tbs (30 g) sugar (I used light brown)
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ heaping (6 g) tsps dry active yeast
1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk
¼ cup (60 ml) light cream
4 Tbs (60 g) unsalted butter, preferably at room temperature
1 large egg + 1 egg for wash

Mix together all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, lightly beat 1 egg.

In a medium-sized saucepan, gently heat the buttermilk, the cream and the butter together until just warm. Remove from the heat and stir the warmed liquid until the butter is completely melted.

Quickly stir the beaten egg into the warm liquid ingredients then pour over the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, stir the wet into the dry ingredients until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and form a sticky dough.

Scrape out onto a floured work surface and, adding more flour as needed, knead the dough for 6 – 8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic and no longer sticky (though not dry!).

Place the dough in a large, clean, oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides of the dough, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 hour until doubled in bulk.

Once doubled, scrape the dough back out onto the floured work surface and punch down. Divide into 12 equal pieces and shape each into a ball (or roughly). Place the balls of dough in parchment-lined cake tins or baking pan, spacing them about 1 to ½ inches apart. Cover once more with plastic and allow to rise a second time until doubled, another hour.

Preheat oven to 325°F (170°C).

Brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash (an egg lightly beaten) and pop into the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes until the tops are a deep golden brown.

Eat warm, preferably with butter. I reheated some the following day and, although not as perfect as fresh out of the oven, they were wonderfully delicious. I froze some, too.


buffalodick said...

I make my own pizza doughs, and a few kinds of bread pretty well.. But I'm more of a cook than a baker! Hats off to anyone that can bake bread like you!

Chef E said...

I have been craving these the past few months and finally made some with my students, and two more times...yours are beautiful, and now I want more...

Buff does makes some good bread, I have seen it!

Elra said...

One of my sister still afraid to bake just about anything, especially anything with yeast involves. So this recipe is perfect for her. Of course, for all of us too.

Muriel said...

Brilliant ! I have some buttermilk in the fridge and I didn't really know what to do with it ... Next batch of rolls will be your recipe,thanks Jamie.

Heavenly Housewife said...

I am a bread lover in all its many forms. If i had to pick only one food, bread is my favorite in the world, the one thing I couldnt go without. Most notably I do love a good crusty baguette (with butter though daaahling).
Still, anything fresh from the oven is simply divine!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I cannot live without bread!

Your bread rools look fabulous and so smooth!

Cheers and have a great weekend,


asiangrrl said...

I'll take a dozen, Jamie. They look sooooo good!

the ungourmet said...

These are just beautiful!

I have baked a simple loaf now and then. I'm never ecstatic about the results but it's never terrible. I've never braved a roll of any kind. I would love to try. I should challenge myself this fall!

Bob's your uncle! HA! ;0)

Mary said...

You've outdone yourself. These look delicious and they don't seem hard to do. I loved the post. I hope you are having a wonderful day.

5 Star Foodie said...

Mmm... freshly baked rolls sound heavenly! Need to make some, thanks for a great recipe!

Jenn said...

I've recently in the past few months only begun to make my own breads. Saves money and so fresh. the house smells awesome after they're baked. I think I'll try this for my next baking adventure. yum!!

Natashya said...

Lovely rolls! Congrats on overcoming your fears!
Bread doesn't scare me anymore.. now I am on to cheese. It still scares me.
Well, I need something to go with all this bread!

Barbara Bakes said...

I've been eating whole wheat breads lately, but a roll like this is definitely a treat! Hot out of the oven with some jam!

Irina@PastryPal said...

Good grief, these look good. I know exactly what you mean about getting tired of something that's in your face every minute of every day. When I spent a month in Italy, I actually got tired of Italian food! All I wanted was a bowl of stir fried rice.

Thank you for luring me to your blog. It's a lot of fun. And thanks for all your lovely comments! I'll be checking in.

Reeni♥ said...

These look lovely! Soft and so perfect!

Chow and Chatter said...

what a great post love the rolls, i agree its good to have variety in types of bread

Katy ~ said...

Stunning, achingly beautiful! Well done. Few things beat a perfect homemade dinner roll.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

OH I can absolutely see how light and fluffy they are! It's things like this that are the most challenging to make I find for me at least. Thankyou for sharing and for your wonderful stories!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

The photo of the bread at the boulangerie is fabulous. In fact it would be a great screen saver.

You are indeed the queen of bread. Your rolls look divine.

Donna-FFW said...

These look super fantastic, light, flaky, airy. Ill have one with jam please, no two!

lisaiscooking said...

These look incredible! I can smell them baking just by looking at the photos.

zurin said...

M glad you tried them.

The Cooking Ninja said...

my my ... u r one busy bee in yr new kitchen I see. :) U r churning out more posts than I have the time to read. hehehe

Those are truly delicious looking bread. I'm back in my house and it's hot hot hot in the south. The thot of baking and turning my house into a even hotter oven quickly doused my baking fever. :p

Joanne said...

The only yeasted thing I have made has been pizza dough but I have been meaning to try more things with it. You have certainly inspired me to get to it!

Cucinista said...

Those do look airy, heavenly, nectar of the gods-like.

Confession: the first time I was allowed to have dinner on my own (about age 11 or 12), I decided instead to go to the store to buy Pilsbury frozen dinner roll dough and I made the entire batch and ate them all. I was not allowed to have dinner on my own again for some time after that.

Jamie said...

@Cucinista: That is so hysterical! Your my kind a girl!

@buffalodick: Thanks. In our house, husband is a true cook and I'm the baker. There is definitely a difference.

@all: this is definitely a recipe to try for the yeast-challenged among you and friends.

@Irina: Welcome and thanks for coming over!

@The Cooking Ninja: Welcome home!

@the ungourmet: Bob's your uncle!

The Purple Foodie said...

The dinner rolls look great. I wish I could bake bread more than I do.

Esme said...

Bonjour-thanks for stopping by-I will need to come visit you. I passed through Nantes once about 2 decades ago.

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

Oh, I loved these rolls in childhood too, and also never got them except in restaurants. What a treat!

Mimi said...

The rolls are gorgeous!

I had to laugh at your post. We all want what is not available. I want all of the wonderful bread you have access to. Since you are in France, you are yearning for things so quintessentially american!


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