Buttermilk Rolls

With Halloween behind us, I'm setting my sights on Thanksgiving.  One of our guests' favorite things on our Thanksgiving table is Jeff's buttermilk rolls.  This is a slightly edited repost of his recipe from our old blog.  Enjoy.

White bread is a great place to start for the starting baker, it's straight forward and with careful steps pretty hard to mess up. These buttermilk rolls are soft, fluffly and have one hell of a buttermilk taste. They complement a meal perfectly and will fill your home with a wonderful smell.

The following recipe is from Peter Reinhart's Bread Bakers Apprentice (White Bread variation 2). The book is great and I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the science behind bread baking. This is my go to recipe for bread, dinner rolls, hot dog buns and hamburger buns. The same dough can be shaped into each of these and the results are delicious. This post will show you how to make the roll variation.

Software:

  • 19 oz bread flour (481 grams)
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 2.5 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1.5 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup butter-flavored shortening

Hardware:

  • Stand mixer
  • Large bowl
  • Floured surface
  • Baking pans / loaf pan

This bread follows the straight dough method nearly to the letter. That method involves bring the ingredients together into a dough followed by kneading the dough, letting the dough rise, beating the dough down, shaping the dough into the final shape, letting the dough rise again, and finally baking. In this recipe there are a couple adjustments to this method that I believe really help give the bread it's great texture and flavor.

Begin by measuring out 17 oz (481 grams) of bread flour on a scale. Since dough can take moisture out of the air, we will reserve 2 oz of flour for later adjustments. Put this into the mixer's bowl along with the sugar and salt. Mix the ingredients with a spoon for a bit and then mix in the active dry yeast. Most recipes would have you proof the yeast in warm water for a bit but to be honest if you're using relatively new yeast, it doesn't matter.

Add the egg, buttermilk and shortening to the dry goods. Instead of butter flavored shortening, you can use normal butter but you'll have to adjust the amount of of buttermilk by a tablespoon to compensate for the 20% water in the butter. I know that's not much of a difference but I like to follow the percentages.

Now that all the ingredients are in the bowl, attach it to the mixer and using the paddle attachment, bring the dough together. You might have to scrape the bowl down once or twice. It should take less than a minute on medium to low speed to bring the dough together. It will be very sticky at this stage.

Here is where we deviate from the straight dough method. Cover the mixing bowl with a dish towel and let it sit for 20 minutes. This stage is called autolysis where we allow the dough to hydrate and "prepare" the dough for the kneading phase. Personally I do notice a difference in the breads I've made with and without this step but to each their own...

After 20 minutes, lube up your dough hook and start kneading. On my KitchenAid Artisan stand-mixer, I leave it at the 6 setting for the entire process. After about 4 minutes, check the dough to see if it looks too wet. If it doesn't look like the dough is stretching and pulling but instead just slopping around, add more flour a tablespoon at a time. Let it completely integrate before adding the next tablespoon.

After about 10-12 minutes, the dough should have started pulling away from the sides. This phrase is used in a lot of cook books and does pretty much sum up what to look for. Initially, the sticky dough will be flung around and coat a good portion of the bowl. After a while, the gluten in the dough will stretch more and more and instead of flicking off the hook, it will stretch and fall. What you should look for is the dough forming one uniform mass that tends to stick more to itself than the bowl. Eventually, the dough will begin lifting off the bottom of the bowl. This is a sure sign the kneading process is done.

I use an aerosolized butter-spray to lube up the bowl that the dough will rise in. Simply transfer the dough from the mixing bowl to the rising bowl and shake it around to make sure it doesn't stick. Let this sit covered for an hour or two until it doubles in size.

Here is where you would do different things for rolls, buns, or sandwich bread. I'm going to go through the rolls right now. After the dough has doubled in size, turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Lightly flour the top and with your knuckles start pressing down to flatten the dough. Once the dough is nice and flat, start portioning out 2oz balls. 

With each ball, flatten the dough then start stuffing the sides up and under itself. I "collar" the dough with my thumb and index finger and stuff it into itself with my other hand. Crimp the bottom and repeat. Place them on a half-sheet pan with at least 2 inches apart from each-other. This recipe will create 12-13 rolls and leftovers. I generally make 12 rolls and either a hamburger or hotdog bun. 

Once you've finished making the balls, cover them and let them double in size again. This can take between 1-2 hours depending on how warm it is. Once they've doubled, bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. They should be golden brown with a set crust. If you use an instant read thermometer, it should read above 180 degrees for done.