Easy Step by Step French Bread Rolls
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My phone gave up the ghost 11 days, 6 hours and 23 minutes ago. But who’s counting?
When your phone is broken and you live in an empty nest which is 8 miles from your small town, with only the company of two labs and a gray tabby, you can have some really compelling conversations. During the course of a day, mine will go something like this. “Hey, Google, Pandora Dixie Chicks”. “Hey, Google, NEXT!” “Hey, Google, what’s 1378 divided by 12? It’s about 114.” If you keep reading, you’ll get that one. (It’s how many kilograms each roll will weigh, which is 4 ounces).
Google is very accommodating, but sometimes I feel like she just doesn’t really get me. Why do I have to repeatedly tell her I don’t care for Live Johnny Cash, for instance?
I love my Google Home Mini. Seriously. “Hey, Google? What’s the weather today?” Hell, “what DAY is it?” for that matter. My days all sort of run into each other, lately.
If you want to have Google for a friend, it’s actually a lot of fun. I used to spend every day in the kitchen, listening to the news. I’ve never wanted to be the kind of stereotype of the stay-at-home mom who was clueless as to current events.
But I decided to give the news a break. My little Google Home Mini lets me happily sing along to my old, sappy songs, instead of listening to the endless, depressing drivel that comes out of Washington. I do not make a dime out of this recommendation, in case you care. Amazon doesn’t even carry it, so no link.
I miss being able to talk to my girls. I miss having a camera.
The menagerie isn’t much better than Google, for conversation. Typically, our “conversations” go something like this: “How’s my sweet baby? Aw, honey, that’s a good boy. You need a rub? Wanna Eat? Let’s go Pee! or Leo, CUT IT OUT!”
Yep, sad but true. That’s my life. Until Bill finally gets home, and then I’m, once more, a happy camper.
But tomorrow my phone is coming and I’m SO HAPPY!
I’ve got some great Classic French Bread Rolls for your Thanksgiving. I love them for a variety of reasons.
One, they don’t take much time, at all. Seriously.
Two, they taste awesome.
Three, they are made over the course of two days, which makes them super easy. Once baked on the second day, they will freeze for weeks, just waiting for you to thaw, then warm them as soon as the turkey comes out.
C’mon, you know you want to try it. Take on a new challenge!
This recipe is from my one and only bread book, Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. Throughout the years, I have learned, with his careful tutelage, to make sourdough bread, Ciabatta, French Bread, bagels, Challah, and English muffins, among others. His explanations are clear-cut and easy to follow. With practice, well, if I could get it, anyone could. Just read the instructions carefully.
I’d have to admit that, if you’re a bread novice, dinnertime with the kids running around the house, screaming and whooping it up, is NOT the time to be attempting this. I raised 5 hellions, now all happily grown up and well behaved, and that’s why I waited so many years to learn so many culinary skills. Because, frankly, there was never a quiet moment in 32 years of being a “Mom.”
Looking back, well, I’m sorry I didn’t kick them out of the kitchen and into the family room, just so I could have learned some fun lessons like these awesome rolls. Guess I was just too exhausted.
But if you have a neighbor you could exchange a few hours of babysitting with, or a helpful husband or grandma, take a couple of hours and make these. You will feel so accomplished and everyone will be reaching for seconds. By the second time you try this recipe, you’ll be a pro.
And, if you have a baker on your Christmas list, consider this book. It got me completely out of my comfort zone and into a place where I now consider myself a pretty damned good bread maker. Inspire someone today. This book is my bible. It’s well worth the cost, and a whole lot cheaper than 6 month’s worth of classes at the Community College! Here’s the Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2hDpNRB
Ok, let’s go.
These can be touching rolls, but their wonder is their crust. So, no; I would recommend keeping them far apart, for maximum crustiness. This is French Bread, after all.
5 cups unbleached bread flour
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast (one packet)
2 cups lukewarm water (about 95°F or 35°C)
Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. If using a mixer, use a paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute. The dough should form a coarse, shaggy ball. Let it rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. The dough should be tacky but not sticky. (“Sticky” means when you touch the dough with your finger, some of the dough will stick to you. Tacky is just – tacky).
Now, knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured work surface for about 1 minute. Transfer to a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Prove for 90 minutes (or more) at room temperature (not a warming oven or proving oven) or until double.
Now for the shaping:
Gently empty out the dough onto your work surface. Gently shape it into a square and rectangle. With a bench scraper, (or large knife), divide dough into 12 equal portions. If you happen to have a kitchen scale (a must, if you someday really get into bread baking), cover the scale with plastic wrap, and weigh the entire piece of dough (my scale is small, so I did that in two batches. After I have the weight of my dough, I’ll divide by 12 (ask Google, if you’re not big on math, like most young kids these days). Then you can weigh each roll and adjust the amount you’ve cut off. Or you can make 10 slightly bigger rolls, or 8 large ones.
Or, heck, you can just eyeball it. Just get those pieces as close to uniform as you can, so that they will all bake evenly.
At this point, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (If you are planning to use a baking stone, make sure it is a cookie sheet without a rim). I blew it last night and put them on a rimmed cookie sheet. Today, I had to transfer them to a lined cookie sheet without a rim, so that I could easily slide the rolls (with the parchment) onto my baking stone. This is not a huge deal, to transfer the rolls, but I’d rather not take the chance of deflating them, at this point. By the way, having a baking stone is not required!
To form your rolls:
First, take a towel and cover all the portions except the one you’re working on. Also, have a second towel ready, to lightly cover the rolls you have just formed. You don’t want them to form a skin because they’re going to do a second rise overnight in the fridge.
Take ahold of one of your portions. Lay it down on your work surface. Take ahold of the bottom edges and bring them up, to the top, pulling and causing the outside of the roll to have a surface tension. You want to create a nice, taut, round roll with a tight, crisp crust all around the roll. Pinch closed and turn over, placing on the parchment. Be gentle with this process. You are only pulling and pinching the skin of the roll. You’re not messing with the interior because you want to avoid de-gassing the dough, as much as possible. Don’t roll them around on your work surface. Their being perfectly round is NOT as important as not degassing them.
Repeat until you have 12 beautiful rolls, evenly spaced.
Spray the rolls lightly with oil.
Cover them loosely with several layers of plastic wrap. Put them in the fridge, in a spot where no one will mess with them. That alone can be quite a challenge, when you’ve got a household full of kids. I’ll leave that one up to you.
I put a note on it, just to be safe.
The next day, an hour or so before baking, take the rolls out of the fridge and preheat your oven to 500°. You’ll be baking the rolls on the middle shelf of the oven. On the lower shelf, place a rimmed cookie sheet. This bottom one has to have a rim, because you’ll be pouring hot water into it!
Leave the rolls covered until 10 minutes before baking.
When the rolls have been out of the fridge for an hour, (and they’ve been uncovered for 10 minutes), give one a gentle poke with your fingertip. If the dough comes right back at you, you’re good to go.
Take a sharp pair of clean kitchen scissors and snip the top of each roll, first one way, then the next. If you don’t slash the roll, it will slash itself, and it won’t necessarily be pretty.
Showtime! Nuke a cup of water, until it’s nice and hot.
Turn down your oven to 450°.
Open up the oven door (careful – it’s hot in there!) and place your cookie sheet with the rolls on the middle rack.
Now, take your two towels and cover the glass on your oven door. This is so the hot water you’ve nuked doesn’t drip on the glass and shatter it. You’d be surprised how many times that problem has shown up on Google. Not a problem you want to be dealing with, the week before Thanksgiving.
When the oven glass is covered, take your oven mitts and carefully pull out the bottom rack about 4 inches.
Stand back and very slowly pour your hot water into the bottom, rimmed cookie sheet. Remove the two towels. Carefully, with your oven mitts, close that bottom rack. The facial sauna you just gave yourself will help to ensure a crispy exterior on the rolls. And on you, too, if you’re not careful!
Set your timer for 10 minutes, to start. Ideally, you will have an oven thermometer. Poke the thermometer in the side of a roll. When it hits 200°, you can pull them all out.
If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, get one! My life has seriously changed for the better, since I got this little baby. This will also make sure your turkey doesn’t over or under-cook! Here’s the Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2z9gYqh
If you don’t have one, you can pick up your roll with a dry towel and check the bottom for color and then tap several times. It should sound hollow.
Let the rolls cool completely. You can store them in a heavy duty freezer bag in the fridge for several days, and take them out of the fridge early in the day on Thursday. When the turkey comes out, you can then pop them in to warm up. Since they’ll be at room temperature, this will only take minutes.
If you’re doing this more than 3 or 4 days in advance, wrap each roll in plastic wrap, and carefully place in a freezer bag. Keep frozen until the night before. Take them out and unwrap them, to thaw. You don’t want the saran wrap holding in the cold, making them moist and soggy.
I hope you’ll try this. You’d be surprised how proud of yourself you’ll be, if you’ve never attempted homemade rolls or bread.
Good Luck! Vicky
You don’t need to read this part, if you don’t have a baking stone:
If you do have a baking stone (which I highly recommend! You can find them at Goodwill often enough. Here’s a new one, if you want to spring for one: Here’s the Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2zJCAsh . If you’re lucky to find one in a thrift store. Even if you find one that is blackened and a bit chipped, go for it. Even the shiny, brand new ones get that way, with time and use.
So, when your rolls have first come out of the fridge, put your baking stone on the middle rack. Put the rimmed baking sheet on the rack underneath that.
When it’s time to bake your rolls (they’re on parchment, remember), rather than putting the entire cookie sheet in the oven, you’ll slide the rolls (with the parchment) onto the baking sheet.
This is not hard to do, at all. You just need to give the parchment an encouraging little nudge forward, a few times. The rolls with the parchment will go nicely onto the stone, come baking time. Just be sure to place the cookie sheet toward the BACK OF THE STONE, then gently pull the cookie sheet toward you. The rolls with the parchment paper should slide onto the baking stone, easy as pie.