Saturday, January 9, 2010

How to Bake Like the Pros!

The Christmas dinner rolls that I made (a la Peter Reinhart)

One day, while visiting the Ferry Building in SF and browsing through the cookbooks at Sur La Table, I found one called The Bread Baker's Apprentice by one Peter Reinhardt. This lovely book was distinguished by two gold stickers - one for the James Beard Foundation's Cookbook of the year, and another by the IACP Cookbook Book of the Year. Intrigued, I bought it, determined to learn how to bake truly great bread.

It has not disappointed me. Reinhardt is completely devoted to the art of bread baking, and his writing expertly guides even amateur cooks through the perils of this initially daunting realm of baking.

For Christmas dinner, I used his recipe to make dinner rolls. They were the most professional-looking bread I've made, with an excellent texture and kept wonderfully for several days, giving us a chance to savor them. I did alter it a bit by substituting part whole wheat flour for the bread flour, and I'm simplifying the recipe a bit. Enjoy!

Professional Dinner Rolls

3 3/4 c. unbleached bread flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 T. sugar
2 tsp. instant yeast
1 large egg (slightly beaten, at room temperature)
1/4 c. butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp. water until frothy, for egg wash (optional)

Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Pour in the egg, butter, and buttermilk and mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until all the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball.

Mix on medium speed with the dough hook, adding more flour if necessary to create a dough that is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky. Continue mixing for 6-8 minutes. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick ever so slightly to the bottom. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Remove the fermented dough from the bowl and divide it into 18 2 ounce pieces. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment. Place dough on the baking sheets, lightly spray with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Proof the dough at room temperature for 60-90 minutes, or until rolls nearly doubles in size.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Brush the rolls with the egg wash if desired. (I suggest doing so, as it will give the rolls a gorgeous golden color.) Bake the rolls for about 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown. When they have finished baking, remove them immediately from the pans and cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.


  1. Those look so good! I love the Ferry Building with an intense passion.

  2. It is the place foodies go when they die, if they're good...


Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!