From the kitchen of Chef Peter Reinhart as published in Bon Appetit Cranberry Magazine
Multi Grain Finger Rolls
(makes 18 small rolls)
Finger rolls are another way of describing a soft breadstick, but this dough can also be shaped into soft round, knotted, or butter-flake rolls if you prefer. The recipe is a variation of my most well known bread (from my days at Brother Juniper’s Bakery in Santa Rose), Struan, which is the harvest bread associated with the Michaelmas festival, as celebrated for many centuries in the outer Hebrides Isles off the coast of western Scotland. This new version uses 100% whole grain flour as well as other whole grains, and makes a slightly sweet, soft, but hearty roll.
3 cups whole wheat flour (any type)
1 cup of uncooked 12-grain or multi grain cereal blend (or your own combination of rolled oats, corn meal, wheat bran, or any other rolled or ground whole grain you prefer)
2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt (or 1 1/2 teaspoons if using coarse kosher salt)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (any kind)
1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
1/2 cup buttermilk or any milk (including soy or rice milk), lukewarm
1 cup water, lukewarm
Egg wash for garnish (1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of water)
Poppy seeds for garnish
Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Measure the oil with a tablespoon and add it to the bowl, then use the same measuring spoon to measure and add the honey (it will slide off the oiled measuring spoon very easily). Add the lukewarm milk and water (you can warm them up together).
If using an electric mixer, use the paddle attachment, on slow speed, rather than the dough hook (you can use the dough hook but it will take longer to mix); otherwise, mix by hand with a large spoon. Mix for about 1 minute, or until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and hydrated, and the dough forms a coarse ball. Let the dough rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Switch to the dough hook and resume mixing on slow speed or knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 4 minutes. Add more flour or water, as needed, to make a soft, supple dough. It should be tacky to the touch but not sticky, and stretch easily. Form the dough into a ball and place it into a lightly oiled bowl, large enough to accommodate it as it doubles in size. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and immediately place it in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 3 days. The dough will slowly double in size as it cools. (Note: you can also immediately raise it at room temperature for 90 minutes, and complete all the steps on the same day as you mix).
On the day you plan to make the rolls, remove the dough from the refrigerator about 90 minutes before you plan to bake. Immediately transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide it into 18 equal pieces (they should weigh about 1 1/2 ounces each—you can make them larger or smaller if you prefer). Roll each piece of dough into a strand about 4-inches long (you can, of course, make regular round or knotted shapes if you prefer).
Place the strands on two baking pans that have been covered with either baking parchment or a silicone baking pad. Mist the shaped dough with spray oil and cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap. Proof the rolls at room temperature for 1 hour to take off the chill.
About 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 400° F (350° if convection), arranging two baking shelves in the lower and upper third of the oven. Brush the finger rolls with the egg wash (the rolls will not have grown much but will be just starting to wake up). Sprinkle on poppy seeds, to taste; it is okay to be generous with them.
Place the pans in the oven and bake for 7 minutes. Rotate the pans, including switching the baking shelves, and continue baking for approximately 7 to 10 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown and firm to the touch (they will soften as they cool). Transfer the baked rolls to a cooling rack (or leave them on the pans), and cool at least 5 minutes before serving. You may also freeze the baked rolls after they completely cool, and thaw and reheat at a later time.
Cranberry Nut Rolls
(Makes 12 rolls)
Cranberries are among my favorite foods, for so many reasons: their wonderful flavor, nutrition, bright red color, and seasonal linkage to Thanksgiving and the harvest season. The flavor really comes alive when paired in counterpoint with toasted nuts like walnuts, pecans, or almonds. When garnished with a little coarse sugar or cinnamon sugar, the flavors are heightened even further. The knot shape is easy to form and adds a pretzel-like aspect to the rolls. This is one for kids of all ages.
1 cup coarsely cut walnut, pecan, or almond pieces
1 1/2 cups milk (any kind)
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt (or 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt)
1 tablespoon brown or white sugar (or honey)
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon of water for egg wash (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons coarse sugar, or cinnamon sugar for garnish, to taste (optional)
In a dry frying pan, stir the nuts over medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until they begin to smell toasted and are hot to the touch. Transfer them from the pan into a bowl or plate, and set aside to cool.
Heat the milk to lukewarm, about 95°F. Add the oil and remove from the heat.
Combine the flour, yeast, salt, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl and pour the lukewarm liquid into the flour mixture. Add the egg.
If using an electric mixer, use the paddle attachment, on slow speed, rather than the dough hook (you can use the dough hook but it will take longer to mix); otherwise, mix by hand with a large spoon. Mix for about 1 minute, or until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and hydrated, and the dough forms a wet, coarse ball. Let the dough rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Add the dried cranberries and toasted nuts to the bowl. Switch to the dough hook and resume mixing on slow speed, or knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface, for 4 minutes. Add more flour or milk, if needed, to make a soft dough. It should feel supple and tacky, but not sticky, and the cranberries and nuts should be evenly distributed.
Form the dough into a ball and place it into a lightly oiled bowl, large enough to accommodate it as it nearly doubles in size. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and immediately place it in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 3 days. The dough will slowly rise in size as it cools. (Note: you can also raise the dough at room temperature for 2 hours, and complete all the steps to bake on the same day as you mix).
On the day you plan to bake, prepare a sheet pan by covering it with baking parchment or silicone baking pads. It does not need to be oiled.
Remove the bowl from the refrigerator about 2 hours before you plan to bake the rolls (it will be somewhat firmer than when first mixed, as the cranberries absorb some of the liquid and soften). Immediately, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (they should weigh about 3 ounces each). Roll out each piece into a strand about 10-inches long (use a damp paper towel to wipe the work surface before each roll-out—this will create more traction for the dough as you form it into a strand). If the strands shrink back, move on to the next piece and return a few minutes later, after the gluten has relaxed, and roll it again. If any cranberries or nuts fall out, press them back into the dough.
Shape the rolls by looping each strand as in the first stage of tying a standard knot, with about 2-inches of overhanging dough at each end. Wrap each end once more around the looped dough—one end will go around and up and the other will go around and down-- so that two nubs of dough stick out of the center of the loop, one facing up and the other facing down. Press the dough together to close any gaps and to form a roll with a nub of dough peeking out of the center, in both directions. Place the nicest looking side face up on the sheet pan. Continue with each strand, filling the pan with all 12 rolls.
Lightly mist the shaped rolls with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let them rise at room temperature about 90 minutes, or until about 1 1/2 times their original size. Brush them with the egg wash. If using, sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of coarse sugar (or cinnamon sugar) on each roll.
Fifteen minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425° F (400° F if convection) and position the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Place the pans in the oven, reduce the temperature to 400° F, and bake for 7 minutes. Then, rotate the pan, and continue baking for approximately 6 to 8 additional minutes, or until the rolls are a rich brown, with an internal temperature of 185° F. They will feel slightly hard to the touch at first but will soften as they cool. Transfer the rolls to a cooling rack (or leave them on the pan), and cool at least 10 minutes before serving. You may also freeze the baked rolls after they completely cool, and thaw and reheat them at a later time.
Creamy Corn Bread (with Bacon Crust)
(serves 12 to 16)
I am always working on a new corn bread, trying to find new ways to increase the sweet corn flavor yet retain a cake-like moistness. This is my newest version and, what can I say, I love it! The bacon is optional, of course, but it sure does taste good on top. It can be baked in a heated cast iron frying pan or in a casserole dish but, either way, it has corn flavor to the max—maybe not the way the Pilgrims experienced it at the first Thanksgiving, but certainly how I want to from now on.
10 slices thick cut bacon, baked crisp, save the fat (the bacon “crust” is optional)
1 1/2 cups cornmeal, medium or finely ground
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt (or 1 1/2 teaspoons if using coarse kosher salt)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 eggs (large)
3 tablespoons honey or agave syrup
2 tablespoons melted butter (unsalted)
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) milk (any kind)
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (12 ounces by weight)
2 tablespoons bacon fat or melted butter for greasing the pan(s)
Optional step: Cook the bacon till crisp and, when it cools, crumble it into bits. Save the fat for greasing the baking dish.
Combine the corn meal, flour, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder in a mixing bowl and stir with a whisk to distribute them evenly. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey, melted butter and milk. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until it forms a wet batter. Add the corn kernels and stir to distribute them evenly.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (325° F if convection). Grease a 12-inch cast iron frying pan (or two 10-inch pans), or a 10-inch by 12-inch casserole baking dish, with the bacon fat or with melted butter. If using the frying pan, heat the fat in the pan till nearly smoking. Fill the pan or baking dish with the batter (note, you can also bake the batter in greased muffin pans). Sprinkle the bacon bits, if using, over the top of the batter. Bake for approximately 30 to 40 minutes. The batter should be springy and firm to the touch in the very center and, with or without the bacon crust, lightly golden on top. Cool for 30 minutes before serving, but serve warm. (Note: if using frozen corn, it will take about 5 to 10 minutes longer to bake than if using canned corn. Also, feel free to substitute canned creamed corn for all or part of the corn, for an even softer cornbread.)