The rolls I made for our Christmas dinner have all been eaten. But they lasted beautifully fresh and delicious for about a week. That’s because the recipe contains milk, eggs, and butter, all of which impart a delicate crumb and lasting softness to this, our favorite “special bread.”
Here’s the recipe, which I have adapted from the “Milk Bread” recipe in the Joy of Cooking (Simon & Schuster, 1997, page 746). (Note: I doubled this recipe so that it made about four dozen crescent rolls; quantities and instructions for a single batch are given below.)
Set aside a large, clean bowl in which the bread will rise; curl some light-flavored oil around the inside of the bowl. If you don’t have a nice warm place for the bread to rise, heat your oven on “warm” for just one or two minutes, then turn it off and leave the door shut to hold the heat.
Make the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve 1 tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast in 3 tablespoons warm water. Add and combine well 1 cup milk warmed to 105˚F-115˚F, 5 tablespoons melted butter, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 large egg, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Stir in 2 cups King Arthur Bread Flour:
and blend thoroughly:
Add 1 ½ cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and blend thoroughly:
The dough should be moist but not sticky. This is too sticky:
I blended in an additional ½ cup all-purpose flour; the dough was still moist, but pulled away from the sides of the bowl:
It’s always a good idea to add the last portions of flour gradually, since the amount needed will depend on the moisture content of the flour (which you cannot know), the moisture content of any other ingredients, and the ambient humidity.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface:
Knead the dough with a firm hand until it forms a smooth and cohesive ball.
Tip the dough into the oiled bowl, turning it over a few times to coat it with the oil. (I use the large heavy, ceramic bowl that was my grandmother’s bread bowl. It holds the warmth beautifully, just right for an even rise.)
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it in a warm (not hot) place to rise until it is doubled in volume, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.
You’ll need ½ cup soft butter to make the crescent rolls, so be sure to set that out at room temperature to soften for a few hours in advance of when you'll need it.
Make the rolls:
Remove the plastic wrap and set it aside, greasy side up. You’ll need it later. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface (no flour). Compress the dough gently to press out the air. “Punching down” is unnecessarily violent. Just press it gently and evenly. Enjoy the fragrance of the fermented yeast. Let it rest for ten minutes or so, to allow the gluten to relax.
If the butter is not soft, warm it very slowly and carefully in the microwave, using the lowest setting for a few seconds at a time. The butter must be moderately soft and spreadable, not melted. Do not use cold or even cool butter; it will tear the dough.
Prepare two large baking sheets. Ungreased parchment paper ensures the best results and makes the least mess.
Divide the bread into two equal portions. Roll each portion into a circle about 14” in diameter. If the dough resists rolling, let it rest for a few more minutes.
Spread ¼ cup soft butter onto each circle:
Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut the circle into twelve wedges:
Starting at the wide end, roll each wedge up all the way, tucking the little end underneath. Lift the roll carefully with both hands, curving it into a crescent shape as you set it down on the baking sheet. Leave plenty of space between them:
Cover each sheet with a greased piece of plastic (one of these can be the piece you set aside earlier) and set the rolls to rise in a warm (not hot) place. Most recipes say to let them rise until doubled, but this is always too much for this recipe. Let them rise until they are about a third bigger.
Pre-heat the oven to 400˚F.
Mix up an egg wash (one egg combined with a pinch of salt); brush each roll very lightly with the egg wash, using a soft, fine-grained pastry brush.
Bake the rolls for about 15 minutes; the timing will vary depending on the vagaries of your oven. Since I’m usually baking two sheets in each oven, I set the timer for 8 minutes, then switch the upper and lower sheets to ensure even browning, then set the timer for another 6 or 7 minutes. Keep a close eye on them.
When the rolls are a deep golden brown, remove them from the oven, and slide them on to a cooling rack. The egg wash creates the beautiful golden-brown finish.
They are perfect with any dinner or luncheon menu, and are wonderful with soft-cooked eggs, butter, and strawberry jam for breakfast.
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They are further organized as follows, with some overlap:
Main Dishes http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Main%20Dishes
Soups and Stews http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Soups