A Thanksgiving Story
After settling into my first backwoods Brooklyn apartment a little more than two years ago, it dawned on me that a great way to have a housewarming would be to host Thanksgiving dinner. What a good idea, I thought, to show Camille, my study-abroad, Taiwanese cousin who was staying with me, the timeless American tradition of anxiety and pressure during the holiday season. Yes, I decided, we should host a dinner for 10, and make the meal from scratch.
Thus, on Wednesday November 26, 2008, I scheduled a meeting with Camille at the Union Square Farmers Market with the following menu on my clipboard: Roast turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, creamed spinach, cranberry sauce, cranberry relish, stuffed sweet potatoes, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pie, and dinner rolls. I didn’t realize the absurdity of the list until the monster inside me nearly snarled at the poor farmer who had run out of sage. It was then that I realized that this sh*- was about to get real. No turning back.
So, it’s no surprise that after two failed attempts at making yeasted dinner rolls the following afternoon, that I was running to the store yet again to buy another three envelopes of the good stuff. The first time, the yeast failed to proof. Yeast Lesson #1: Don’t dissolve yeast in boiling liquids; permissible temperatures are about 112 degrees cooler. The second attempt wasn’t much better. Yeast Lesson #2: When the dough fails to rise, you have failed. Don’t bake batches of dense dough balls. Don’t bite into them with hope in your heart. Don’t admit defeat. You are an American. Even if you’re not, dig into the tenacity that I know you have. Warm that liquid to a temperature you would feel comfortable dripping onto your eyeball. Perfect. Let the dough rise a foot away from that pot of boiling potatoes. You’re awesome. You’re going to have dinner rolls. God bless [Your Country], and Happy Thanksgiving!
Yield: 12 dinner rolls
Time: Prep: 10 minutes;Total rising time: 1.5 hour; Baking time: 15 minutes
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
¼ raw brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup olive oil
⅜ cup warm water
⅜ cup warm low-fat milk
coarse sea salt (optional)
- In a medium (2 qt) saucepan, scald the milk, water, and sugar. Remove from heat, and let it cool to about 100°
- While the liquids are cooling, whisk together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, and salt, in a large mixing bowl; make a well in the middle
- Whisk the oil and the egg into the liquids, and carefully pour it into the well of the dry mixture — do not stir, but cover it with a lid or plastic wrap
- Allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes in a warm place
- Mix, then lightly knead the dough right in the bowl, scrape down the sides, and shape the dough into a smooth ball; lightly oil the sides of the bowl, and the dough ball
- Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for an hour in a warm place; pre-heat your oven to 400°
- Divide and shape the dough into twelve round balls, and space them on a baking sheet, or inside a 10×10 baking dish; brush the tops with olive oil or a beaten egg; sprinkle with coarse sea salt
- Bake for 15 minutes; if baking in a baking dish, let the rolls cool for about 20 minutes on a cooling rack before pulling them apart