Recipe Redux: Astor House Rolls

I first brought you this recipe two years ago around this time and since then they have become an early winter staple in our house. If you aren’t afraid of yeast and want to make rolls for your Thanksgiving meal, these are the ones to make! Warmed with some good butter, they are to die for. I like all rolls, but those made with milk add a bit of richness to them. Light and airy, I have made these several times and have never had any problems with them—a foolproof recipe! You can make them this weekend and pop them in the freezer; take them out Thursday morning and they will be thawed by dinner time!

astoruseAstor House Rolls
From The Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser, p. 652

1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
About 6 cups all-purpose flour, or more as needed
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups whole milk scalded and cooled to lukewarm
7 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cold unsalted butter

1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and let stand until foamy. Put 5 cups of flour in a large bowl (you can use a mixer with a dough hook if you want) and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, salt, sugar, softened butter, and milk and stir, slowly incorporating the flour from the sides. Then stir and beat the mixture until a ball of dough has formed. Pour the dough and any remaining flour onto a work surface and gradually knead in the remaining 1 cup flour.

2. Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover, and let rise until light and fluffy and almost doubled.

3. Punch down the dough and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes–you should need very little, if any, extra flour for this step. Return to the bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size.

4. Punch down the dough and divide into 22 pieces. Shape each piece into a tight round (see ** at end), keep the other pieces covered with plastic wrap while you work. Beginning with the first round, flatten each roll, seam side up, to 1/2-inch thick. Place 1 teaspoon butter in the center, lift one edge of the dough, and pull it up and over the butter, forming a turnover-shaped roll, and pinch the ends firmly closed to seal in the butter. Arranged rolls 3 inches apart on nonstick baking sheets (or baking sheets covered with parchment). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour.

5. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

6. Bake until the rolls are puffed, golden, and cooked through, about 16 minutes. Cool on baking racks.

Makes 22 rolls.

Originally published in the New York Times, October 27, 1878: “Useful Hints for Housekeepers.” Recipe signed Lillie.

** To shape rolls, follow the instructions of Nancy Silverton in her book Breads from the La Brea Bakery: “Shape the dough into balls by cupping your hand lightly around the dough and rounding it against the friction of the work surface to form a smooth bun. Begin slowly and increase speed as the ball becomes tighter and smoother. Use as little flour as possible to prevent sticking.”

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Thanksgiving all in one place!
I know I extol the ingenuity of The New York Times probably a little too much, but when it comes to holidays, it is one of my first stops! So if your Thanksgiving meal isn’t completely planned, take a look at their website, where you can find everything from the turkey to the desserts and everything in between. Tips on how to roast a turkey, make a pie crust, how to make gravy, plus tips for a vegetarian meal. You name it, they have you covered!

I’m not completely set on my menu, so I know I’m going to spend a lot of time here this week! You can find this great resource here.

Speaking of Yeast…

In a revisit of last week’s post about pizza crust, mention was made by Carol, a faithful reader from Connecticut, about “pizza yeast.” I had heard about this, but never really knew what it was and said I’d return with some info. This is what I’ve discovered. Pizza yeast is, in my description, one step beyond rapid rise. You can throw it in a bowl with some flour and salt, roll it out and make your pizza, no need for a rise. It’s also has “dough relaxers” so it doesn’t “snap back” when shaping it. An interesting concept, but I have made my pizza dough with regular yeast and no rising, and bread on occasion with only one rising (see below). So if you’re in the mood to make your own pizza crust but are worried you don’t have pizza yeast, fret no longer, you can use regular. And if you do have it on hand, it will make for a delicious pie!

So speaking of yeast . . . About eight years ago, there was a PBS cooking show I used to watch called “Breaking Bread with Father Dominic,” a monk who lived I think in Minnesota. Father Dominic is a cool monk, he’d always make his bread in his robe while wearing Chuck Taylor sneakers on his feet. Every week was a different yeast recipe (Fleischmann’s sponsored the show, of course) and when he made something that looked really good, I’d print out the recipe. In doing research for this piece, I discovered he has several bread cookbooks published!

This recipe for Multi-Grain Bread is superb and has only one rising. In the dark, cold winter, I like to make a loaf of this every weekend. It’s easy, as yeast breads go, relatively inexpensive, and you know you’re making something good and delicious for yourself and your family. It makes great sandwiches and toast and also freezes well. Be sure to have a softened stick of butter waiting when this comes out of the oven. I don’t know if there is anything better than a fresh piece of homemade bread fresh out of the oven, do you?

Cooking Notes:
• I’ve typed this as it is written, but I’ve adapted it through the years, so you’ll see my notes in italics.

• If you’re concerned about the small portions of some of the ingredients, I encourage a visit to your local coop and buy things in bulk. That way you can buy as much or as little as you like. Just remember, you’ll probably want to make this again, so it’s great to have them on hand!

Multi-Grain Bread
Yield: 1 loaf
From Breaking Bread with Father Dominic, PBS cooking show

2 ¼ to 2 ½ cups bread flour (I use King Arthur unbleached white flour)
¾ cup whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons rye flour
2 Tablespoons rolled oats
2 Tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 envelope (or 2 ¼ teaspoon) RapidRise Yeast (I use regular)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup water
3 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg
¼ cup flaxseed
1 egg white, lightly beaten with 1 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon rolled oats

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup bread flour, whole wheat flour, rye flour, rolled oats, cornmeal, undissolved yeast, and salt. Heat water, honey, and oil until very warm (120 to 130 degrees). Gradually add to dry ingredients. Beat two minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. (I use a wooden spoon.) Add egg, flaxseed, and ½ cup flour; beat 2 minutes at high speed. (Again, I use a spoon.) Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Roll dough into 12 x 8-inch rectangle. (I just use my hands to knead it into shape and roughly measure.) Beginning at the short end of rectangle, roll up tightly as for a jelly roll. Pinch seams and ends to seal. Place, seam side down in a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes. (I always let it rise longer, more than an hour.) Brush with egg white mixture; sprinkle with rolled oats. (While this is nice addition, I rarely do it.)

Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until done. Remove from loaf pan; cool on wire rack.

Slather a piece with butter and eat!