Whither the dinner roll? Once the hallmark of a great home cook, when we think of dinner rolls at all today, it's as some kind of quaint artifact of another time. "Remember rolls?" we laugh as we tear off another chunk of sourdough baguette. But this recipe, from food writer Regina Schrambling, is a reminder that a well-made roll is something special. Crisp on the outside but tender at the center. Bready, certainly, but already so rich and buttery that they practically melt as you chew. They're terrific enough to have been named one of the best recipes of the year in 2002.
And they adapt easily to even the most crowded Thanksgiving schedule. Make the dough the day before and give it a long, slow rise in the refrigerator. Then, when you take the turkey out of the oven, just pop the rolls in to bake while the bird rests before carving.
Slow-rising pumpkin-thyme dinner rolls
30 minutes, plus 2 hours standing and 8 hours chilling
12 cloverleaf or 18 dinner rolls
2 (¼-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups flour, plus up to 1 cup more
Olive oil, for greasing bowl
2 tablespoons melted butter
1. Sprinkle the yeast
over the water in a large mixing bowl and stir to dissolve. Using a wooden spoon, beat in the eggs, pumpkin, soft butter, sugar, salt, thyme and cayenne. Add 3 cups of flour and beat until smooth, gradually adding more flour as needed to make a soft, sticky but still manageable dough. Make sure the dough is well mixed. Oil a larger bowl and scrape the dough into it, turning to oil all sides. Cover with a dish towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 11/2 hours. Punch the dough down, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
2. For round dinner rolls,
grease 2 (8-inch) cake pans with melted butter. Punch the dough down again and shape into round rolls, arranging them in pans with about one-half inch between each. For cloverleaf rolls, butter a 12-cup muffin tin, tear off tablespoon-sized balls and place 3 in each muffin cup. (If the dough is too sticky to handle easily, lightly butter or oil your hands.) Cover the rolls with a dish towel, and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes.
3. Heat the oven
to 375 degrees. Bake the rolls until browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot or warm.