Semolina Rolls

I haven’t been eating very well, lately.  It’s been Operation Pantry Clean Out around here, which has resulted in a lot of starch-based meals.  Today’s meal plan, for instance, was bread for breakfast, chickpeas and VegNews Macaroni & Cheese (starch-with-starch-sauce) for lunch, and bread for dinner.  And then I had a banana smoothie, which I guess was sort of heading in a healthier direction.  Oh well.  Although my newly adopted bread-based diet isn’t exactly something I’m proud of, I have at least been eating delicious, homemade bread.  I get credit for that, right?

This is perhaps my favorite bread recipe.  It’s definitely the one I make most often.  These rolls are puffy and soft, with a beautiful golden color from the 100% semolina dough.  They are the ideal dinner roll for soaking up soup, or for breakfast with nut butter or jam (or Earth Balance, if you’re into that sort of thing). I mostly just eat them plain, because they’re delicious on their own.

I find it pretty entertaining to watch them rise in the oven; they get way bigger than you think they should, and it impresses me every time.  Not that I stand around watching my bread bake or anything.  Except sometimes I do.  Don’t judge.

I’m posting both the weight and volume measurements, but I’ve never measured by volume for this recipe, so I can’t vouch for the results.  Weighing ingredients is not only more accurate for baking, it’s also easier.  Put a bowl on the scale and start dumping everything in.  I’m lazy, you know.

Semolina Rolls (Adapted from Local Breads by Daniel Leader, via The Fresh Loaf)

Makes 8-10 rolls

  • 300 grams (1 1/2 cups) water
  • 5 grams (1 teaspoon) instant yeast
  • 500 grams (3 1/4 cups) semolina flour
  • 15 grams (1 tablespoon) sugar
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 10 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Lightly flour your work surface with semolina flour and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10-12 minutes. Or, you can make the dough in a stand mixer or food processor fitted with the appropriate hook/blade.  Turn it on and let it go. It will take a little less time than hand kneading, for obvious reasons.

The dough will start out super wet.  You’ll think you need more flour.  If you can, resist this urge.  The more you knead, the more it will come together.  The semolina absorbs more moisture as you work with it, so it will get easier as you keep kneading.  In the end, the dough will still be a little sticky, so don’t worry about it.

Once you’ve finished kneading your dough, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise until it has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Alternatively, if you have a bread machine, ignore all of the above and just throw everything into the pan and set it on the dough cycle.  Let it do its thing.  I know it sounds like a major cop out, but I use my bread machine a lot for making dough.  It takes all the work out of kneading (remember: lazy), and it provides a nice, warm little box for the dough to rise in.  I picked up my machine for $5 at a thrift store, and it was worth every penny, even though the baking function doesn’t work and ultimately just produces weird masses of semi-baked, super dense dough*.  It’s no wonder someone got rid of it.  It works fine for my needs (or my kneads, har har), though!  I don’t want to bake in it, anyway.  Would I have bought a machine for whatever they cost brand new?  Definitely not.  It’s worth trolling the thrift stores for a used one, though.  I see them all the time, and they’re always dirt cheap.  Those things seem to be high on the Unwanted Gifts list.

*I’m not even going to lie; the first time I “baked” a loaf in my machine, and it didn’t even rise and came out as a big, doughy lump, I ate that stupid lump anyway — the whole thing (not at once, though; I’m not that crazy).  By the end of it, I actually kind of started to like it.  I missed it a little when it was gone.  Yes, I am ashamed.  You can judge me for that.  You probably should.

Anyway!  Back to the bread.  At this point, you’re ready to shape your rolls.  The easiest way to do this is to weigh your dough, then divide by the number of rolls you want to end up with, to determine how much each ball of dough should weigh.  I like to make 9 rolls, and each dough ball generally weighs in at just under 100 grams.  If you’re not using a scale, I will forgive you if you just eyeball it.  To shape them, wet your hands and pull the dough into a tight ball.

Place your rolls on two baking sheets lined with parchment.  Give them plenty of room, because they will expand significantly in the oven.  Cover with plastic wrap and let them proof for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  They don’t need to double in size again, but you should see them puff up a bit.

When your rolls are nearing the end of their second rise, preheat the oven to 375F.  On the middle rack, bake one tray at a time for 18-22 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown on top and sound hollow when you knock on them.

If you want fresh rolls for breakfast (the best idea ever!), you can omit the second rise and refrigerate the shaped rolls on the baking pans overnight.  The next morning, take the pans out and let them come to room temperature while you preheat your oven.  As soon as the oven is hot, you can bake your rolls immediately — no additional rising time needed.  They’ll bake up just fine.

These rolls are best served straight out of the oven, but they also freeze very well.  I’ve found that they get stale really fast, so any rolls you’re not going to eat within a day will be best if frozen right away.  They are excellent toasted, though, so that’s also good option for day-old rolls… if they last that long.

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