French Dinner Rolls

I was looking for a recipe for light rolls to make sandwiches for lunch that would bring a welcome change to the day-in/day-out country-style bread we always have at home.  I turned to a recipe for French yeast dough–pâte levèe–that is used to make pissaladière à la Niçoise, which is an onion tart that is commonly served in the south of France.  The tart dough is decorated with onions, anchovies, and black olives and then baked.  I’m not a fan of anchovies, but I sense that pairing this strong fishy fish with the other ingredients would make this onion tart quite a treat.  Leaving that project for another day, I kept my focus on making a new alternative to my regular sandwich bread.  I was ready to try my experiment.

As is usually the case with bread making, there is a first rise, punch down and shaping, and then a second rise before going into the oven.  Before all of that, I needed to make the dough in the first place!  Starting things off was dissolving the yeast in water.  That is to say, mix for a bit so it’s all wet and starts dissolving and then letting it sit while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

I put the flour in a large bowl, made a well in the middle of the flour, and placed the egg yolk, olive oil, salt and pepper into the well.  I returned to my yeast/water mixture and mixed in some of the flour to form a thin paste.

I poured this into the well and mixed all the ingredients together.  I kneaded the dough until it formed a ball that was elastic and didn’t stick to my fingers.  This ball of dough is ready for the first rise.

I placed the dough in another bowl with higher sides, covered it with plastic wrap, and let it rise.  It’s preferable to place the dough in a warm, humid place if a quicker rise is needed.  I didn’t really have a warm, humid place to put the bowl, so it just sat on the counter in the kitchen.  The rise took about 2 hours, so longer than I thought it should, but I heard that a longer rise increases flavor, so I wasn’t worried.  Here it is, finally (with my fingerprint):

I punched this down and lightly kneaded the dough.  I then divided the dough up into 8 pieces.

I tried forming the dough into little canoes for some reason.  Not very pretty, but I thought it’s worth a shot to see what would happen if I made this strange shape.  I placed the shaped dough onto a lined baking sheet.  I am not quite sure if they would have stuck to the pan if I didn’t line the baking sheet, but I wasn’t about to risk it.

What happened to my strange shape was not much–the dough rose and filled in my boats!  Oh well.  If I really wanted an indentation, the thing to do would be to cut a slit with a razor blade, but that didn’t seem right for these rolls, so I let go of the idea of rolls that look like canoes.

For these rolls, they have the added step of slathering an egg wash on them so they have a nice golden brown color when they are baked and emerge from the oven.

Here they are out of the oven.  It was a quick bake–about 15 minutes.

The kids loved them for their sandwiches, but they went very quickly.  I’ll need to double the recipe next time!

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