Fluffy Dinner Rolls                 (from America's Test Kitchen)

To impart a moistness and feathery crumb, a bit à la shokupan, make a flour-and-water slurry before commencing your roll recipe. This technique also makes the rolls last longer when stored. Here's a sample recipe.

To make the slurry, this recipe starts by whisking three tablespoons of flour in one-half cup of water...

Yield

A 9" cake pan of one dozen rolls. This recipe is for 2 cups of flour. If you want instead enough to bake in a deep 13"×9" pan, multiply everything by 2.

Ingredients

Slurry
3 tbsp all-purpose or bread flour
½ cup water
 
Main ingredients
the slurry
½ cup milk
1 large egg
2 cups bread flour
1½ tsp instant/rapid-rise yeast; I use Saf-Instant® (at right)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp softened butter, unsalted

Preparation

1. Make the slurry by whisking the flour into the water until no lumps remain. Microwave the slurry stirring every 20 seconds until it turns into a stiff, but smooth pudding-like paste that will stand up a bit when you lift and let it drip back onto itself. Typically, you will need only 2 periods in the microwave.

2. In your stand mixer's bowl, not under the mixer, whisk together the slurry and the milk. Add the egg and continue whisking until well incorporated. Then park the bowl under the mixer.

Making the dough

3. Add the bread flour plus the yeast. Put the bowl into the mixer under its dough hook and mix on low until all of the flour is moistened, 1-2 minutes, then let it sit in the bowl for 15 minutes.

4. Add the sugar and salt, mix on medium-low for 5 minutes.

5. With the mixer still running, add the butter, one tablespoon at a time as you incorporate it. Let the mixer run for 5 more minutes scraping down the sides of the bowl and the dough hook to ensure perfect incorporation of all ingredients. The dough will be a bit sticky (do put enough flour for the dough to pull away from the bottom of the bowl).

First proofing

6. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it into a ball. Put the dough, seam-side down, into a greased bowl for proofing. Spray with Pam and cover with plastic wrap. Let the paton proof until doubled, about 1 hour.

Making the rolls

7. Grease a 9" cake pan. Transfer the paton to your kneading surface, resist the temptation to add flour. Press gently to expel air and flatten out to about 9" square. Cut the dough from top to bottom near you into 4 equal strips. Cut all the strips across into three; you should see 12 pieces of dough like this:


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8. For each piece of dough, stretch and flatten gently into an 8"×2" strip. Roll the dough into a snug cylinder. Arrange seam-side down like the blades of a fan pushed up to the edge of the 9" round pan. You should get 10 rolls around the edge with barely enough room in the center for the remaining 2 rolls.

Second proofing

9. Cover with plastic wrap, let proof until double in volume, 45-60 minutes.

10. Preheat oven to 375° with a rack on the bottom. Bake rolls on this rack until deep, golden brown, 25-30 minutes.

11. Cool rolls in the pan for 3 minutes, then invert carefully from pan, then reinvert (right side-up) to serve. Brush tops with melted butter.

To store and serve again

The rolls may be stored in the refrigerator, taken out, wrapped in aluminum foil and reheated at 350° for 15 minutes.

They also store in the freezer. Wrap them in aluminum foil, then in resealable plastic to keep air out. Reheat in their foil 325 for 10 minutes.

Recipe refrigeration

It is possible to make the dough the day before then bake the day-of. Refrigerate the dough once you've rolled it into individual cylinders and put them into the baking pan. There they will rise a little more despite the cold. Simply remove from the refrigerator, let them stand for 30 minutes while bringing the oven up to temperature, then bake.

More abberations...

For potato rolls, use mashed potato in the dough.
To make Hawaiian rolls add pineapple juice in place of some of the milk.