Monday, February 9, 2009

crusty cornstalk rolls

i love gourmet magazine but when i pull a new issue out of the mailbox and a giant hunk of meat has overtaken the cover it takes a little more work and searching to get excited. such was not the case with the february issue. a cover photograph of rolls! all different kinds of gorgeous, golden dinner rolls...i didn't know where i would begin! yesterday i decided on the crusty cornstalk rolls. i'm not sure what made me choose them over the others. maybe it was the shape (a cornstalk!)? the interactive element of ripping off each roll? the promise of a hearty exterior and a chewy interior? or maybe it's just because they didn't require me to buy any additional ingredients (except flour but, ya know, they all kind of require that)?

whatever led me to it, it was a good decision. the dough was easy to make and easy to work with. it only took about four and a half hours to go from mixing ingredients to taking warm bread out of the oven allowing for (near) instant gratification (as far as breadmaking goes). it was really yummy and the texture sort of reminded me of ciabatta. last night we enjoyed it with a lemony-thyme white bean spread. tonight it will become bruschetta. while we were eating it, i thought that this would be a great bread to make for thanksgiving but, of course, by the time november comes around i'll probably forget.

crusty cornstalk rolls
(gourmet, february 2009)
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (105–115°F), divided
1 teaspoon mild honey or sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading and dusting
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon stone-ground yellow cornmeal, divided

stir together yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and honey/sugar in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (if mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)

mix flour, salt, 1/2 cup cornmeal, and remaining cup warm water into yeast mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms.

turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead, dusting surface and your hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. form dough into a ball.

put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (mine was closer to the 1 1/2 side).

punch down dough (do not knead) and fold into thirds like a letter (dough will be soft), then gently roll into a 12-inch-long log with lightly floured hands.

sprinkle a large baking sheet evenly with remaining 2 tablespoon cornmeal and put dough diagonally in center. alternating sides, make 3-inch-long diagonal cuts, about 1 1/2 inches apart, into sides of log using kitchen shears (ends of cuts should not touch; maintain a center "stalk"). gently pull apart cuts to stretch dough, forming rolls that are separate (about 1 1/2 inches apart) but connected to center stalk. cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours (mine took 1 hour).

preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle.

spray rolls with water, then bake, spraying into oven 3 times in first 5 minutes of baking* (to help form a crust), until golden, about 20 minutes. transfer rolls to a rack and cool at least 20 minutes.

as you can see in my picture, after i cut the rolls they sort of grew and baked back together so the cornstalk element was not quite as dramatic. however, they still pulled apart easily. maybe next time i would just stretch them a bit more after cutting.

*i don't have a spray bottle so i just lightly brushed the dough with water before putting it in the oven. i also put a bread pan with a few ice cubes in the bottom of the oven in place of spraying. it was fine. the bread was crusty.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I saw the same recipe in Gourmet and was so intrigued by the presentation! I didn't have time to make it while I was home, but your version seems to have turned out really well! I wonder how they got the rolls to look so perfect in the pictures.