Shaped Dinner Rolls

Baking has been my passion for over 10 years now and ever since I embarked upon this roller coaster of a ride it has been nothing short of exciting, satisfying and a great learning experience. I first began my trials in my microwave with convection. While the cakes evolved from undercooked to charred to near perfect ones, breads never really took off. I ended up with dense blobs of dough that failed miserably. Perhaps I was using the wrong kind of yeast, perhaps I didn't follow the instructions properly or my kneading wasn't upto the mark. Whatever the case, I just abandoned bread baking altogether and focused only on cakes, cupcakes and the like. Over the years I had tried my hand at baking with several kinds of ovens. From a microwave with convection I progressed to an OTG (my best bakes happened with it), then I started my experiments with a gas oven at my brother's place when we relocated to Dubai and now I own a large electric oven which I am pretty satisfied with. The best part about having a large oven is that you can bake large quantities of breads in one go. Breads like baguettes or even rolls and cupcakes (if you are making several at a time) can be made without having to wait endlessly. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that I am happy with my bread baking skills that have greatly progressed over the years (and you thought I was giving you a crash course on which oven to buy? Haha!) 

Towards the end of 2014, I started my tryst with bread and the journey has been so enriching. I never knew that kneading bread would be so therapeutic (as slicing mushrooms is!) Since my family loves eating fresh bread at home I try and indulge them sometimes. There's nothing more heartwarming and pleasing than to have the aroma of freshly baked bread engulf your home and senses. Whenever there's bread baking in my oven I am transported back home, to the bakery near my house that used to get its mid afternoon supply of baked goodies. The fresh loaf of bread that had to be sliced before being packed in greaseproof paper that had the bakery's name 'Harish Bakery' printed in pink was a joy to behold. The bakery never sold rolls, only simple buns that my mother would religiously buy before going to the movie theatre. This was a time when a packet of simple salted popcorn costing Rs. 2/-  was enough for one person (unlike the unnecessarily oversized tubs of popcorn (in a mind numbing variety of flavours) sold at the movies today). We were also allowed to take our own snacks to the movies, no restrictions there, so the buns worked fine for us. Gosh! I miss those days already!

 So anyway, coming back to today's recipe. I've tried making these dinner rolls like umpteen number of times but never got around to posting the recipe cuz I was never too happy with the pictures. Either the lighting was bad or the collective hunger pangs of folks in my house never permitted a proper photoshoot to happen. My son totally loves making the shapes and the 4-strand braid (top right in collage #2 above) was made by him. He loves watching videos on bread baking and much to my surprise he made a 4-strand braid faster than I made the 3-strand one! His nimble hands look promising and I think he will do very well as a pastry chef when he grows up. For now, I welcome any help that he can offer me as making rolls can be slightly time consuming if you like to make different shapes. If not, just roll 'em up into little buns. They taste great anyways.

I usually make rolls to be served up with chicken livers. I have a cheat's recipe for Nando's Peri Peri style livers. Click here for the link. For more bread recipes please click here

Shaped Dinner Rolls
Prep time: 15-20mins | Proofing + shaping time time: 2 hours | Baking time: 15 mins | Yield: 16 rolls

For the glaze:
For the topping:
1. Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl. Add the instant yeast and sugar and mix everything well. Make a well in the centre
2. Add the butter and rub it into the flour till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
3. Lightly beat the egg into a small bowl and add the lukewarm (not hot) milk to it and mix. Add this mixture into the well in the centre of the flour.
4. Gently bring the mixture together to form a dough. The mixture will be very sticky so dust a clean working surface lightly with flour and turn out the dough mixture on to it and knead for 8-10 minutes till you get a smooth pliable dough * see notes
5. Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and turn it around gently it is coated with oil on all sides. Cover with a lightly oiled cling film/plastic wrap and keep in a warm place till the dough doubles in volume, about 1-1/2 hours (or lesses if you live in really warm weather)
6. When the dough has doubled turn it out on a clean working surface and gently punch out the air using all your fingers. Then lightly knead it once.
7. Using a weighing scale (preferably) measure the entire dough and then divide it into 12-16 equal pieces (my dough rose to weigh 800grams in total and I made 16 portions of 50 grams each)
8. Grease a large baking sheet lightly with butter or oil and keep it ready.
9. Roll each portion of dough into a smooth round ball before shaping it further. You can make knots, braids, wreaths and many other shapes. I made two rolls of the same shape making it a total of 8 shapes.
10. To make braids, divide a ball into three equal parts and roll it into ropes before braiding them. Pinch both ends tightly and tuck them under the braid.
11. To make trefoils, divide each piece of dough into three and roll into balls. Place the three balls together in a triangular form.
12. To make batons, shape each piece of dough into an oblong and slash the surface diagonally using a sharp knife.
13. To make knots, shape each piece of dough into a long rope and tie it into a single knot, pulling out the ends through
14. Place the prepared rolls on the greased baking sheet and cover with a lightly oiled cling film/plastic wrap and keep aside until doubled in volume, about 20-30 mins
15. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C for 15 mins. Mix the egg yolk and water to make the eggwash solution and when the rolls have doubled, gently brush them with the eggwash. Sprinkle with the seeds.
16. Bake in the preheated oven for 14-15 minutes or till golden. Remove from the oven and then using a metal spatula transfer them onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with the side dish of your choice.

The dough will be very very sticky at first but resist the urge to add too much flour. When you knead it for 8-10 minutes you will get a nice and soft dough as and how the gluten develops. Do keep some flour handy before you begin though just to help you knead the dough.

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