Every year we host Thanksgiving… often with up to twenty or more around the table. Of course, last year was completely different, due to the global pandemic we are suffering through, but this year, with all of us being vaccinated, we had a small gathering to give thanks for all that is good in our lives. I was thrilled. There were eight of us, which was cozy and perfect.
[Imagine photo here…. we were all so overjoyed at being together that none of us took a moment away to grab a photo.]
But here is the table in our living room, before getting set, with our cat Togy enjoying the cat cave.
Well, here’s the truth of it: making a feast for eight is just as much work as making a feast for twenty. I usually start the day before Thanksgiving, and spend two entire days putting everything together. This year was no exception. My older daughter Mara asked if we could have “King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls” (she and Millie love them), and I happily said yes, thinking that I would be off the hook for bread. She picked a package up at the grocery store.
Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving, I had trouble falling asleep, imagining a feast without homemade rolls! How could I let that happen? So, I woke up extra early on Thanksgiving morning, and got busy right away. I thought about what sounded good… what reminded me of Thanksgiving – something savory and fragrant. Rosemary! I looked at Carol’s recipe for white bread, and decided to use that as my base.
I used a mix of flours – all-purpose, bread flour, and white whole wheat – to make things interesting. And I have plenty of fresh rosemary in the garden, so adding that in was easy. Carol’s recipe calls for vegetable oil – I used extra virgin olive oil for added flavor. And finally, I brushed the rolls with egg white and sprinkled them with Maldon sea salt flakes.
The rolls turned out beautifully!
They were a big hit with everyone, even with the girls. Or maybe I should say especially with the girls. I have been making them about every three days to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and also because the girls have been taking them to school every day for their lunches. And if you should know, it is a high compliment to have your high schooler bring your baked goods to school and share with her buddies.
Salted Rosemary Olive Oil Buns
(Makes 1 dozen)
For the sponge:
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (about 110°)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup (about 60 grams) white whole wheat flour*
- 2 cups bread flour (about 240 grams)*
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (9 grams)
- 2 1/4 teaspoon (1 packet) active dry yeast
For the dough:
- 1 to 2 cups (120 to 240 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary needles
For the tops:
- 1 egg white (for glaze)
- 1 tablespoon Maldon sea salt flakes (or comparable) for sprinkling
- To make the sponge: in a stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix together the warm water, olive oil, white whole wheat flour, bread flour, sea salt, and yeast. Once ingredients are well mixed, let mixture rest for twenty minutes. It should end up with a few bubbles.
- After the sponge has rested, add the rosemary and one cup of all-purpose flour and mix until the flour and rosemary are incorporated. Switch to a dough hook, and mix at low speed (#2 on my mixer) for about 8 to 10 minutes. Dough should pull away from sides of bowl, and be stretchy/tacky/easy to handle. If dough is still too wet and sticky, add a little more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until it becomes tacky and pulls away from the bowl. It should feel like the sticky side of a post-it note.
- Dump dough onto floured surface and knead by hand for a bit more, until dough is springy. Shape into a ball.
- Cover with a tea towel (you can do this on your counter) and let rise for one hour.
- Lightly flour the top of the dough ball and flip over so that the sticky side is facing up. Cut into 12 equal pieces with a sharp knife or bench scraper (I like to weigh the pieces of dough so that the rolls are all the same size, but that’s just me).
- With the sticky side still facing up, pull the sides of the dough pieces into the center and pinch together, making a little sack. Turn seam side down and roll into a ball with a cupped hand, tightening the shape. Here is a great video from King Arthur Baking Company that shows how to do this: How to shape dough into balls.
- Place the rolls seam side down on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet, equally spaced. Cover with tea towel and let rest for an hour. Rolls should rise and become visibly puffy. When you poke with a finger, the dough should very slowly pop back, still leaving a little imprint. About half way through the rise time, preheat your oven to 350°.
- In a small bowl, stir egg white with a fork until slightly frothy. Brush the rolls with the egg white. With a pair of scissors, snip a cross in the top of each roll. Sprinkle the tops with a small pinch of the sea salt flakes.
- Bake on center rack in 350° oven for about 30 minutes, until lightly golden.
- Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet. Makes one dozen rolls.
Note: *If you only have all-purpose flour, you can still make these rolls, and they will be delicious! I recommend King Arthur Baking Company flour for best results.
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