One of my favorites meals this time of year is a bowl of hearty soup accompanied with with warm homemade bread or rolls. I often add mushrooms to soup because mushrooms are one of the foods that have "umami" Umami is described as the fifth sense- it adds a savory intense flavor that is especially welcome this time of year.
Making yeast bread can require a lot of time, but most of the time needed is not active time in the kitchen. The recipe for Herb Dinner Rolls is from my cookbook, Baking Basics and Beyond (Surrey Books, 2006) is a favorite because it is easy and using quick-rising yeast makes it fast, too. It only requires one rise and the rolls bake quickly. The most important step in preparing yeast doughs is to use the proper temperature for the water so that the yeast isn't killed.
Easy Herb Dinner Rolls
Fast-rising yeast makes these rolls easy enough to make any time. I actually purchased herbes de Provence at a market in the South of France. It usually includes basil, marjoram, sage, thyme, rosemary, and lavender. You can use any combination of herbs you like.
MAKES 12 ROLLS
1 (1/4-ounce) package fast-rising yeast
1 cup warm water (105–115°F)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening
2 1/2–3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Sprinkle yeast into warm water in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Add sugar and shortening and stir. Let stand 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and herbes de Provence and beat until well mixed. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Save at least 1/4 cup of flour to add while kneading the dough.
Place dough on well-floured surface and shape it into a ball. Place your fingers on top of dough ball, curled slightly, and pull dough toward you; then push it away, using palms of your hands. Turn dough 1/4 turn and repeat. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 to 8 minutes.
To judge whether dough has been sufficiently kneaded, place it on work surface, pull both ends gently, and release. Dough should be elastic and spring back. Little blisters of air should be visible just under the surface.
Cover and let dough rest 10 minutes. I just invert a bowl over the dough.
Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Punch dough down and divide it into 12 pieces. Shape dough into balls by pulling the sides underneath forming a smooth top. Place in prepared pan.
Cover pan and let dough rise in a warm place about 30 minutes or until rolls have doubled in volume. Test by pressing dough lightly. If your finger leaves only a slight imprint the dough is ready.
Heat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Bake rolls 15 to 20 minutes or until they are golden brown. After rolls are removed from oven, brush them with melted butter.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: To form the rolls, I divide the dough in half and then continue to divide each half until I have 12 pieces. If the pieces are very uneven, pinch dough from larger balls and add it to smaller balls so the rolls bake evenly.
Baking Basics and Beyond by Pat Sinclair, Surrey Books 2006