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A Basket of Italian Rolls

I picked up an old copy of La Cucina Italiana the other day, and marveled at all the things I hadn’t yet made.  So many recipes, so little time.

But last night, after getting home late from having dinner with friends, I made a poolish for some herbed rolls.  I’m off on Monday and have the time to play in the kitchen a bit more…

A poolish – for those who are not Italian or French bakers – is another name for a starter.  It’s a bit wetter than a biga – which is also a starter.  It’s flour, water, and a pinch of yeast left out overnight – a pre-fermentation starter.

And since I had two bags of Italian “00” flour, out it came.

I had to play with the recipe a bit because my flour was much drier than a basic all-purpose, but the rolls came out pretty good.  In fact, Victor ate one as a sandwich for lunch and raved about it.  And then had another with dinner – along with more raves.

Panini con erbe aromatiche

Herb Bread Rolls
adapted from La Cucina Italiana Magazine

Ingredients

Poolish

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup tepid water
  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

Dough

  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons finely chopped mixed herbs, such as oregano, rosemary and thyme

Instructions

Poolish: In a bowl, stir together flour, water and yeast. Let mixture stand at room temperature at least 10 hours or overnight.

Dough: Add flour, water, oil and salt to poolish; mix together to form dough. Turn out dough onto a clean surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Stretch and pat out dough into a 10-inch square and sprinkle with herbs. Knead, 1 minute, to incorporate herbs. Form dough into a ball, then transfer to a large bowl. Cover bowl with a clean, damp dishtowel and let dough rise, in a draft-free place at warm room temperature, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Spread a clean, dry dishtowel on work surface. Dust work surface and dishtowel with flour. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces; roll each piece into a ball. Cover balls with a clean damp dishtowel and let rest, 10 minutes. On work surface, stretch one ball into a 2- x 8-inch rectangle. With short side of rectangle facing you, fold bottom edge to center, then fold top edge to center. Press firmly with fingertips to seal seams, then fold in half, folding bottom edge over top. Pinch together all seams, then gently roll dough to create a 5-inch-long loaf.

With the edge of your hand, firmly press center of loaf to create a deep indentation. Transfer loaf to prepared  dishtowel. Repeat with remaining dough. Sprinkle flour over indentations, then cover loaves with a second clean, dry dishtowel. Let rise, in a draft-free place at warm room temperature, 25 minutes.

Heat oven to 450° with rack in middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange loaves on baking sheets. One batch at a time, bake rolls until deep golden, about 20 minutes. Let rolls cool on a wire rack at least 10 minutes before serving.

I used fresh thyme and oregano and the herb flavor was barely perceptible.  You could easily go for a full tablespoon of minced fresh herbs with no problem.

But the rolls, themselves were really good.  They shall stay in the repertoire!

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