Monday, March 26, 2012

Pesto Rolls

I made these rolls the other day to go with some homemade chicken and rice soup and salad for dinner. Homemade bread takes a meal from good to extraordinary. If you are lucky enough to have a food processor and a stand mixer then it is no trouble at all to make fresh bread for every meal (if you are home). These also make great croutons when they are a day or two old. Simply cube and saute them with some olive oil and maybe some extra minced garlic. 
I didn't have quite enough basil needed so the rolls I have pictured are less green than the ones you will make. 

Hope you enjoy!

2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 1/4 cup bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

Special equipment needed:
Food processor with metal blade
Stand mixer fitted with dough hook attachment

Yields 8 large dinner rolls
Time: About 2 hours prep (1 1/2 hours rising) and 15 minute cook time.

Combine the pesto, olive oil, Parmesan, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt in the food processor and process until finely chopped and paste-like.
Place warm water and yeast in the bowl of the stand mixer. Add 1/4 cup of flour and whisk by hand. Let sit for 10 minutes or until yeast is activated and looks foamy.
Add pesto and whisk by hand until well blended. Add 3 remaining cups of flour and 1 1/2 teaspoon salts. Attach dough hook and blend on low until the dough begins to come together in one cohesive mass, about 2 to 3 minutes. 
Cover the dough with plastic wrap or damp lint-free cloth and let rest for 20 minutes. Scrape the bowl and then turn the dough over so everything gets mixed evenly. Knead on low until the dough is firm, elastic and smooth, 3 to 6 minutes. 
Lightly oil the bowl and brush the surface of the dough with oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let dough rise until doubled, about 1 hour (longer if your house is cold).
Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Press down the dough firmly to expel some air bubbles but be careful not to knead the dough again because it will make the dough hard to work with. (If this happens simply cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes to let the gluten relax).

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and shape each one into a taut, round ball. Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheet about 3 inches apart. 

Cover rolls looslely with plastic wrap or damp cloth and let rise until almost doubled, 35 to 40 minutes. (They should look like they took a deep breath).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone place it in the oven as it preheats and allow at least 30 minutes to an hour to fully heat. Otherwise bake on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Remove plastic wrap from rolls and lightly (very lightly) sprinkle with flour. Use a razor or sharp knife to make a decorate slash or two on each roll.
 Immediately place in oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until internal temp reads 200 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. 
Transfer to cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. 
The rolls can be baked earlier in the day and reheated in the oven for 400 degrees F for 6 to 7 minutes.

Store uncovered, at room temperature for 1 day. They can also be kept frozen for up to 1 month.
To freeze, let rolls cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and store in a plastic freezer bag. 
To thaw, spread apart on baking sheet at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, then reheat as directed to crisp the crust and warm the center. 

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