Baking, Bread Hoarders Anonymous, Breads
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Bread Whore ~ School Rolls

Except for a brief period of time when Jane went to Marietta High (she still attests that the meals cooked in any one of the three – count’em, 3  dining rooms – were stellar food),  school lunches have always been a point of contention. We bitch about the pseudo protein nuggets they currently feed our kids and the layers upon layers of overly sweetened,  deep fried “easy way out” meals that most systems have allowed to overtake the meal program.

lunch ladies

Lunchladies (photo from greaterlongbeach.com)

Years ago, we weren’t any better. Even though we had real, actual, lunch ladies – that cooked real, actual  meals; we still found the fuel and energy to moan about the worm-like spaghetti with the sauce that congealed before you got it back to the table, or the odd, flat meatloaf that more resembled scouring pads than actual meat. Every generation has it’s pressure point.

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…Except when it came to the bread.

Most schools made their own bread; ours was no different. I bet every person that when to school when I did can remember splitting open one of those yeasty pillows – smacking it up to their nose – and breathing deep all that yeast… and steam… and warm baked goodness.  It was like getting a bone crushing  hug from a big sweaty baker. Honestly, lunch could be all kinds of crap, but if there was a rectangle of yeast bread on the perfectly compartmentalized plate, then lunch was a success.


I wanted to recreate those beloved rolls. I knew that the recipe had to be something exceptionally simple. Lunch ladies (at least at our school) cooked 3 complete lunch shifts a day, so dinner rolls had to be something they could whip up in a jiffy, let rise, and be ready to bake and serve at a moment’s notice…. (did I mention those rolls were always “fresh out of the oven” hot?)

My first thought was to contact one of our mavens of the lunchroom and ask her the recipe… not really thinking about the year… or that even if they were still alive, they’d be well over 100 years old. I wasn’t successful. I eventually found eight recipes that seemed to do the trick in speed and easy, but they were no where near yeasty enough. I’ve combined all the recipes, increasing the yeast and sugar.

The result?

Sweet, yeasty, schoolhouse roll indulgence.

Fair warning – the recipe makes a passel of rolls… read that as 50. But… cut them into the iconic rectangles I grew up on, and you have perfect sandwich rolls. Or – since the July 4th cookout extravaganza is just around the corner – be creative and roll them into little balls and they can make the perfect mini hamburger bun….

lord knows, I can eat a sack full of sliders.

School Lunch Yeast Rolls

Ingredients

Pre Mix

  • 3 cups Warm Water
  • 6 teaspoons Dry Active / Instant Yeast
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar

Dry Ingredients

  • 10 cups Bread Flour
  • 2/3 cups Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Salt
  • 1/3 cup Lard

Liquids

  • 1/3 cup Milk
  • 2 Eggs

Second Knead

  • 1/4 cup Butter (Melted)

Tools of the Trade

  • 1 Large Mixing Bowl
  • 2 Sheet Pans
  • 2 sheets Parchment Paper
  • 1 Cooking Spray
  • 1 Ruler
  • 1 Pizza Cutter

Directions

Step 1
Mix the water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon of sugar together. Set aside until the yeast is activated and bubbly. (About 10 to 12 minutes)
Step 2
In a Very Large bowl, add the flour, remaining sugar, salt and lard. Work the flour mix with your hands until the lard is fully incorporated in the mix and you can no longer feel any lumps of shortening.
Step 3
Add the eggs and milk into the yeast mixture and whisk well. Gradually add the liquids into the dry mix - stirring constantly with a wood or plastic spoon.
Step 4
Once the dough has formed a rough, shaggy dough, Use your hands and knead for 2 minutes or so to pick up any loose flour and to form into a ball. Do Not over knead. Cover with Plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size ( 45 minutes to 1 hour)
Step 5
Leaving the dough in the bowl, Melt the butter and pour over the risen dough.
Step 6
Work and knead with your hands until all the butter is incorporated and forms an even smooth dough ball. (This will take only 2 to 3 minutes)
Step 7
Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured working surface and give the dough a light dusting of flour.
Step 8
Do not Roll, instead, pull and stretch the dough into a one inch thick rectangle. Use the ruler and pizza cutter to cut into 2" squares. (You will get 48 squares)
Step 9
Roll into balls and place on papered and sprayed parchments lined baking sheets - about 1" apart. Cover and allow to rise another 45 minutes.
Step 10
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake one pan at a time for 12 minutes on the middle rack.

Speaking of Sliders… tomorrow we’ll give you the best damn burger recipe to stuff in those buns.

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