I’m not usually much of a baker. I blame this on living at high altitude, but it’s probably actually due to my lack of preciseness and patience in the kitchen. However, this holiday season found me baking lots of rolls. For some reason, I ended up with this task at more than one family holiday meal and I welcomed the challenge by searching for the best roll recipe out there. In the end, I tried several different recipes but my favorite was a recipe for Honey Wheat rolls from cookinglight.com. This recipe turned out light, flavorful rolls every time and was easy to follow, even for a baking klutz such as myself. But even after mastering this recipe (and tweaking it a little), I was often drawn to the piles of pre-packaged, brown-and-serve rolls piled high in every grocery store during this season. I mean, just pop them in the oven for 5 minutes and your done? There is definitely something appealing about that ease, especially when preparing a large, complicated meal during the holidays. So, I ended up making a batch of my favorite whole-wheat rolls and comparing them to a package of Safeway Select brand heat-and-serve wheat rolls form the bakery. Here is my recipe for Honey Whole-Wheat rolls, adapted from this recipe on cookinglight.com:
- 1 package dry yeast
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 Tablespoons butter, melted plus an extra tablespoon for greasing the pan
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- Put the yeast into a large mixing bowl. In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, honey and butter just until the butter is melted and milk is warm (about 100ºF). If milk rises above 110ºF, set it aside to cool for a few minutes. Add the warm milk mixture to the yeast in the bowl and stir until yeast is dissolved.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, the whole-wheat flour and the salt to the bowl and stir until well mixed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board or counter and knead, adding extra flour, a little at a time, to prevent sticking. Continue to knead for several minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a lightly buttered bowl, covered with a damp towel and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 400ºF and lightly butter 12 muffin cups. Once dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and punch down. Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Take one portion of the dough and divide it further into 3 equal balls. Roll each ball until smooth and then place them in one of the greased muffin cups. Repeat with the remaining dough until all the muffin cups are filled. Set aside to rise a second time for 30 minutes.
- Beat the egg with a tablespoon of water and brush each of the risen rolls with a little of this egg wash. Bake rolls in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Serve immediately, or rewarm in a 400º oven for a few minutes before serving.
Once the store bought rolls were browned in the oven, they actually looked almost as appetizing as the homemade version. They browned up very nicely on top and had a pretty good, fluffy texture. The biggest difference was really in the flavor of the rolls. The homemade rolls had a lovely wheat flavor enhanced by the richness of butter and honey. The store bought rolls, in contrast, were rather dull and flavorless, but not completely unappetizing.
As far as price goes, rolls are pretty cheap no matter how you make them. The store bought rolls were $2.00 for a dozen while the homemade rolls came in at about $1.50 per dozen. Not a huge difference. Of course, the biggest appeal of store bought rolls is the convenience and they certainly won on that score. The store bought rolls only need to be warmed for 5 minutes in a preaheat oven, while the homemade rolls required about 3 1/2 hours of preparation, and a good 45 minutes of hands on work.
Bottom Line: While homemade rolls definitely have a superior depth of flavor to the store bought variety, they do require a lot of planning and extra work. If you see rolls as a special side dish that will make the meal, these may be worth your time. However, if rolls are more of an after thought at your dinner table, store bought rolls are perfectly adequate.