My dog Fellini loves when I bake. Or rather, I should say, he loves what I bake. I actually probably should extend that to say that he loves just about anything that is edible. And he is particularly happy when I’m standing over the stove. He actually plants himself between me and the stove, hoping for that tiny morsel that just might slip out of my fingers and into his mouth.
I think the only thing he refuses is a leafy green. Of course, we don’t feed him the yicky bad-for-pup stuff like chocolate, onions, and garlic. But everything else is fair game. Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn the hard way not to leave my baked items out to cool on the countertop.
One day, I was painting my bathroom and had baked some delicious lemon-raspberry muffins. They were cooling on the counter. I returned to the kitchen and noticed that quite a few were missing. I asked Wendy if she was abnormally hungry that morning. She claimed not to have touched the muffins. I looked to the culprit, gleefully lying under the kitchen table, licking his chops, little muffin crumbs scattered haphazardly across his paws. Another time, I walked into the kitchen to find Fellini standing on top of the dining room table. I’ve since found him like this on a number of occasions. He is a sneak.
Recently, I decided to bake Georgene’s Fluffy Rolls from Saveur Cooks Authentic American. I’ve wanted to try them for quite some time, having a particular affinity for sweet buttery Southern dinner rolls (my Texas roots are showing). These looked like the real deal, although, as you might know, I can’t seem to follow a recipe, and of course, I had issues with this one. The recipe calls for 3/4 cup sugar, which I find a bit excessive. So I cut it to 1/2 cup (which ended up being perfect).
After mixing and kneading the dough, you set it aside to rise for “at least 3 hours.” That’s a really long time, especially if it was a warm summer day (isn’t Georgene from Memphis?). It actually happened to be a cold Bay Area winter day, and it was still too long of a rising time on the dough. The dough had doubled by 1 1/2 hours. Determined, I let it go for 2 1/2 hours but then my better judgment got the best of me and I had to punch it down (which releases the built up carbon dioxide) and roll it out.
After rolling the dough and cutting out to rolls came the fun part: dipping each round of dough in a vat of melted butter. Oh, and don’t worry, Fellini was by my side during this entire production. He was particularly enamored with this part though, as he has been known to steal an entire stick of butter off the counter and eat it within 2 seconds.
The recipe never tells you what kind of baking pan to line up the rolls in, so at first I thought to use a rimmed baking sheet (as the recipe says it makes 2 1/2 dozen rolls, which is impossible if you cut them out with a 3-inch biscuit cutter; I ended up with about half that amount). When I realized that wasn’t going to work, I switched to 2 cake pans, which seemed to work okay.
The recipe then instructs you to proof the rolls for “at least 2 1/2 hours.” Again, excessive. Mine were ready in about 1 1/2 hours and that was being generous. The problem with over-proofing your bread is that it starts to taste fermented. And not in a good way, like sourdough. It can also collapse on itself when you put it in the oven.
But that didn’t happen. They came out perfect. Perfectly fluffy, perfectly sweet, perfectly buttery, and perfectly Southern. And the perfect size to fit into Fellini’s mouth, in one swift gulp.