Light, Fluffy Homeade Whole Wheat Rolls

Thank goodness for my cousin Sarah Smith Brown and my Aunt Mickey. It was Mickey’s recipe (adapted by Sarah) that got me started wanting to make whole wheat rolls.

The first of our three guiding principles at Longleaf Breeze is that we are approaching but will never reach subsistence. For us, that means we will always need to get help from off the farm but that we work to spend less money off the farm each year. We’ve been knowing for awhile that we were spending lots of money on bread, because Amanda’s and my taste runs to the expensive stuff. We don’t buy the loaf of Colonial, or even Pepperidge Farm. We go for the artisan bread they sell at Costco for almost $5. So I loved seeing Sarah’s whole wheat rolls on Facebook several months ago, and she was kind enough to send me her recipe. Last night I got around to trying them. I started with one of those bags of bulk yeast that comes in a foil pouch and feels like a lightweight brick until you cut it open. Following Sarah’s instructions, I also bought some soy lecithin. She includes it to make the rolls crust up a little better and to stay fresh a tad longer.

dough1-for-sitedough2-for-siteFirst I ladled two heaping tablespoons of that marvelous yeast into a bowl of warm water and set it aside. Then I poured another cup of water into my mixing bowl and heated it for one minute and twenty seconds in my microwave. I added 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup olive oil. I mixed that well and then added two teaspoons of salt and the yeast mixture to it. Then 4 tablespoons of lecithin. By this time, the mixture was warm but not hot. I then began slowly adding 2 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour (carefully measured by the spoonful to keep it fluffy) and mixing constantly. I mixed it for about three minutes and then let it sit for about 30 minutes. During that time it rose as you see here, from the size shown on the left to the size shown on the right, about double the volume. Isn’t yeast wonderful? Lee’s note on 6/29/11: I’ve since decided that two level tablespoons of yeast is plenty. The rolls rise just fine and don’t taste as strongly of yeast. dough3-for-sitedough4-for-siteThen I added 2 1/2 cups more whole wheat flour. My little hand-held mixer wasn’t up to the task of mixing this, so I just stirred it and mixed it with a spoon and my hands. Then I let it rise for another 30 minutes, during which it changed from the size you see on the left to the size you see on the right. It was 7:30 pm by the time I had gotten around to making rolls, so I knew I couldn’t bake these in the Sun Oven. As you know, we don’t own a range, so I used our counter-top toaster oven. About 15 minutes into the second rising, I set the oven to preheat to 400 degrees. I coated the insides of the tiny pan we use in it with solid shortening and then covered the surface with corn meal to make sure I hadn’t missed a spot. raw-rolls-for-sitecooked-rolls-for-siteI made nine balls about 1 3/4″ in diameter and arranged them in my little baking pan so that the sides just touched. Then I turned the oven down to 350 degrees and put the rolls in to bake. I used the regular “bake” setting rather than the convection setting. I was concerned – rightly or wrongly – that the convection setting would cook them too fast on the top. Within about 17 minutes, the rolls were fully cooked. I could have let them brown more, but I knew I wanted to be able to reheat them, so I opted to pull them a minute or two early. The photos on the left and right show the rolls before and after cooking. Yes, the cooked rolls look a little like one shapeless mass, but we had no trouble separating them into individual rolls, and the shortening and corn meal worked great. The rolls didn’t even think about sticking. Cleaning the pan was simple with a wet sponge and a little soap. No scrubbing needed. Sarah’s recipe made about 30 of these rolls, and one roll is enough for a meal for Amanda or me. Okay, maybe two rolls for me. They are light, fluffy, and scrumptious, nothing like the dense, hard rocks I remember from the last time we tried to make whole wheat rolls. The next step in the process is for us to learn to cook these in the Sun Oven. I know they won’t brown at all cooked that way, but I’m not worried, because we will be cooking them to heat them up later. We’ll heat them in the toaster-oven just before eating them, and they’ll get nice and brown then. Here’s the recipe in traditional form, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Whole Wheat Rolls

Adapted from Sarah Smith Brown and Mickey Smith


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2 cups water 1/2 cup olive oil 1/2 cup honey 2 tsp. salt 2 tbs. yeast 5 cups fresh ground whole wheat flour 4 tbs soy lecithin(this keeps it fresh and helps it get a little crispy on top)

Ensure that all ingredients are at room temperature when you start. In a small bowl add 2 heaping tbs. of yeast to one cup of water warmed for 20 seconds in the microwave (warm but not hot to the touch). Set aside. Pour 1 cup of water into a large mixing bowl and heat it for one minute in the microwave so that it is very hot to the touch. Add 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup honey, 2 tsp. salt, and yeast. Begin mixing. Add 4 tbs. lecithin. Slowly add 2 1/2 cups of flour and mix for 3 minutes or so until the dough is thoroughly mixed. Allow the dough to rise for about 30 minutes. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour and mix or knead thoroughly and let it rise for another 30 minutes.

Use solid shortening to coat the inside of the pan you’re going to use, and then coat with corn meal to ensure you didn’t miss any spots. Shape the dough into balls and place the balls in the roll pan so that the sides are just barely touching. If using the Sun Oven at 300 degrees, leave the rolls in for 30 minutes. If you’re cooking in a regular oven, preheat oven to 400 degrees, put the rolls in, turn the oven down to 350 degrees, and bake for about 17 minutes.

These rolls are designed to cook in two stages, analogous to brown ‘n serve rolls we used to buy at the grocery store. You can wrap single servings (2-4 rolls) in wax paper and freeze in a plastic bag. Then you just thaw out the rolls you want to eat, heat them (browning them in the process) and enjoy. If you want to eat them on the spot, you would want to leave them in the oven a couple of minutes longer so they get nice and brown on top.

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