Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dough, Oh Dear...

The week before Christmas and between Christmas and New Year's is a great time to try out recipes on one's unsuspecting family and friends and to discover just how oddly the simplest recipes can turn out.

Exhibit A: Dinner rolls.

Proper dinner rolls.
My brother asked us to bring dinner rolls as our contribution to Christmas dinner--rolls that weren't like soft balls of tissue paper (a somewhat crisp exterior, he requested).

My daughter, hearing that we were to bring dinner rolls, went off to some la-la planet that adolescent girls are known to orbit and thought we were going to bring some sort of pastry and roll up our dinners in it, like sausage rolls, so she was clearly not going to be much help in the dinner-roll department.

I thought it'd be easy and So Festive to bake our own. Flipping open the Martha Stewart cookbook, I found a dinner-roll recipe and got to work.

Whenever I use one of Ms. Stewart's recipes, I can't help but think of that scene in the hilarious film Martha, Inc., in which a woman timidly asks Martha about using a recipe of hers that didn't turn out right; Martha rounds on the woman and hisses, "Maybe you just can't cook. There is nothing wrong with my tartlets!"

So when the dough persisted in being incredibly stretchy and sticky, it was hard to blame Martha, because I didn't want to get it in the neck.

Following the instructions, I cut out one-inch-wide blobs of dough and nestled them on the baking sheet so they all snuggled together. They looked odd, but very cute. I assumed they'd rise in the oven and puff up into typical dinner rolls about the size of a lemon.

Well, they didn't.

They stayed exactly the same size, though they did develop a nice soft interior and a firm, golden exterior. But they were basically a dinner-roll version of monkey bread.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing. But it did mean I wasn't going to break them up into handsome little round dinner rolls, tuck them into a gingham-cloth-lined basket, and deliver a photo-shoot-worthy cornucopia of yeasty splendor to the table. They were too much like the failed attempt at spiced pecans, which resulted in a giant 14 x 17 rectangular slab of over-toasted pecans welded together with burnt sugar that could be picked up like a cutting board (probably could have served as one, too).

However, since they weren't burned, we were able to break them apart and serve them in three sizes: extra-small (one blob), medium (2 blobs stuck together), and large (3 blobs).

They quickly disappeared during dinner, so they were a hit, despite their density. But I still can't figure out where Martha...I mean, I...went wrong.