We have a situation here. Mere hours from Thanksgiving I'm having some major dinner roll problems. Let me set the scene for you. In Bangor, Maine, there's a little bakery by the name of Frank's Bakehouse. It's on Main Street, not too far from the Catholic church, and they make all sorts of down home baked goods, like whoopie pies and superlative doughnuts (rumor is they still use lard.) But the crowning jewel of Frank's are their dinner rolls. They are the pull-apart kind, yeasty and a little sweet, with a nicely bronzed cap. They come in white or wheat and they are the definitive roll, the benchmark bread.
I'm a long way from Bangor. So I decided that I would make rolls myself. With only a small number of ingredients and very few variables I figured I could probably make some Frank-esque rolls on my own. I was wrong. Last year I tried some sweet potato rolls using a recipe from the most excellent cookbook, Home Baking, by Jeffrey Alfond and Naomi Duguid. They weren't bad, but they weren't Frank's. This year I decided I would use a recipe of my own creation, a mixture of challah and brioche techniques and ingredients. I baked them last night, and they were pretty good. Not Frank's. In desperation I called the bakery and asked them for the recipe. They were at first reticent, then said that they could give it to me, but it was a recipe that made 30 dozen. No problem! I'll rescale it!! Then they said that they were actually too busy to give out the recipe just then--could I call after Thanksgiving?
Clearly they don't understand my situation. After Thanksgiving? The woman at Frank's was kind enough to tell me the ingredients, which she claimed were just the usual: flour, butter, sugar, eggs, yeast. Yeah, that's right--the same ingredients I used. So now I'm stumped. This morning I decided I'd do a second batch of just plain old Parker House Rolls (did you know Ho Chi Min worked at the Parker House, as a busboy?) but I think that I might have killed the yeast with a too hot milk-butter mixture. Fulled formed, in a warm, draft-free place, they haven't risen at all. I know this is a bad sign, I'm just not ready to admit it, yet.
Will midnight find our heroine mixing yet another batch of dinner roll dough? A full report on Friday.