T.M Davis Yeast Rolls

I grew up in a small town – well actually on a cattle ranch between two small towns – and attended a school with 112 students between kindergarten and the 12th grade. Everyone in the school knew each other and often too much. These were certainly simpler times – most classes had two grades in the room together, Vocational Agriculture was the only educational program lasting all four years of high school, and people still had guns in racks behind the seat of their pickups in the parking lot. It was small town Texas.

Lunch at school was not like it is today. The whole school ate in the same “lunch room” (the word cafeteria wasn’t invented at this time) and there were no trays. The food was single choice and served in plates with three dividers. A typical meal would be chili beans, boiled spinach, and corn bread. Some days though you would get lucky and the three dividers would be full and stacked on top was a freshly baked roll.

T.M Davis was an old school, former military cook – dressed in white with an apron, white t-shirt, and white pants often sitting out back with a hand rolled cigarette between his lips – and he was known for his rolls. He arrived at the school early and cooked lunch with a couple of helpers the old way – in big pots with big spoons and using lots of ingredients obtained from commodities provided by the state. Nothing here was served in a package. Things were made from scratch and that included his yeast rolls. They were soft, billowy, just the right amount of salt, and still warm from the steam of the oven. And, they were delicious.

In Gillespie County on the banks of the Pedernales River I am surrounded by amazing bakers – so I rarely bake anymore at home unless its a loaf of bread in the wood fired oven. But occasionally I get nostalgic for yeast rolls and drag out this recipe attempt for a dinner party. It is an easy recipe and although the texture and taste seems right, I just can’t capture the image of those rolls from 40 years ago.

2 oz Unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease your bowl

17 oz all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

2 1/4 tsp dried active dry yeast

1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 oz sugar

4 oz plain Greek yogurt

3 large eggs, divided

Line a 9″ by 13″ baking dish with parchment paper having it go up the walls on the long sides. Set it aside.

Grease a large bowl with butter. In a small bowl, mix the yeast with 4 oz. of lukewarm water and allow to stand for 5 minutes. In the meantime, in another bowl, combine the butter, flour, salt, sugar, yogurt, 2 eggs that are slightly scrambled, and the yeast/water mixture. Mix and knead thoroughly to combine for at least 3 to 4 minutes. This step can be done in a mixer with a paddle attachment. The dough will be sticky but this is normal. Turn the dough out into the greased bowl, cover the top loosely with plastic wrap, and place in a warm, draft free location for 1 hour.

After the first rise, punch the dough down, flour the surface and your hands lightly, and gently knead the dough. Divide it into 15 equal pieces, roll each into a ball, and arrange three across in the basking dish. Cover again loosely with plastic wrap and leave for the second rise in a warm, draft free location for 45 min.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make an egg wash with the remaining egg and 1 tbs of water. Whisk briskly to combine. Gently paint the surface of the rolls using a pastry brush with the egg wash and immediately place in the oven. Bake 20 minutes and rotate the dish during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Let the rolls rest at room temperature 5 minutes before serving.

#rolls #baking #bread

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Dan McCoy