Everybody’s baking on these long days during the pandemic. I’m no exception. I’ve been wanting to make another cake because I’m overdue for one, but I’ve also been craving my pépère (grandfather) DeJean’s catfish Courtbouillon (recipe coming soon to a blog post near you). This would then require me to bake my mémère’s Yeasty Rolls (and everybody knows you can’t have Courtbouillon without yeasty rolls)!
Ask any young Cajun what his or her favorite thing to eat in the school cafeteria is, and I’m pretty confident that for most, it’s gonna be those yeasty, butter-topped rolls that can reliably be found in the lunchrooms all over south Louisiana. My mémère, Ortense, was never a lunch-lady, but she sure could cook like one. Her Yeasty Rolls are not only the essential accompaniment to her husband’s Courtbouillon, they are also perfect for making Pain Perdu (“Lost Bread,” or French Toast), and as a hugely satisfying after-school snack, stuffed with pats of cold butter and fig preserves (excuse me while I salivate).
As per usual, I have tinkered with this recipe for years (there’s a version I like, for example, with one beaten egg and less milk) – and this one below is where I’ve landed because the resulting rolls taste closest to what my grandmother (and those cafeteria ladies) made all those years ago.
1 3/4 cups warm whole milk
3 tablespoons of active dry yeast (yes – lots of yeast!)
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of melted butter
1 teaspoon of salt
4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 – In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the warm (2 minutes in the microwave) milk, yeast, and sugar, using the dough hook. (You can do this by hand if you do not have a stand mixer.) Cover with a towel and let the mixture rest for 2 minutes.
2 – Stir and add the melted butter.
3 – Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt into the yeast mixture. Mix until everything is well incorporated, about 2 minutes.
4 – While the machine is running, add the remaining 2 cups of flour in half-cup intervals until it is all absorbed and the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes.
5 – Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with a cloth and place on a warm surface (I used the stovetop). Let dough rise for 30 minutes.
6 – Turn the risen dough out onto a floured surface, sprinkle with more flour, and knead 30 times. Return dough to the bowl, cover and allow to rise for another 20 minutes.
7 – Set the oven to 425 degrees.
8 – Return the dough to the floured surface and separate it in half, then half again, and continue halving until you have between 12 and 16 roughly even pieces of dough. Shape each piece into a ball and place onto an oil-coated baking sheet or in a large cast-iron skillet (fairly close together so they will rise better).
9 – Bake for 12 minutes or until tops are as dark as you like. Brush with melted, salted butter.
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