I am going to tell you something that you may not know -- I am happiest when I'm in my kitchen baking. You're not surprised to hear that, you say -- I do, after all, have a blog called Passions to Pastry. But I loved baking, or at least the concept of a bakery, at a very young age; before I even knew how to bake. I remember when I was about seven years old, searching our property and my aunt's next door, for the perfect "retail outlet". This would be a huge, hollow tree with a large hole in the trunk. I would stock my pies, tarts, cakes, and cookies inside the tree and sell to hungry customers through the walk-up window (i.e. hole). I can still remember my total and utter disappointment at not being able to find anything that met my specifications. To this day, if I ran across the perfect tree, I would probably entertain serious thoughts of setting up shop.
I've never told my husband about this either, but I don't think he'd be the least bit surprised. He's always asking me (with great trepidation) what's going on inside my little head. (Oh... he knows me well, and also knows from experience that he will be roped into becoming an accomplice to any plans I have brewing.)
Today I was able to spend an entire, happy day in my kitchen baking. These are buttery, brioche-like rolls infused with vanilla (take note of the tiny black specks of vanilla seeds in the yeast dough above). Spread with the easily-made fresh strawberry jam, they are quite a treat.
Before baking, the yeast rolls are brushed with milk and sprinkled with sugar. I used strawberry sugar, purchased at G. Detou on my last trip to Paris, but coarse or pearl sugar would be suitable substitutes.
Vanilla Cloverleaf Sweet Rolls with Strawberry Jam
adapted from bon appétit | April 2012
• 2/3 cup whole milk
• 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
• 1 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
• 2 large eggs, room temperature
• 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, * plus additional if needed
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus 1/2 tablespoon melted
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
• All-purpose flour, for dusting
• 1 tablespoon whole milk
• 2 to 3 tablespoons coarse or pearl sugar
• Strawberry jam (recipe follows)
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour and salt. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the flour. Pour in the milk mixture and stir briefly to combine. Add the 1/2 cup softened butter, one piece at a time, mixing well after each addition. When all of the butter has been incorporated, mix on medium-speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix/knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until the dough is soft and shiny. * My dough was extremely sticky, probably due to my large eggs being VERY large. I used an additional 3 tablespoons flour, adding 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough was not as wet, but still soft, and was no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl.
3. Brush a large bowl with a portion of the 1/2 tablespoon melted butter and place the dough in the bowl. Brush the top of the dough with the remaining butter and cover with plastic wrap.
4. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free location for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until double in size. (If you would like to make the dough one day ahead, prepare through step 3 then refrigerate. When your are ready to proceed, remove from the refrigerator and let rise in a warm, draft-free location for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until double in size.)
5. Using the additional 1 tablespoon melted butter, brush the cups of a 12-cup muffin pan. Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly-floured work surface, roll half of the dough into a 12-inch log (cover remaining dough with plastic wrap). Divide the rolled log into 6 equal pieces. Take one piece and divide into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion into a small ball by cupping your hand over the piece of dough and rolling it against the work surface. When you have 3 small balls, place them together in a muffin cup. Repeat with the remaining 5 pieces and then the remaining log.
6. Cover the muffin pan loosely with a large piece of plastic wrap (I brush some butter onto the plastic to prevent sticking) and place the pan in a warm, draft-free location. Allow the dough to rest for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough rises slightly more than 1/2-inch above the rim of the muffin pan.
7. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Brush the tops of the rolls with the milk and sprinkle with the sugar. Place the muffin tin on the center rack of the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the rolls are puffed and golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve with the Strawberry Jam (recipe below).
The rolls may be baked, cooled completely, and stored in an air-tight container in the freezer for up to one month; thaw at room temperature and reheat in a preheated 350˚F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
• 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, halved, cored, and coarsely grated
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1. Combine strawberries, grated apple, and sugar in a 2-quart sauté pan. Cook over medium-low heat, crushing the strawberries with the back of a spoon, until sugar is melted. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens; about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice, and let cool. Strawberry Jam can be kept jarred and chilled in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
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