When I was little, I grew up going to Il Fornio and devouring the rosemary rolls in the bread basket. Somewhere along the way, we accumulated an Il Fornaio bread cookbook, but never dared to actually try the recipes. Until, this Christmas. Now, though I make the occasional cookies, in no way would I identify as a skilled baker. My dad was shocked when I informed him he’d be helping in the roll creation and not just the roll consumption, so for anyone skeptical if they can pull this off, know he was not my secret-weapon bread making fiend. This recipe creation journey does not have a Hollywood plot: we utterly failed when we tried combining the Il Fornaio rosemary roll recipe with a buttery dinner roll recipe I found on Food52 (potentially because we opted to add 0 butter). But, the fun is in the journey. This recipe took us two unfollowed recipes, two tries, and 24 hours to perfect (troubleshooting documented in the notes), but the results are AMAZING. And even novice chefs who shirk away from baking due to the precision required can pull this one off!
(Makes 2 dozen rolls)
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (see notes)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tbs active dry yeast (2 envelopes but I’d buy 3 to be safe)
- 2 tsp salt + additional for sprinkling on top
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup oil (olive, grapeseed, canola, etc.)
- 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour, divided (+ additional for preventing dough from sticking)
- 5 sprigs rosemary (leaves only), finely chopped
- Olive oil for drizzling (~2 tbs)
- Sea salt for topping
- Stir together the water, sugar, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Let sit until the mixture looks frothy (~1/2 inch of frothy), which should take 5-10 min. If you do not have ~1/2 inch of froth then start over because it means your yeast didn’t activate (I learned this the hard way in which I tried to convince myself I had froth when I did not– do as I say not as I did on my first try).
- Once the yeast mixture is frothy, stir in oil and egg with a wooden spoon. Add 3 cups of flour and the rosemary. Mix in using a combination of a wooden spoon and freshly washed hands (or stand mixer if you have one- I, the novice baker, do not). Once incorporated, spread flour on a clean counter of cutting board, place dough on top, and continue to knead it by hand. Add the remaining 2.5 cups of flour slowly, and mix in using your hands until fully incorporated (can take up to 10 min- recruit someone to help looking for an arm toning workout).
- Transfer the dough to lightly oiled bowl that’s large enough for the bread to double in size in, and cover with a towel. Let sit somewhere warm for ~1 hour (or overnight in fridge if making ahead). This is called proofing! Can’t think of someplace warm? Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature, then stick the dough inside and open the door (aim for ~81 degrees).
- Once the dough has doubled in size, onto making the rolls! The gold standard is 2 ounce portions for the rolls, so for those of us who don’t have kitchen scales, you want to eyeball it to create dough balls the size of golf balls. How? Roll each portion into a smooth ball with your hands, then, punch the center of the ball with your thumb and fold the sides inwards onto it. Place, folded side down, onto a lined baking sheet. Repeat with the dough.
- Let the dough balls sit for ~30 minutes in your designated warm space while you preheat the oven to 400F. They should rise further. Drizzle olive oil and sea salt on the rolls, then bake for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. The rolls are done when they’re golden brown!
On the water temperature: ensure your water is WARM not hot. I used too hot of water the first time around and killed my yeast so the bread didn’t rise. To test: stick your (clean) finger in it— if it’s tolerable, you’re good.
If your dough doesn’t rise after an hour: This is what the extra packet of yeast is for! Mix it with 1 cup of warm water and 1 tbs of sugar. Let sit until it gets frothy (~10 min). Then add to the dough that didn’t rise with additional flour, kneading until incorporated. Keep adding flour until the dough is no longer sticking to your hands. Then, continue on to step 3.
On the importance of being honest with your frothiness/ rising: Do not panic if your dough doesn’t rise. Mine didn’t the first time I tried this— no joke I waited FOUR HOURS before calling time of death, and then found this lovely hack which worked perfectly. Just be honest with yourself. My first yeast mixture was not frothy but I didn’t want to admit defeat and carried on. Having that frothy yeast water is key and it’s totally fine if it takes two tries!
What am I listening to as I make this? “Gooey” by Glass Animals
What can I learn while I make this? What proofing is! Proofing is the step in baking that activates the yeast in the dough. Read more here on MasterClass.
What if I want an easy lunch but not this one? Don’t worry– I won’t be offended! Check out these other ideas below:
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