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Cloverleaf Rolls

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Yields 18

  • by Peter Reinhart from Fine Cooking
    Issue 113

Buttery cloverleaf rolls look like their namesake. This classic shape usually has three "leaves" but these have four, which is lucky becuase they are so good. As fun to make as they are to eat, the rolls are always welcome at Sunday dinner and at the holiday table.

For the Dough
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk; more as needed
  • 1 packet (1/4 oz. or 2-1/4 tsp.) instant or active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil; more as needed
  • 1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 lb. 7 oz. (5-1/4 cups) unbleached bread flour; more as needed
  • 1-1/4 tsp. table salt or 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
For shaping and baking
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Make the dough

In a small saucepan, heat the milk until lukewarm (about 95°F). Remove from the heat and whisk in the yeast until it dissolves. Add the oil and butter—the butter may begin to melt, but it’s OK if it doesn’t melt completely—and then whisk in the sugar. Let rest until the yeast just begins to float to the surface, about 5 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl), combine the flour, salt, and egg. Add the yeast mixture and mix on low speed (or with a large spoon) until a coarse ball of dough forms, about 1 minute. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed (or knead by hand on a lightly oiled work surface) until the dough feels soft, supple, and pliable, about 3 minutes; it should feel tacky to the touch, but not sticky, and pull away from your finger when poked instead of sticking to it. If the dough is too sticky, add 1 Tbs. flour at a time, kneading to incorporate. If it’s stiff, knead in 1 Tbs. of milk at a time.

Rub a little vegetable oil on a work surface to create an 8-inch circle and put the dough on this spot. Stretch and fold the dough over itself from all four sides to the center, crimping it where the folded ends meet, to form it into a tight, round ball.

Put the dough seam side down in a lightly oiled bowl that’s twice the size of the dough. Tightly cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature until doubled in size, about 90 minutes, or refrigerate for 1 to 4 days so that it slowly rises to double its size.

Shape and bake the rolls

Mist two 12-cup standard muffin tins with vegetable oil spray.

Put about 1/4 cup of bread or all-purpose flour in a saucer or small cup or bowl.

With a bench knife, divide the dough into 18 pieces, about 2-1/4 oz. each. Wipe the work surface with a damp towel or mist lightly with vegetable oil spray (don’t use flour). Form your hand into a cup by curling your fingers slightly, with your thumb snug against your index finger. Use this cupped hand to press and rotate a piece of dough as if you were trying to screw it through the work surface. It should form a smooth round ball within 5 seconds and pop up into your cupped hand.

Using a bench knife or kitchen shears, cut one piece of dough into 4 small pieces. Roll each quarter in the flour to lightly coat it.

Place all four pieces in one of the muffin cups to form a square. Continue with the remaining dough.

Mist the top of the rolls with vegetable oil spray and cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap. Allow the rolls to proof at room temperature until they nearly double in size, 60 to 90 minutes. The time vary depending on the temperature of the room and the dough; if you made the dough ahead and refrigerated it, the cold dough will take longer to proof.

If using a convection oven, heat the oven to 350°F; if using a conventional oven, heat the oven to 375ºF.

Bake the rolls for 7 minutes. Rotate the tins 180 degrees and swap their placement on the racks. Continue baking until the rolls turn rich golden-brown on top, 7 to 9 minutes more. Let the rolls cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the tin.

Make Ahead Tips

The dough may be made up to 4 days ahead of shaping. Kept wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, it will slowly rise to double its size. Shape the dough right out of the fridge. Cold dough will take longer to proof than room temperature dough.

I made these last Thanksgiving, and they came out beautifully. I made the dough 3 days ahead of time, and they rose like they should have and had a light texture. Rolled into 3 pieces instead of 4, and they came out fine. I will definitely use this recipe again when I have a large gathering.

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