From America's Test Kitchen Season 10: Rolls and Loaves
The remarkably crisp crust of European-style dinner rolls is what keeps these rolls in the domain of professionals, who typically rely on a steam-injected oven to expose the developing crust to moisture. We wanted to create a reliable recipe for rustic dinner rolls with a crisp crust and chewy crumb that looked—and tasted—like they came from an artisanal bakery.
We baked our first batch using bread flour, but when we broke the rolls open, we found a dense, bland crumb beneath a leathery crust. The flavor was easy to improve—we replaced a few tablespoons of bread flour with whole wheat flour, which contributed earthiness, while honey added sweetness. A little extra yeast improved the crumb slightly, but not enough; making the dough wetter was the fix. Lots of water in the dough created more steam bubbles during baking, which produced an airier crumb. Giving the dough a couple of turns also encouraged the yeast to produce more carbon dioxide, creating more bubbles and a lighter crumb.
As for baking, we came up with a two-step baking process to mimic a steam-injected oven: First, we misted the rolls with water before baking them for an even crisper crust. We then partially baked them in a cake pan at a high temperature to help set their shape. Halfway through baking, we removed the cake pan from the oven, lowered the temperature, pulled the rolls apart, and returned them to the oven spaced out on a baking sheet for uniformly golden rolls with the crust and crumb we were looking for.
Makes 16 rolls
Because this dough is sticky, keep your hands well floured when handling it. Use a spray bottle to mist the rolls with water. The rolls will keep for up to 2 days at room temperature stored in a zipper-lock bag. To re-crisp the crust, place the rolls in a 450-degree oven 6 to 8 minutes. The rolls will keep frozen for several months wrapped in foil and placed in a large zipper-lock bag. Thaw the rolls at room temperature and re-crisp using the instructions above.