Maggie Barrett's Ribollita di Luana
The End, At Last

Florence Fabricant's Wheat and Cornmeal Cheese Rolls

I know you're probably all still quite busy baking more of that No-Knead business and, frankly, I need to make time for more of that myself. But in case there's anyone out there who noted Florence Fabricant's recipe for whole-wheat and cheddar rolls a few weeks ago and wondered how it really is, I'm here to tell you that it's good! Yes, it is! It's super-easy and super-quick, which I realize has become a too-oft repeated phrase around here, but what can I say? I work a lot and tend to hypo-glycemia, hence my preference for quick and easy fixes.

Florence wants you to serve these beautiful little rolls at Thanksgiving, though I personally think that serving bread at Thanksgiving is overkill, and, readers, I could eat bread every day (I often do). My point is, isn't there enough to eat on that day? I'd stipulate that you serve these rolls with homemade tomato soup for a simple weekend meal, perhaps, or a microwaved work-day lunch. That way, they become sort of a glamorous version of the grilled-cheese sandwich, to be dunked in a creamy red pool of soup.

The dough starts off with a milky pot of polenta that's cooled off before getting mixed together with some proofed yeast and syrup (I actually used Lyle's golden instead of maple - thanks, Gemma). Then in went a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour, but I didn't have enough, so I added some rye flour. The recipe says that the dough will be soft and sticky. And boy, was it. Make sure you keep your flour handy, because kneading that dough might actually require more than the recipe called for. I think I ended up using one cup of whole-wheat flour, one cup of all-purpose and one and a half cups of rye. The dough rises beautifully, all plumped up and happy with the warm water and sweet syrup and vigorous kneading.

To facilitate rolling and clean-up, I rolled out the risen-and-punched-down bread on my Silpat, sprinkled in with grated cheese (but only about 4 ounces of Cabot's Seriously Sharp) and chopped sage, then used the Silpat to roll the dough in on itself. I sliced the roll carefully, let the rolls rise longer in their buttered pan, then baked them to a warm, toasty brown (my pan was dark metal, which I think made my rolls brown faster, but I think the rye flour darkened these considerably, too). The apartment filled with a sweet and savory smell and even though it was close to bedtime, I found myself standing impatiently next to the oven when the timer went off.

Between me, my roommates, and Ben, we ate six of these rolls within 10 minutes of pulling them out of the oven. They're faintly sweet, but that inner ribbon of pungent cheese and herbal sage gives them a delicious complexity. They were crunchy on the outside, and soft and yielding on the inside. I think they're perfect soup rolls (I need plain, ascetic bread for salads and fork-pushing and plate clean-up), but they need to be eaten right away, or else frozen and reheated. That short shelf-life, in fact, reminds me a bit of these rolls.

Which, incidentally, I never made a second time. With these, however, things will be different, I just know it.

P.S. Only one day left!

Wheat and Cornmeal Cheese Rolls
Makes 12 rolls

1½ cups milk
1/3 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1½ teaspoons salt
1 packet active dry yeast
¼ cup maple syrup
1½ cups whole wheat flour
1½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
6 ounces mild Cheddar cheese, shredded, or 8 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
2 teaspoons minced sage leaves

1. Scald milk in a 1-quart saucepan. Stir in cornmeal, mixing constantly, and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, until thickened. Add salt and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

2. Place yeast in a bowl and add ½ cup warm water. When cornmeal is no longer hot, stir in yeast and syrup. Mix in whole wheat flour, then 1 cup all-purpose flour a half cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.

3. Place on a floured surface and knead about 8 minutes, adding most of remaining flour. Dough should be elastic and a bit sticky. Wipe a large bowl with some melted butter, place dough in bowl, turn so buttered side is up, cover loosely and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Punch dough down and roll or stretch on a board to a rectangle 12 by 16 inches. Sprinkle Cheddar on top or spread with goat cheese. Scatter with sage. With long side facing you, roll dough up tightly. Brush edge with water to seal it. Cut roll in four equal sections, and cut each in thirds.

5. Use half the remaining melted butter to grease a baking pan 9 by 13 by 2 inches. Place rolls in pan with a cut side up and brush tops with remaining butter. Let rise 30 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake rolls 10 minutes, lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake about 30 minutes more, until browned. Remove pan from oven and cool 10 minutes. Cut rolls apart and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

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