Tonight's Project Breadway chases the memory of the most scrumptious dinner rolls I've ever eaten. Back in the day, I was working as a summer actor in Cape May, NJ at the Chalfonte Hotel, and the kitchen folks would take pity on us and send us leftovers from the night's dinner. The rolls were what we all fought for—airy, soft, just heavenly. I even bought the little handmade hotel cookbook so I could have the recipe, but I never made them because the recipe called for two things I never had on hand: margarine and Crisco. Well, I finally decided to go all-in and just get some and go for it.
So here's my version of the original recipe, adapted from I Just Quit Stirrin' When the Tastin's Good: The Chalfonte Hotel Recipe Collection, halved for less-than-industrial quantities. The major change I made was making them pull-apart style, instead of in individual muffin tins as called for. Cause I like 'em better that way.
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups milk
1-1/2 packets active dry yeast
1 stick plus 1-2 Tablespoons margarine
2 teaspoons Crisco
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
-In large mixing bowl, mix five cups flour with 2 t. salt.
-Warm 1/2 C. milk with 2 t. sugar in small saucepan, until just warm, stir in yeast, set aside to let activate ten minutes or so.
-Warm 1-1/2 C. milk, 1/2 stick margarine, and 2 t. Crisco in another pan, stir until melted, set aside to cool.
-Add two well-beaten eggs to salt and flour mixture, then, when cooled, add both milk mixtures. Mix until blended, then turn out to floured surface and knead five to ten minutes until smooth. Set in warm area, cover, let rise for about 2 hours.
-Melt 1-2 T. margarine in pan.
-Divide the dough into however many rolls you want to make (I went with 20, but dropped one, d'oh!). Roll each piece in your hands the way you'd make a meatball, dip the ball in the melted margarine, then set on lightly-oiled parchment paper on a baking sheet. Add each successive doughball right up against the side of the one before, creating a little hive of doughballs.
Once you've got them all on the baking sheet, let them rise again, about forty-five minutes or until doubled in size, like so.
-Bake at 350 until nicely browned on top (yes, I know this is vague, but that's what it says, I think in my case it was about thirteen minutes). Once they're out of the oven, brush the tops with melted butter and let rest for a few minutes before devouring, if you have the will power.
NB: When I first posted about this, acute baker and googler McStabbypants pointed out an article about the Chalfonte in which one of the cooks revealed that they used vanilla ice cream to make their famous dinner rolls, that was the "secret ingredient." I haven't tried that yet, but I think next time I'll replace a cup of the milk with a similar amount of good vanilla ice cream. I like the idea, anyway, and when I do I'll report back.
Happy baking, Groupthink!