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Home on the Range: Adam Monette's Challah Rolls


Ring of challah dinner rolls - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Ring of challah dinner rolls
Most people do not pull out flour and yeast to bake dinner rolls the day after Thanksgiving. But I had a visiting mother who likes fresh challah for Friday night Sabbath and a son who had requested homemade smash burgers for his 27th birthday, which fell on that same Friday this year.

Fortuitously, I had a recipe to test that could please both family members.

Before interviewing chef Adam Monette of St. Albans about his experience as a contestant on Food Network's "Holiday Baking Championship" for the December 1 issue of Seven Days, I had asked friends for their burning holiday baking questions.
Only one made a bad joke about not burning his baking. More usefully, a high school friend asked whether it's really worth making homemade yeast rolls.
During our interview, Monette answered unequivocally: "Absolutely. It's not even close." He offered to send me his recipe for a roll made of challah dough, the soft, egg-rich, traditional Jewish bread that is usually braided. The rolls rise quickly, he promised, "they're absolutely delicious, and they make people really happy."

Monette, who is a culinary arts chef-instructor at Northwest Career & Technical Center in St. Albans, uses this recipe with his students every year to turn out "trays and trays" of holiday rolls, he said. He also used it on the fourth episode of "Holiday Baking Championship" to create a cornucopia of bread shaped like squash and cabbages.

Like many chef recipes, the quantity was larger than most home cooks need (or can fit in a home stand mixer), so I halved it. It was also written with ingredient weights rather than volume measures. This notation is standard in professional baking recipes and, increasingly, in home baking books because it is far more precise. But not everyone has a kitchen scale, so I listed both below.

The halved recipe yields about 25 small dinner rolls, but I made a mix of sizes to meet various needs. To make something that resembled a full loaf for Sabbath, I arranged nine of the rolls in a springform pan lined with parchment to create a round, pull-apart "loaf." For the smash burger buns, I portioned out six double-size rolls and sprinkled then with sesame seeds between egg wash applications. I was left with enough dough to make two individual dinner rolls as a test of the baking time for that size.

All baked up with a fine, rich crumb and were beautifully golden, as Adam had promised. He was also correct that, no matter their size and shape, the rolls did indeed make all the people in my household very happy.
Challah hamburger buns and dinner rolls - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Challah hamburger buns and dinner rolls

Adam Monette's Challah Rolls

Makes about 24 small dinner rolls
  • 16 grams (about 5 teaspoons) yeast, either active dry or instant
  • 300 grams (2 cups) warm water
  • 75 grams (1/3 cup, packed) light brown sugar
  • 150 grams (8) egg yolks
  • 15 grams (1 scant tablespoon) honey
  • 90 grams (1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons) canola oil
  • 750 grams (4 cups plus a scant 1/2 cup) bread flour
  • 17 grams (2 3/4 teaspoons) fine salt
  • Egg wash made with one whole egg whisked with a pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons water
  1. In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, place the yeast, water, sugar, egg yolks, honey, oil, flour and salt, in that order.
  2. Using a dough hook, mix on lowest speed for 2 to 3 minutes until the dough comes together. It will be tacky and sticky.
  3. Increase mixer speed up one notch and mix for 7 minutes until the dough is shiny and smooth. The goal is to develop strong gluten. To check, wet your hands and pinch off a piece of dough. Stretch it, holding it up to the light and you should see a webbed network of gluten strands.
  4. Cover the mixing bowl with a clean towel and put the dough in a warm, draft-free spot for about an hour. (It will look like not much has happened during this time, but do not fret!)
  5. Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment or nonstick baking mats. Use a scale to measure out 60-gram portions of dough for each dinner roll and place them on the baking sheets. (Do not shape them at this point.) If you don't have a scale, divide the dough in half, then half again and so on until you have 24 even portions. Each should be about the size of an egg. Cover loosely with clean towels and let them rest for about 15 minutes.
  6. Turn your oven on to its lowest temperature during the time the dough is resting and then turn it off. Fill a large heatproof bowl with very hot tap water and put it on the floor, or bottom shelf, of the oven.
  7. After the portioned dough has rested, shape the rolls into your final desired shape. This can be as minimal as rolling the balls a little, or arranging them in a parchment-lined baking dish or pan to make pull-apart rolls as pictured. If making individual rolls, give them a 2-inch berth from each other. (Don't fuss too much with them; they'll smooth out as they rise.)
  8. Brush the rolls with egg wash and put them in the warm oven to rise.
  9. After 90 minutes, remove the rolls from the oven and set the oven at 350º F. Brush the rolls a second time with egg wash and bake them for about 12 to 15 minutes until they are deep golden brown. (Larger rolls, like my hamburger rolls, will take a few more minutes to bake. Depending on your oven, you may want to move baking sheets to different shelves midway through baking.)
Got cooking questions? Email pasanen@sevendaysvt.com.