Ten steps closer to perfect tennis rolls

Today, I’m thrilled to report that our second  round of attempts at making tennis rolls produced  very encouraging results : an order of magnitude better than our first try! Let’s compare, shall we?

Attempt 1:

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  • the rolls were rock hard apon leaving the oven
  • the rolls had cracked across the top
  • the rolls were almost void of color. This couldn’t be fixed by longer baking since the bottoms of the rolls were already quite dark and the outer shell of the rolls had become quite ‘crusty’

Attempt 2:

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  • The rolls have great texture right out of the oven
  • The rolls have a beautiful brown color
  • The rolls rose evenly in the oven resulting in a smooth top – no cracks or seams in sight!

So what changed?

Well, after pestering family and friends for tennis roll recipes, I received a recommendation to drop the eggs from our previous recipe and use coconut milk instead of regular milk. In keeping with this suggestion – I used the recipe we followed during our first attempt with the above substitutions and omissions. I was also a lot more liberal with the orange zest since that flavor, in concert with vanilla extract, really makes this bread shine. The most important change however was patience. Last year, we were so eager that we rushed through certain parts of the recipe. Although, it took several hours ( 7 to be exact!), I took the time to assess whether or not it really was the right time to move on to the next stage. This meant letting the dough rise for three hours instead of the recommend two and taking pictures of the dough so that it would be easy to recall what it is supposed to look like (and feel like) at every stage.

Some important lessons

  • the kneading stage is extremely important and cannot be rushed. I bought a mixer with a dough hook which allowed me to knead the dough mercilessly (:)) for  more than 15 minutes. The difference between a lightly kneaded and well kneaded dough are obvious both before and after it is set aside to rise. After rising, the dough felt more stretchy, smooth and pliable than it did last time.
  • Making breads is an all day endeavor and tennis rolls are no exception. Although the end result is more than rewarding, setting aside the time to patiently knead the dough, and allow for various dough rising periods is exhausting.

More to improve on!

Of course, there will be more that I will be adjusting in the future. With this recipe , the tennis rolls came out of the oven with a lovely texture however by the end of the second day they got a bit tough. This seemed quite quick even for baked bread. I stored them in a ziplock back on the kitchen counter during this time so at this time, I am unclear about whether the storage of the rolls or something in the recipe caused the quick hardening. Any insight on this would be greatly appreciated!

Some recipes call for using parchment paper on a flat baking pan when baking the rolls. I prefer to use regular baking pans. I baked half of my rolls on parchment and the other half in baking pans and the ones baked on parchment had very burnt bottoms while the others were golden brown. Again, my technique and tools could have been at fault here but in my next round, I’ll be sticking with baking pans.

Finally, this time around, I made rolls of a smaller size than I would normally – this was mostly because I didn’t want a huge batch of rolls that came out like the last ones :). Next time, I will stick to traditionally sized rolls even if it means making less of them.

As always, here is how everything went :

I was reminded of the fact that the key to my memories about tennis rolls really is the citrus zest – something I haven’t really tasted in any any bread I’ve eaten in any other country I’ve lived in. This is what makes tennis rolls so unique and I can’t wait to try even more variations of the recipe. Feel free to share if you have one and believe me, I will try it!