One thing I needed to figure out was how to make these rolls brown better. I was going to try butter next time.
One of the things I’d said is I wouldn’t attempt baking my own hot dog rolls until I had hamburger rolls down. This happy situation occurred last Saturday and that was why I thought of hotdogs when my mom asked if I’d even be able to cook in single digits. I usually try to test something new out once before I victimize others. I made a test batch of hotdog rolls (see HOT DOG blog entry) last weekend as a dry run for doing them for my parents this weekend. The rolls turned out successfully but they were a bit of an adventure. They behaved very strangely during the kneading process, had an odd consistency and also didn’t brown as fast as I expected. I had no idea what caused the latter, but I was convinced that the potato flakes caused the kneading problem and.odd consistency. I figured it was their larger volume which caused the odd behavior while kneading. It absorbed the water more slowly than a flour and also made the dough more sticky and tacky like mashed potatoes. The potato flakes were a substitute if you couldn’t get potato flour.
It turned out using the potato starch vs. the potato flakes solved the browning problem. The rise was better with the potato starch too. The browning occurred in 6 minutes sooner than the other picture above.
My mission during the week was locate potato flour. Or if I couldn’t find the potato flour, my approach was going to be to grinding the potato flakes in a spice grinder. During the week I found some at my supermarket, just not with the flours where I had looked the first time around. A friend who bakes, suggested the area in the market where they have bulk grains. Sure enough there were additional types of flour here. It turns out the potato flour has been renamed as potato starch but the description on the back of the package showed it being used as flour for breads. Just in case there was a problem, I would leave enough time to pop around the corner to grab some store bought rolls at the Quickie Mart.
The first batch of rolls had less of a second rise and didn’t rise at all while baking.
As it turns out the potato starch made a huge difference in the kneading process and the doughs consistency. It behaved like the other doughs I have played with and seemed to be ready sooner that the 10 minutes in the recipe. The dough wasn’t what I might call shiny like the recipe mentioned but it seemed okay. After 8 minutes the dough seemed good to go and I added it to a greased bowl for it’s first rise. I covered the bowl and popped it into my oven and turned the oven light on to add a small amount of heat. It had doubled its volume in an hour so things were looking good. Things turned a bit dicey when I tried to fit the dough in the hot dog pan. It didn’t want to fill the pan and kept springing back away from the edges. I had to press it down a little thin towards the middle to give me more dough to work with on the outside. This worked and I put a sheet pan on top of the hot dog pan and added both to the oven for a second rise of between 1 to 1 1/2 hours. I lifted the top pan after 45 minutes and found the dough in the middle had risen to the underside of the pan. After one hour it had risen to pretty much fill the entire pan.
The second batch of rolls using potato starch rose more during the second rise and even further while baking.
The surprise of the day was during the baking process. Last weekend the rolls didn’t seem to want to brown. The recipe called for an 18 minute bake with the pan covered plus a few additional minutes to brown if required. When I pulled the pan off last time the dough hadn’t risen and the even more surprising hadn’t browned at all. I pulled the rolls last time after an additional 9 minutes. They never really did brown totally evenly on the bottom, but I was afraid I’d burn the other sides in contact with the pan. When the dough pulled back from the edges of the pan I pulled the dough from the oven. the upper part of the dough was a nice golden brown. The reason the top didn’t brown was a mystery that I figured would remain unsolved. this time around when I pulled the pan off the dough had risen to pretty much fill the pan except at one end and the color was already a golden brown. I gave it another 3 minutes uncovered but the dough pulled away from the pan meaning it was time.
While my second batch of rolls still needs a little bit of fine tuning, I now feel confident I can do them reliably. This means I may move on to learning to make sub rolls for steak and cheese or whole grain bread for paninis-both meals cooked on the grill of course.
While the dough was cooling, I fired up the grill. The temps had risen a little higher than originally forecast: It was a warm 12 degrees (-11 C) instead of 6-8 (-14 to -13 C) as predicted. So while it wasn't as cold as I had hoped for this little experiment it was still 6 degrees colder than I had cooked in before. One sidebar here is to mention that I was very careful last week when covering my grill. It was snowing when I made the hotdogs. I let the storm end before I recovered the grill and I was very careful to brush the snow off the grill completely so the dampness wouldn’t freeze and seal the cover to the grill. Don’t ask me how I know this, but it is key to successful winter grilling. I went through the procedures I have found to work well for my grill in the cold weather:
The great thing about New England style hotdog rolls is being able to toast the sides of the rolls on the grill.
A couple of other things I do in this cold weather has to do with handling the food. For example when the buns are toasted I bring them right in instead of letting them sit out in the cold. When my food is cooked I grab a warm plate from inside the house to plate the hot food off the grill. If the recipe calls for a mop or a glaze it stays in the Kitchen until I need it, then it goes right back inside. So a few extra trips into the house but not a biggie.
Even at 12 degrees (-11 C) the hotdogs still took around 2 minutes a side. In fact I could have dialed the temps down just a bit.
So how were the dogs? In a word great. Just like the 4th of July. I’d dialed up the temperature knobs one mark (of three total) higher than medium. This may have even been slightly high, because the dogs seared up a little faster than I am used to. The rolls toasted up nicely in their usual 30 seconds. So other than my standing out in the cold and taking a few extra steps it was business as usual. This weather we just had was supposed to be the coldest weather of the year. Since we don’t have that much more time left where it gets real cold, I may have to wait till next winter to try grilling in even colder temps. I think I don’t mind waiting. If it does get colder, I’ll try something on the grill and report success or failure here. Meanwhile if you are reading this you should runs some tests with your grill and see how low you can go. I feel rather liberated knowing most days I can now make what I’m in the mood for, not what the weather dictates.