Cranberry-Nut Rolls

How can Thanksgiving only be one week away? I swear it was just Halloween yesterday! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, Thanksgiving is pretty much my favorite holiday of the year (with Christmas and the 4th of July following closely). While I enjoy turkey, the parts of the meal I most look forward to are the side dishes and of course the desserts. I’d be perfectly content, in fact, to just load my plate up with mashed potatoes, butternut squash, cranberry sauce (from the can, sorry – it’s my favorite!) and a slice of apple pie :) I know the gravy and stuffing are a big deal for a lot of people, but neither do much for me. I’ll usually have a small helping of stuffing, but you won’t find one drop of gravy on my plate. To each his own, right? That’s one of the nice things about Thanksgiving with our family – there are so many dishes that there’s something to please everybody!

Cranberry-Nut Rolls

There’s no skimping on carbs come Thanksgiving day, so I also really enjoy having bread on the table. In years past, I’ve made yeasted pumpkin bread and plain dinner rolls, but this year I wanted to go in a different direction. I loved the sound of these cranberry-nut rolls, which probably seems a bit weird given that I don’t like nuts at all, but I do love yeast breads that incorporate fruit (hello raisin bread) and I knew I’d probably share these rolls with friends or family who would appreciate the inclusion of the nuts.

Cranberry-Nut Rolls

One of the best things about this recipe is that you can make these rolls ahead of time and stick them in your freezer. Cross them off your to-do list, one less thing to worry about on Thanksgiving day! On a day that usually involves so many dishes, it’s really nice to have a few make-ahead items on the list. Simply defrost the rolls at room temperature and the reheat them in the oven briefly before you serve them.

Cranberry-Nut Rolls

If you follow the instructions below and make 12 rolls, I’ll warn you that they’ll be quite large (nearly hamburger roll size). I’d probably divide the dough into 18 pieces next time, though I will say that the giant rolls would probably be a really good vehicle for leftover turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving. Even though I had to eat around the nuts, I absolutely loved these rolls. They’re brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with turbinado sugar before baking so the outside becomes golden with a little sparkle. The interior is among the most tender of any bread I’ve tried, and is studded with gorgeous dried cranberries and pieces of toasted walnut. You definitely won’t be sorry if you add them to your table this Thanksgiving!

Cranberry-Nut Rolls
from Bon Appetit, November 2009 (via epicurious)

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3 1/2 cups (or more) bread flour
1 tablespoon (packed) light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 large egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)
raw/turbinado sugar

Toast the nuts in a dry skillet set over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside to cool.

Combine the bread flour, brown sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat briefly to combine. Warm the milk in a microwave-safe measuring cup (or in a small saucepan on the stove) until an instant thermometer registers 95 F. Whisk in the oil. With the mixer on low, add the milk mixture and egg to the bowl. Beat until a wet, coarse dough comes together, about 1 minute. Remove the paddle attachment and swap in the dough hook. Add the toasted nuts and cranberries and knead the dough on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 4-6 minutes. You’ll probably need to add more flour (I used close to another 1/2 cup) – you’re looking for a slightly tacky dough that clears the sides of the bowl and clings to the bottom.

Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Shape the dough into a ball and add it to the bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until nearly doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces (or more if you want smaller rolls). Working with one piece of dough at a time shape it into a ball (I usually place the dough on the work surface and roll it under the palm of my hand) and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all dough. (I crammed them all onto one baking sheet, but it was tight once they rose and had baked, so you might want to use 2 baking sheets, especially if you’re going to make more than 12 rolls).

Spray the rolls with nonstick cooking spray then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let them rise for about 1 1/2 hours, or until they are roughly 1 1/2 times their original size. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 F. Brush the rolls with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sugar and let them rise for another 15 minutes.

Place the rolls in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 400 F. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the rolls are golden on top and slightly firm to the touch. Cool completely on a wire rack. (Once they’re cool, you can freeze the rolls for up to 2 weeks. Defrost at room temperature and, if desired, reheat in a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes before serving.)

Makes 12 (or more) rolls