There were so many delicious looking dishes in this month’s Bon Appétit that we didn’t want to choose just one to test. We found that the bread section had some of the most promising options, so we each chose one: Jessica picked the salt and pepper biscuits and Laura picked the dilly rolls. In one of our most successful butter poached bon features ever, we highly recommend both of these rolls. They each work reasonably well for the Thanksgiving table (the rolls more so than the biscuits) and they are definitely keepers for the rest of the year.
Laura: I have had more than my fair share of yeast breads fail under my inexperienced hands, but these were an unqualified success. They proofed just as expected and baked up light, fluffy, and golden brown. I had been in the market for a unique roll, as my husband recently deemed all dinner rolls inexcusably boring, and these were perfect. The fresh dill is bright and unexpected, but not overpowering. I had to swap in fennel seeds for the dill seeds and they brought a note of grown-up spice. Adding to the flavor were tiny bits of chopped onion, which not only provided sweetness, but a delicate crunch, too.
Jessica: I can hardly believe this is true given my love for biscuits (to be clear, it is a deep and lasting love), but these are the first I’ve ever actually made. They were a great place to start. A basic biscuit recipe with the addition of cracked black pepper and extra salt? As our patron saint Ina would say, how bad could that be? They were light, flaky, and had a fabulous peppery bite. A simple salt and pepper butter really elevated the taste—so much so that, though I made these in a rush after work one day before going out for dinner (they also come together really quickly!)…I ate two biscuits slathered in butter right out of the oven. And I regret nothing.
Do these deserve a spot on the Thanksgiving table?
The dilly rolls would taste wonderful with the Thanksgiving meal and would bring something unexpected to the table. There were two steps that were concerning when contemplating fitting the recipe in on the busiest cooking day of the year: you can only make them three hours in advance and they have to bake at 400° F. In testing these, Laura reports that she let the fully proofed, shaped rolls sit out longer than 3 hours (probably closer to 4) before baking and they were still perfect. As for the 400°, that is likely the warming temperature (or approximate temperature) of the other four or five miscellaneous sides that demand oven space in that frantic last half hour while the turkey rests, so these rolls can squeeze in just like everything else.
The biscuits, while delicious for brunch, snacks, or other dinner parties, are slightly less ideal for Thanksgiving. True, they can be refrigerated for up to six hours before baking, but do you have that kind of room in your fridge up to six hours before dinner on Thanksgiving? And though the recipe says that these can be baked two hours before serving, Jessica felt that they didn’t age particularly well—a hot ‘n’ fresh out the kitchen biscuit is just so much better—and so would need to be timed pretty carefully. They would be fantastic for a Thanksgiving weekend breakfast, however.
Were there any surprises in the recipe?
For the dilly rolls, dried dill seed was not to be found at the local Whole Foods. Perhaps anticipating that dill seed might not be widely available, the Bon suggested fennel seed as a substitution and it worked remarkably well.
Jessica found that the recipe needed a splash or two more liquid than originally called for to get the dough to really come together. She added a little extra heavy cream, which got the job done. Also, this isn’t exactly a surprise, but you’ll find a note in the magazine saying that the accompanying salt and pepper butter is “optional, but trust us–you’ll really want to make this.” Trust: you really, really do.
Would you make these again?
Laura will definitely make the dilly rolls again. She’s planning on baking them for Thanksgiving, making half a batch plain (for people like her dad who love “boring” rolls) and the other batch super herby and exotic. Jessica will make the biscuits again as well (and is already looking forward to the several she has saved in the freezer), but they won’t supplant her mother’s traditional rolls at the Thanksgiving table.
You can find the recipes in the November 2013 issue of Bon Appétit or at the links below.