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Poppy-Seed Cloverleaf Rolls

Yeast is proofed, or tested, by letting the granules stand in warm water for 5 minutes, until they turn foamy. Yeast was not always as reliable as it is now, and proofing was an essential step that saved the cook from rolls or loaves that failed to rise. Now, yeast is more consistent, but because it gradually weakens the longer it sits on a pantry shelf, it’s a good idea to be sure that yeast is alive and active, and to give it a head start, before it is incorporated into the flour.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 tsp. corn oil
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1 1/4 tsp poppy seeds

Directions:

In a small saucepan, combine the milk, the 2 Tbs. butter and the sugar. Set over low heat and warm just until the butter melts. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to 105° to 115°F. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk mixture. Whisk in the yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk again and then stir in the salt and the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft, sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead it, adding flour 1 Tbs. at a time as necessary, until the dough is smooth, elastic and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Coat a bowl with the oil, add the dough, turn to coat it with the oil, and cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Generously grease 12 standard muffin cups. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and flatten it into a round. Divide the round into 12 equal portions, then divide each portion into thirds. Shape the pieces into balls and place 3 balls in each cup of the prepared pan. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat an oven to 375°F.

Brush the tops of the rolls with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the poppy seeds over the rolls, dividing them evenly. Bake until the rolls are puffed and golden and the bottoms and sides are crisp, about 15 minutes. Immediately remove the rolls from the pan. Serve hot or warm. Makes 12 rolls.

Make-Ahead Tip: The rolls can be baked 1 day in advance. Let cool completely, then wrap them airtight and store at room temperature. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and rewarm in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes.

Adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book, Edited by Chuck Williams (Oxmoor House, 2009).