Cheddar Onion Yeast Rolls

Holy cow, it's actually been 3 weeks since my last real life blog post, which seems like an eternity in the blogging world. And in spite of being embroiled in the all-consuming kitchen renovation and a week off to celebrate a very special 45th wedding anniversary, I couldn't help but sneak into the kitchen and make these yeast rolls.  A grand total of 5 times.  But they were worth every pound of flour and brick of cheddar cheese offered up in the cause.  Allow me to explain...

At some point in the midst of deciding on some stain colors for the kitchen paneling, I was sent to Lowe's to pick up a few more samples, and while I was waiting for the paint clerks to get everything mixed up (not even kidding about that), I found out just how much I missed cooking when I found myself unable to resist the cover photo of this Cast Iron Baking book.  

By that afternoon I had these rolls rising on the counter, but that's not even close to the end of this saga. Settle in and get comfy.  I'll do my best to be brief, but these rolls have a story to tell.

So, of course a few little red flags started waving as I assembled the dough.  The recipe called for 4 1/2 cups of flour, no small amount for a pan of dinner rolls, but trusting soul that I am, I soldiered on.  But when they then asked you to divide the dough into 13 (?) portions and place them in a 10-inch cast iron pan, I knew we had problems.  Firstly, the dough balls were the size of baseballs and trying to fit even half of them into a 10-inch pan was the height of ridiculousness.  And THEN it said to bake these giant balls for 10-12 minutes!  OK, then.  Houston, we have a problem.  Well, several actually.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that for these cheddar onions rolls there was a mere 1 cup of cheese, but get this... 1/2 cup of sugar.  

The resulting rolls had no cheddar presence, a bit of onion flavor and were quite sweet.  The Husband loved them, but I think he mostly loved the dough-y texture and the sweetness, but cheddar-onion rolls these were not.

A few days later I made them again, eliminating the sugar, dividing them into 24 rolls and upping the cheddar cheese a bit.  Better, but without the sugar, the dough was a bit dry.

Attempts #3 and 4 were all about getting the dough back to that pillowy softness without sugar, getting some cheddar flavor in there, adding some chives for even more oniony fun, and just generally trying to create the cheddar-onion roll that I was longing for.  Well, by this time it was the cheddar-onion roll that I was determined to make.

Somewhere between attempts 3 and 4, I emailed the publisher of the book and relayed my struggles with the recipe and I received a very nice email in return thanking me for the feedback and stating that they were going to take the recipe back into the kitchen and see what was going on.  

I don't know what they would then do about it as their version had already been published, but it was good to hear nonetheless.  And then she sent me some more of their books to review and they all look incredibly fun and promising.  There will be more about those in the future, I'm sure.

My 5th attempt at perfection created the cheddar onion rolls of my dreams.  The rolls that didn't want to be, but got made anyway.  A basket of these with a glass of wine, well... here's the recipe... 

Cheddar - Onion Yeast Rolls

Click here for a printable recipe

These are pretty special little dinner rolls.  Feel free to double the recipe - the leftovers make amazing little sandwich buns!  A word about salt, though.  If you'll be using a standard table salt, you will want to keep this to 1 teaspoon in the recipe.  If using a fine sea salt or Morton's Kosher salt, you can push it up to 1 1/2 teaspoons.  I use Diamond Crystal Kosher salt which is less salty, so I used 2 teaspoons.  

Recipe Adapted from Cast Iron Baking

Makes 1 dozen rolls

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1/2 cup minced onion

1 cup warm milk (105 - 110 degrees), divided

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon active dry yeast (1/2 pkg)

1/2 large egg

1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (I like to use the large grater hole)

1 1/2  teaspoons salt (see headnote)

2 cups bread flour

1/4 cup chopped chives

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat.  Add onions; cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.  No knead to clean the cast iron pan yet.

Place 1/2 cup of the warm milk in the bowl of a standing mixer and whisk in the yeast and sugar.  Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Beat an egg and add half of it to the yeast mixture along with the cheese, salt, cooked onion, chives, 1 tablespoon of oil and the remaining 1/2 cup of warm milk.  Mix until thoroughly combined and then slowly add the flour until a soft dough forms.  If the dough seems too wet, add a little more flour; if it's a little stiff, add a bit more milk.  The dough should feel heavy, be more on the tacky side, but not sticky.  Continue to knead for about 5 minutes.  Alternately, you can mix this in a large bowl and knead by hand.

Spray a large bowl with cooking spray.  Place the dough in the bowl, turning to grease the top.  Cover and let stand in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and divide into 12 pieces (each piece should weigh between 2 and 2.5 oz).  You can form these into smaller rolls and get 16 out of this dough easily.  Just use a larger cast iron pan.  Spray the cast iron pan with cooking spray, roll each piece into a ball and place it into the pan.  Cover and let stand until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grate some fresh Parmesan over the top of the rolls and bake until they are lightly browned, about 18-25 minutes, depending on the size of your rolls and the peculiarities of your oven.  Serve warm.

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