Boiling Point: Fine rolls a big draw

Jim Hillibish

Part of the downsizing of our lives is the disappearing bread bowl, once a staple of our restaurant experiences. I ordered a chef’s salad at one eatery and had to beg for a roll, for which they added 75 cents to my bill.

Not long ago, salad always came with breadstuffs included, and you could ask for more without inviting non-comprehending stares from the waiter. Like ice water, these nice extras are endangered as our food prices explode. Oh well, anything for ethanol.

The bread draw

Although chefs will never admit it, fine rolls can be a big draw. We ate at an all-night Steak and Eggs in Norfolk, Va., and had for the first time “cake” rolls. These are incredible and indeed are rolls with a texture similar to cake, all light and airy but with a good crust. A lot of folks ordered only the rolls and coffee.

They made them on site. Cake rolls are highly perishable and best eaten still warm from the oven. We sat at the counter and memorized every move.

The rolls are perfect for a diner. They take a few minutes to mix and about 20 to bake in a 400-degree oven. Our cook was constantly making batches in between filling orders.

Their texture is due to minimum mixing and no kneading. The dough is very sticky and rises as it bakes. In some circles, this is called a quick bread.

Minimal mixing

Long rising times and kneading create the fine grain in our breads as the yeast is dispersed evenly. With cake rolls, the yeast is barely mixed into the dough, resulting in a coarse but tender grain with lots of little air holes in it.

It soaks up butter nicely and is a perfect launching pad for a big spoon of strawberry jam. Depending on your appetite, you may add grated cheese, dried dill, minced garlic or whatever. I like a pinch of wheat germ on top.

Quick breads often contain no shortening. Shortening acts as a preservative. So cake rolls are best eaten warm out of the oven and may stay fresh for only two days or so in a bag.

They are much lighter than bread rolls but still have a good, yeast-bread flavor. Lack of kneading and rising times knocks the working time down from about three hours for regular rolls to less than an hour for quick ones.


2 cups (approximately) flour

1 tablespoon yeast

1 tablespoon dried milk

1 teaspoon salt

About 1 cup warm water

Mix the dried ingredients. Add water and stir until dough is formed but sticky, about five minutes. Add more water or flour if needed.

Coat a cupcake sheet with oil. Use an ice-cream scoop to place a ball of dough in each section. Allow to rise 15 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees or until rolls are golden. They are done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack and serve immediately. Makes about 8 rolls.

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