The Fresh Loaf

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Help me "modernize" this Feather Roll recipe from Fannie Farmer

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jstreed1476's picture

Help me "modernize" this Feather Roll recipe from Fannie Farmer

I'd like some advice on "modernizing" the following recipe. It's for "Feather Rolls" from the 10th edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook (1959). It's good, but not yet very good. I really think it could be, but only after a few changes.

Good: easy of prep; light, lacy crumb.

Bad: Overly yeasty flavor; not enough real flour flavor.

Here's how it appears in the book.


These light and delicate rolls are very easy and quick to make and require no kneading or shaping. Try them for a Sunday brunch or supper.

Put in a mixing bowl

1 cup warm milk (not hot)

1 package yeast

Let stand 5 minutes. Stir well. Add

4 T soft butter or oil

2 T sugar

.5 t salt

1 egg

Beat with a rotary egg beater or electric beater until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Add

2 c all-purpose flour

Continue to beat as long as possible, then finish mixing with a spoon. Cover the bowl, set in a warm place, and let rise for about 45 minutes.

Stir down the batter and fill buttered muffin pans a little more than half full. Let rise in a warm place until the pans are full (about 30-45 minutes). Bake 15-20 minutes at 400. Makes 8-12 rolls.


Ingredients: substitute .25 c whole wheat or other more-flavorful flour. Maybe rye. I've occasionally added a third of cup of mashed potatoes, and that worked pretty well. I think mashed sweet potatoes could be very, very good.

Method: Reduce yeast to about half and create a longer rise. Maybe a sponge of half the new amount of yeast, about half the flour, and all the milk, blanketed with remaining flour, with remaining yeast, butter, sugar, salt, and egg added after an overnight fridge rise (a la Rose Levy Beranbaum). 

I'm not really concerned about losing the ease of preparation, but I do want to keep the texture and develop a more complex flavor.

Am I on the right track?

Farine's picture

...has just published a sligthly different recipe here. You might be interested in taking a look as there is a longer rising time and it is possible to use sourdough instead of commercial yeast. I believe that's what John did. I am planning to try these rolls myself in the next couple of days.

jstreed1476's picture

Now that is an interesting take on this . . . I love the addition of the folklore behind the recipe. Thanks for the pointer!

He doesn't mention it, but the FF recipe also includes the option of cooking these on a griddle in rings (e.g. biscuit cutters, tuna cans). I think that sounds appealing, too!



rolls's picture

i think with any bread when you decrease the yeast and give it alonger cooler rise the bread tastes better for it!

jstreed1476's picture

Agreed! I've just about breaded out my family right now, but I might be able to sneak in a test batch before Thanksgiving dinner. If it goes well, I'll probably make these for our family feast.



clazar123's picture

You will get a very feathery,soft texture if you use WW pastry flour for about 1/4 to 1/3 the amount of the flour.So, I'd try doing 1/3 c WW pastry flour and 1 2/3 c AP flour. Make sure the dough has an almost sticky hydration at the start and stretch and fold with a prolonged rise-maybe even overnight in the refrigerator.You will get a wonderful texture and flavor.

I have started using this pastry flour mix just recently and have been astonished at the difference in texture.Even my whole wheat sandwich loaf develops a wonderfully soft texture.

jstreed1476's picture

That's something I'd not thought of, and it sounds very appealing. However, I've not seen WW pastry flour for sale anywhere. (Small city in NE Iowa, so my sources are limited.) I'm sure there's an online source (e.g. KAF), but it would be nice to just pick some up when I grab a gallon of milk, as it were.

The hydration on this is so great right now that it'd really more of a batter than a dough. I've used stretch-and-fold many times, as in pugliese and focaccia, but I'm not sure it would work with this one. Anything's worth a shot, though, isn't it?

I've thought about working with pastry flour before, especially after seeing its use in the Hokkaido Milk Loaf recipes here and elsewhere. Thanks for the testimonial!



caltiki's picture

I'm looking at the 1928 edition of FF and see that, though there are no Feather Rolls in evidence in this edition, the recipe for Raised Muffins is a dead ringer, only missing some of the butter. (Since later editions suggest baking Feather Rolls on a griddle in rings, as Raised Muffins are, this does seem to be your recipe's parent.) But the interesting part is she uses a mere 1/4 yeast cake to 4 cups of flour, and lets the whole thing rise overnight. This will certainly go a long way to developing the flavor you're after!

As the twentieth century wore on, the Boston Cooking School was willing to sacrifice flavor for speed... and certainly not alone in that!

jstreed1476's picture

That's a very nice addition. There's a little essay to be written, perhaps, that tells the story of a single recipe's permutations through successive editions.

I'll probably start the preferment to that tonight! (I'd planned on making them for dinner today, but plans changed. Baking must often yield to other, life-sized realities, no?)