by Maggie Glezer
from A Blessing of Bread
Makes 24 two-ounce rolls
According to scholar and writer Nicholas Stavroulakis, in the Cookbook of the Jews of Greece, it was the custom in certain communities in Greece to celebrate the end of Passover by making rolls studded with walnuts and dried currants. A fast-moving dough is needed, because the idea was to eat chametz, “leavened bread,” as soon as possible after sundown, and a churek dough makes a perfect choice. Although the daintiness of currants — which are actually a kind of small raisin called Zante — is very attractive in these small rolls, raisins could be substituted. I use a very generous amount of currants and walnuts, which makes for dense rolls; if you prefer lighter rolls with less fruit and nuts, halve the amounts of currants and walnuts.—Maggie Glezer
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
About 4 1/4 cups bread flour
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/4 cups currants
1 1/2 cups walnut pieces
1 large egg, plus 1 for glazing
1 large egg yolk
2 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast and 1 1/4 cups of the flour, then whisk in the warm water until smooth. Let the slurry stand uncovered for 10 to 20 minutes, or until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.
2. While the slurry is fermenting, swish the currants around in a bowl of warm water, then drain in a strainer. Blot off excess water with a paper towel. Coarsely chop the walnuts into currant-size pieces.
3. Whisk the whole egg, yolk, salt, and oil into the puffed yeast slurry until smooth. With your hands or a wooden spoon, stir in remaining 3 cups flour all at once. When the mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it out onto your work surface and knead it until it is well mixed, fairly smooth, and soft, no more than 10 minutes. (Soak your mixing bowl in hot water now to clean it and warm it for fermenting the dough.) If the dough is too firm, add a tablespoon or two of water to it; if it seems too wet, add a few tablespoons of flour. The dough should feel soft, stick to itself easily but not to the work surface, and be easy to knead.
4. When the dough is fully developed, knead in the currants and walnuts just until thoroughly incorporated. This is a large amount of ingredients to incorporate, but with a little persistence, all the currants and walnuts can be forced in.
5. Place the dough in the warmed clean bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. (Or, the dough can be refrigerated right after kneading, then removed from the refrigerator to finish fermenting up to 24 hours later.) Let the dough ferment for about 1 hour. (If it has been refrigerated, this may take an extra 30 to 60 minutes.)
6. To turn the dough, flour a work surface and the top of the dough. Pull the dough out of the bowl and set it upside down on the floured work surface. Gently press the dough to flatten it slightly, then fold the sides into the middle. What was originally the top of the dough should be taut and smooth and the raisins and walnuts better incorporated. Put the dough back in the bowl smooth side up to finish fermenting until at least doubled in bulk, 30 minutes to 1 hour longer, depending on the temperature in your kitchen.
7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or oil them. Roll the dough into a long thick strand and cut it into 24 equal pieces. Flatten the pieces with the palm of your hand and pinch the bottoms to create round rolls. Arrange them on the baking sheets, leaving plenty of space around them, and cover with plastic wrap. (At this point, the rolls can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.) Let the rolls proof until tripled in size, about 1 hour (or up to 2 hours if they have been refrigerated).
8. Meanwhile, 30 minutes before baking, arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower third positions and preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Beat a pinch of salt into the remaining egg to use for glazing the rolls.
9. When the dough has tripled and does not push back when gently pressed with your finger but remains indented, brush the rolls with the egg glaze. Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, or until very well browned. After the first 15 minutes of baking, switch the pans from front to back and top to bottom so that the rolls brown evenly. When the rolls are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool on a rack.
Recipe © 2004 Maggie Glezer. All rights reserved.