Everyone likes the smell of bread baking in the oven, and these rolls will not be the exception. These are the same rolls that my mother made every year for Christmas Eve. They are great for any type of sandwich, and easy to make.
Christmas Eve with my family is my most cherished childhood memory. As most Italian families, we abstained from eating meat on Christmas Eve, and ate fish instead. However, we celebrated well beyond midnight so we were permitted to indulge in meat at that time. We went to midnight Mass while Mom stayed home and prepared a baked ham and made the French rolls for us to have when we returned. The rolls were still hot when she served them. The anticipation of the hot rolls and fresh baked ham made it difficult to stay focused during Mass.
We stayed up most of the night celebrating with family and friends who stopped by after Mass. This was my favorite part of the holiday; spending time with family, talking, eating, and maybe even opening a gift or two.
3 – cups lukewarm water
1 – tbls. salt
1 – tbls. sugar
2 – pkgs. active dry yeast
2 – tbls. canola or vegetable oil
8 – cups unbleached bread flour
Place the yeast, sugar, and water in a medium sized bowl. Stir to dissolve and let rest about 10 minutes until the yeast forms bubbles on the surface. Place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture in the center and add the oil and salt. Using a fork, begin to mix in the flour.
Add more water if necessary. Once most of the liquid is absorbed you will need to use your hands to mix the dough. Continue mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn it out onto a lightly floured board and knead until elastic, about 5 minutes.
Coat a large bowl with a little oil and place the dough inside, then brush a little oil on top of the dough to keep it moist.
Cover with a clean dish towel and keep it in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured board and knead about one minute. Divide the dough into 32 equal pieces. Form balls and place on a greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. If you want larger rolls, divide the dough into 24 pieces. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Bake in a pre-heated 400° oven for 25 minutes or until light golden brown.
Remove from oven and brush tops with melted butter, and place on cooling rack.