Jalapeño Cheese Rolls #TwelveLoaves June

Food Blog May 2013-1439Last week I presented you with something both vegan and gluten-free.  Dietary allergen-buster, that’s me!  This week, to prove that I’m a fickle  equal opportunist  flexible sort of cook, I’m giving you something that is neither.  But really, this is the kind of food person I am, and I’ve been thinking about this lately, especially given this post from Shauna at Gluten-Free Girl.  I’ve thought, over this past year as I finished my Bittman Project and moved on to my exploration of dough, what kind of food blog this is, anyway.  I don’t follow a specific dietary regimen.  I don’t cook – or eat – specifically one type of food.  So what am I?  As I wrote to Shauna, what drove me to her blog, and what drove me to one of my own, was the expression of joy through food.  I want food that tastes good and brings joy.  And then, because it has given joy to the tongues and teeth and bellies of the people I made it for, I want to pass that on to people who weren’t in our little house with us.  That’s you, people.  So I guess what it comes down to is: this is a blog about food that brings you joy.  At least, that’s what I hope you feel when you read, and when you eat, if you end up using the recipes here (and if you do, will you tell me?  I’d love to know what you guys think).

These little rolls brought us considerable joy.  They are cheddar infused, jalapeño studded puffs somewhere in between a rich, buttery brioche and a stern, crusty, segmented Kaiser roll.  They are also, given this month’s Twelve Loaves assignment of buns, the perfect choice to slice equatorially, layer with mayonnaise or hot sauce or pickles or onion rings or dripping fresh tomato slices and then cram with a burger of your favorite juicy variety.

Food Blog May 2013-1410I started with my Nana’s sweet roll dough, replacing the sugar with a smaller amount of honey, opting for the tang of buttermilk rather than the roundness of whole milk, and injecting wafer-thin slices of jalapeno and cheddar cheese so sharp it made me – let’s not lie – basically drool when I sampled some.

Food Blog May 2013-1414Food Blog May 2013-1415Though you could just divide your dough into equal sections and let these rise into sweet, uncomplicated burger buns, I decided to take on the familiar lobed shape of a Kaiser roll.  This is, as you might expect, not the most straightforward approach, mostly because there are numerous methods for achieving that instantly recognizable shape.  You can score the dough as it rises, you can use a special press that creates the petal shape, can follow a complex procedure of folds, or, as I learned and executed to my delight, you can roll the dough into ropes, tie them in a simple overhand knot, and then tuck up the ends.  I’ve attempted instructions and accompanying pictures below, but if you are lost, try this recipe, which explains the knotting and tucking process pretty clearly.

Food Blog May 2013-1425Food Blog May 2013-1429Sprinkled with more sharp cheddar and topped with a few more, probably gratuitous slices of pepper (you have to know what you’re in for, I think), these bake into all but perfect imitations of the jalapeño cheese rolls N. and I used to buy from Market of Choice as the occasional treat after a perfect sunny afternoon trip to the dog park in Eugene.  We never put burgers on those, because they never made it through the whole ride home.  But these little Kaiser-roll-buns of mine, burnished with cheddar and lip-tingling with heat, will carry anything you load them with.

Food Blog May 2013-1435Food Blog May 2013-1433Summer’s coming.  That should bring you joy.  If you can stand more, make these for your next barbeque.  This recipe can easily be doubled, and once baked, these will keep in the fridge for a few days or, securely wrapped in airtight packaging, in the freezer for much longer.

Food Blog May 2013-1441Jalapeño Cheese Rolls
makes 8 petite rolls, or 6 larger ones
 2 tsp active dry yeast
1 TB warm water
½ cup warm buttermilk
2 TB honey
¼ cup room temperature butter
1 egg
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour (I like bread flour best for these, because it has a high protein content that stimulates gluten production.  But I think all-purpose would create similarly fantastic rolls)
1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 medium jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced


  • Stir the yeast gently into the warm water, set aside for five minutes to let the yeast wake up.
  • Add butter and honey to the warm buttermilk, stirring them together until incorporated.  This will make the honey and butter easier to integrate into the dough, and cool the buttermilk so it won’t kill the yeast or scramble the egg.
  • Pour the puffy, bready yeast, the buttermilk mixture, and the egg  into a large bowl (I use the bowl of my electric stand mixer), and whisk or stir together with a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of your stand mixer.
  • Add the flour and salt to the mixture, and stir just until roughly combined.
  • Add ¾ cup of the cheddar cheese and half of the jalapeño slices to the rough dough and stir again, just until the cheese and peppers are well distributed.
  • If you are using a stand mixer, replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and knead on medium speed for 8-10 minutes. If you are not using a stand mixer, turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.  Though I think kneading by hand will work fine here (I haven’t tried it, so I’m not positive), there are two things to take into consideration.  First, this dough has cheese it in, so that may make it messier to work with than your average burger bun dough.  Second, it contains jalapeño peppers, which can leach capsaicin onto your hands and sting delicate skin (read: don’t forget and wipe your nose!), so be absolutely certain you wash your hands really well after handling this dough.
  • In either case, the dough starts out sticky, but becomes smooth and stretchy as you continue to work it. Once it is elastic and supple and lovely, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm room (if you have one handy) for an hour and a half, or until it has doubled in volume.
  • Remove the plastic wrap and punch down your doubled dough by gently but firmly pressing your fist into the center.  It will almost gasp as the built-up gasses are released.
  • Divide the dough in 8 equal pieces (for petite buns), or 6 equal pieces (for big, beefy buns).
  • Now would be a good time to do some prep, while the dough-balls get some breath back.  Preheat your oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  If you haven’t already, dust a bread board with flour.
  • Working one at a time, roll each dough ball into a 6-8 inch rope (Picture 1).
Food Blog May 2013-1419

Picture 1: dough rope

Food Blog May 2013-1420

Picture 2: overhand knot

Picture 3: tuck right side into top middle of knot

Picture 3: tuck right side into top middle of knot

Food Blog May 2013-1426

Picture 4: tuck left side under and into bottom middle of knot

  • Tie the rope into a simple overhand knot (the same way you would begin tying a shoelace).  I tie mine left side through right side, probably because I am left-handed.  If you are right-handed and you tie your knot the opposite way, reverse the L and R in the directions below.  You will have a knot in the middle and some lanky excess on either side (picture 2).
  • Now, to form the segmented shape of a Kaiser roll, lift the length on the right side of your knot (which started out as the left end of your original rope) and pull it up over the knot, shoving the end of it down into the middle of the knot itself and pressing lightly to secure (picture 3).
  • Next, lift the left side and tuck it under the knot, pushing it up through the middle from the bottom.  Sometimes it will poke through and make a little button in the top of the roll; sometimes it won’t.  Either is okay (picture 4).
  • With all of your rolls knotted and tucked, set them on your prepared baking trays, spaced evenly.  I did four per sheet tray.
  • Sprinkle each roll with cheddar cheese from the remaining ¼ cup.  Top each with 1-2 slices of reserved jalapeño.  Cover trays with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
  • Remove kitchen towel, admire the puffy little buns you’ve created, and bake in your preheated, 350F oven for 20 minutes.  The cheese will melt, the dough will rise, the color will deepen to a lovely golden brown, and the thinnest of your jalapeño slices will barely begin to caramelize.
  • If you eat these immediately, you will burn your mouth.  And it won’t just be the good burn from the jalapeño.  So do what you can to let them cool a little, and then load them up, or just eat them plain.  I think you’ll be happy either way.