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Soft White Dinner Rolls

It may seem a crackpot idea to suggest you make fresh white bread rolls for your children's supper, but give me a moment. Please. Children absolutely adore making them, although the results often don't turn out to be bread rolls, but rather floury lumps and shapes covered in peanut butter, sprinkles and more flour, as they, in turn, will be covered themselves.

Besides, if you do make them, you will find it astonishingly relaxing and gratifying, and your children will — unaccountably — thank you. Mine love them spread thickly with melting butter, and I can't say I blame them.

1. Combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour with the instant yeast, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

2. Put the milk and butter into a saucepan and heat until the milk is warm, and the butter is beginning to melt.

3. Pour into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix with a fork or a wooden spoon to make a rough dough, adding more of the remaining flour if the dough is too wet. Then, either using your hands or the dough hook on an electric mixer, knead the dough until it is smooth and silky.

4. Put the ball of dough into a greased bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap, then leave in a warm place (I always sit a bowl of yeasted dough on a pile of newspapers) to rise for an hour, by which time it should be double the size. Punch the air out of the dough with your fist and then turn it out on to a floured surface.

5. Pull pieces of dough the size of walnuts off the dough and form them into small round rolls, like ping-pong balls, placing them as you go on to a greased or lined baking sheet. The balls of dough should be about 1/4 inch apart so that once they have sat to rise they will be just about touching. I get 30 balls of dough, and I arrange them in six lines of five.

6. Cover them with a kitchen towel and leave to rise again in a warm place for about half an hour, preheating the oven to 425 degrees F, while they sit. When the buns have puffed up, beat together the egg, milk and a pinch of salt and paint them with the glaze. Scatter alternate lines of buns with sesame and poppy seeds, leaving plain rows in between. (A teaspoon of seeds should decorate two rows). That's to say, a row of poppy-topped, then a row of sesame-topped, then one row of plain and then repeat again.

7. Bake the buns for 15 minutes, by which time they should be golden brown and joined together in a little batch. Remove them to a cooling rack or serve immediately. When I make these for adults I put them on the table and let people tear them off as they go. When I'm making them for a roomful of children, I wouldn't be as mad; the feeding frenzy is bad enough as it is, so just tear them off and hand a few round to them on a plate.

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