Editor’s note: As announced last week, our Fall For Food blogger is Mark Evitt, the multi-talented fellow behind The Manly Housekeeper. Over the next four weeks, he’ll be serving up four courses of cooking tips and recipes that can help even the lowliest cave cooks evolve into champion chefs. This is his first post.

Grilling season is over, which means you’ll actually have to be cooking inside now. Don’t let the oven and the stove get the best of you.

Over the next four weeks, I’ll be walking you through a four-course meal that is worthy of company or even your significant other. We’ll be cooking dishes that look challenging but are actually easier to prepare than you think. The goal is to be impressive yet not spend the whole day cooking.

Along the way we’ll prepare a warm salad, beer-braised pork shoulder with roasted vegetables and brandy and pear cobbler. First up are fluffy and savory dinner rolls.

It’s easy to get turned off bread baking because it takes too much time. Really delicious sourdough breads take more than a day to rise and ferment. Of course, dough can rise and be ready to bake in as little as 90 minutes. The problem, however, is you’re left with a flavorless pillow of air to chew on.

The solution is to mix in savory ingredients. For this recipe I incorporated caramelized onions and dried Italian herbs. Instead of using water or milk for the liquid in my dough, I used Newcastle Brown Ale. Beer adds the yeasty flavor you find when fermenting dough for longer, and the brown ale is perfect to use because it isn’t bitter.

This recipe requires a 9×13-inch pan and will make 12 dinner rolls.


3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 pouch instant yeast

1 1/4 cup (10 ounces) brown ale

5 tablespoons butter, divided

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning mixture

1 medium sweet yellow onion, diced

Combine the diced onion and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium pan over low heat. Cook the onions until they brown and caramelize, about 30 minutes.

There are two more ingredients to prep before mixing: melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and warm the beer in the microwave until it is lukewarm.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. To measure the flour, stir it before spooning it into your measuring cup. First mix together the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and Italian herbs. Then add the caramelized onion, melted butter and beer. Stir together with a fork until you have a rough shaggy mass of dough.

The kneading process is next. This is one of those things that seems really intimidating until you try it. Sprinkle your kneading surface with a dusting of flour, then dump out the dough. Shape it into a rough log. Use the heels of both your hands to press into the dough (Step 1 in the photo above.) Then turn the log 90 degrees (Step 2) and fold the log in half (Step 3). Then repeat those three steps.

Continue this knead, turn, fold and repeat process for about 10 minutes. Add more sprinklings of flour if the dough gets sticky. As you work, you’ll feel the dough change texture. It will become more supple, elastic and easy to fold.

You’ll know you are done kneading if you can cut off a piece of dough and stretch it out without tearing it. This is called the windowpane test. Is your stretched dough translucent? Then it is ready to rise.

Wipe the interior of a medium-size bowl with olive oil and set the dough inside. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 hour.

After an hour has passed, turn the dough back out onto the counter. Use a sharp knife to divide the dough into 12 equal pieces.

Grease the 9×13-inch pan with butter or olive oil. Cup each segment of dough in your hands (one supporting and one covering) and lightly roll the dough in between to form a ball. Place the dough balls equally spaced in the pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the rolls rise for another 45 minutes to 1 hour. During that time the rolls will rise and touch one another.

During the last 15 minutes of rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until they begin to brown.

Let the rolls cool slightly, then tear them apart to serve.