As soon as I pulled the Gourmet magazine out of the post office box in 2009 I saw these rolls on the cover. I went straight home and made a batch of the delicious and adorable little love-knots, I even used the magazine cover showing the topknots as the cover of a pre-Gran’s Best recipe notebook ponderously entitled, “Tried and Enjoyed Recipes Cut Out from Gourmet and Other Places.”
We adapted the recipe to use more whole wheat flour and less white flour. It makes 2 dozen rolls and takes about one hour to put together, six hours total.
1 1/2 cups boiling-hot water
1/2 cup medium bulgur (also called cracked wheat)
(you could substitute 10-grain cereal)
1 tablespoon table salt, divided
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (a 1/4-ounce package)
1/4 cup warm water (105-115°F)
1 tablespoon honey or sugar
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading and dusting
1 large egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
1 1/2 tablespoons flaky sea salt (preferably Maldon)
Stir together boiling-hot water, bulgur, and 1/2 teaspoon table salt in a small bowl and let stand until bulgur is tender, about 40 minutes.
While bulgur soaks, heat milk with butter in a small saucepan over low heat just until butter is melted.
Stir together yeast, warm water, and honey in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.) Add flours and remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons table salt to yeast mixture.
Drain bulgur in a sieve, then mix bulgur and milk mixture into flour mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a sticky dough forms.
Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead, dusting surface and your hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and almost smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Form dough into a ball.
Put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Punch down dough, then halve. Cut half of dough into 12 equal pieces (keep remaining half covered with plastic wrap). Roll each piece into a 12-inch-long rope with floured hands (flour surface only if dough is sticky). Make a loop with each rope, wrapping it around fingers of one hand, then knot dough twice through loop, leaving 1 end in center on top and tucking bottom end under. Transfer to a baking sheet, arranging rolls 2 inches apart.
Make more rolls with remaining dough, transferring to second sheet. Cover rolls with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.
Brush rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake rolls, switching position of sheets halfway through, until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes total. Transfer rolls to a rack to cool at least 20 minutes.
Note: Rolls are best the day they’re made but can be frozen (cool completely, then wrap well) 1 month. Thaw, then reheat on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven until warmed through, 5 to 10 minutes.