These soft, pillowy rolls marry buttery brioche with nutty tahini. The result is a familiar favorite with an unexpected depth of flavor that's perfect for snacking on, under a swath of butter and drizzle of honey. These rolls come to us from Maura Kilpatrick, chef and owner of Sofra bakery. Her story can be found in the Holiday 2018 issue of Sift magazine.
To make the sponge: Combine the milk, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. We don't recommend kneading this dough by hand; it's too sticky.
When the yeast is dissolved, whisk in the eggs. Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. Stir in 1 cup of the flour and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup over the top. Set aside to rise until there are cracks in the layer of flour on top, about 30 minutes.
To make the dough: Add the flour, sugar, salt, eggs, egg yolk, and tahini to the sponge. Mix until dough forms, using the mixer's dough hook attachment.
Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough begins to gather itself around the hook, about 8 to 10 minutes. When ready, the dough should bounce back if you poke it with your finger; if it's still sticky, add 2 more tablespoons of flour (but no more) and knead for 2 more minutes. It's important that the dough is developed before adding the butter.
Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again on high speed for 1 minute. Reduce the speed to medium, add half of the butter, and continue mixing until the butter is incorporated.
Add the remaining butter and continue mixing until the dough is silky smooth, 10 to 15 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 1 minute.
Lightly flour a bowl or storage container. Transfer the dough to the container and press it into a flat rectangle. Fold the edges in to meet in the middle, then flip the dough over and press into a rectangle once more. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or as long as overnight.
To shape the rolls: Butter a 9" or 10" springform pan and set aside. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls. Arrange the balls in a single layer in the prepared pan.
Cover with plastic and let rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
To bake: Toward the end of the rise time, preheat the oven to 350°F. When the rolls have properly risen, they'll look puffy and a slight dent will remain when gently pressed. Brush the tops with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown and the center reads 190°F when measured with a digital thermometer. Remove from the oven and place on a rack. After 5 minutes, remove the side of the pan to allow the rolls to finish cooling.
Store leftover rolls, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to three days; freeze for longer storage.
Tips from our Bakers
A time-honored baker's trick to see if dough is fully developed is called "pulling a window." Take a golf-ball-sized piece of dough and very gently stretch it as thinly as you can; fully kneaded dough should be thin enough to be translucent without breaking or shredding.