Panini sandwiches have become so popular in Morocco that in Casablanca and other urban areas you'll have no trouble finding panini machines for sale alongside coffee makers and other kitchen electronics, and equal ease at finding half-baked panini rolls in supermarkets and bakeries. While it's tempting to yield to the convenience of those store bought rolls, the taste and texture of homemade panini bread is far superior to the commercial variety, so when time allows I prefer to make my own.
The recipe here yields enough rolls for a family of four; double the recipe if serving a larger group or if you wish to stock your freezer with a backup supply.
- 4 cups all purpose bread flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon dry yeast (or fresh)
- 2 tablespoons butter (very soft, or oil)
- 1 1/4 cup warm water
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the yeast, butter, and enough warm water to make a very soft, sticky dough. Add a little more flour or a little more water if necessary to achieve that consistency.
- Knead the dough by hand or with an electric stand mixer and dough hook for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and elastic; the dough should remain tacky so you may find that a stand mixer is easiest.
- Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, gather it up into a mound and turn it over. Cover the bowl with plastic and then a towel and set aside in a draft-free place to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes in a very warm kitchen or an hour or longer in a cool kitchen.
- Divide the dough into 10 to 12 plum-sized balls. Set the balls of dough on a lightly floured surface, cover, and leave to rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper. Take a ball of dough and gently spread and shape it into a flat, oblong roll about 6" (15 cm) in length. Transfer it to the prepared pan (a dough scraper is useful for lifting the dough from your work surface) and repeat with the remaining dough, allowing space between each roll for expansion. Cover and leave the rolls to rise for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the panini rolls in the middle of the oven and bake for about 8 minutes, or until set and barely colored. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before slicing lengthwise along one side. Flatten and grill the sandwiches in a panini press until hot throughout and well-marked from the grill.