In 2007, a young chef, Lena Kwak, did an internship at The French Laundry, and we asked her to stay. She was interested in nutrition, and as we found ourselves increasingly responding to diners who had specific dietary requests and restrictions, we often looked to Lena (pronounced "Lenna") to test new recipes.
One of the most common requests we get is for gluten-free breads, cakes, cookies, pasta, and other preparations. And gluten intolerance is a condition we take seriously.
Every meal at The French Laundry begins with a cornet, a savory cone-shaped tuile filled with crème fraîche and salmon tartare. So Corey Lee, chef de cuisine at the time, asked Lena to develop a gluten-free tuile. And she moved on to other gluten-free products. Lena didn't realize how important her work was until a diner came back to the kitchen, not to thank the chef, but to see her.
"She wanted to thank me for the brioche," Lena recalls. "She started crying. She hadn't been able to eat bread in seven years. People don't realize how special the simplest pleasures are until they can't have them."
Lena had worked hard to create an all-purpose mixture, based on different rice flours, potato flours, and cornstarch, that she could use in any gluten-free baked good, one that could be substituted cup for cup, gram for gram, for wheat flour.
It was so good that Corey suggested she talk to me about developing a product we could market. It was 2010, and I was already making a number of products for Williams-Sonoma, but this one was potentially the most special of all. And that's how Cup4Cup was born. It's something we're very proud of, as we are of these gluten-free brioche rolls. These are not just "pretty good for gluten-free," they are fantastic brioche rolls, period.
Combine the yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Stir in the warm water, and set in a warm spot to proof until the yeast mixture is foaming and bubbly, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the Cup4Cup and salt in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Whisk together the eggs, yolks, honey, butter, and proofed yeast mixture in a medium-sized bowl.
Turn the mixer to low speed and slowly add the egg mixture. Increase the speed to medium and mix the dough for 10 minutes. (It will be very silky and not as stiff as regular bread dough.)
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set the bowl in a warm spot until the dough has about doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Using a rubber spatula, deflate the dough, turning it over a few times in the bowl. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon 1/3 cup of the dough into each cup. Brush the tops of the rolls with egg wash, top with the Maldon salt, and set in a warm spot to proof uncovered until they rise (but are not doubled) and spread slightly, for about 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the rolls until the tops are golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center of a roll comes out clean, for 15-17 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.