Well, I like to know what’s inside my food and sometimes the ingredient list of store-bought breads trouble me. I make my breads with organic milk, unbleached flour and eggs from my chickens. Because of this, I think they taste better. It’s also less expensive to bake breads at home. A 5-pound bag of bread flour, which makes about eight loaves of bread, costs $5 in my neighborhood. A loaf of bread alone can cost $5 at the market.
Baking bread does take a bit of time, but don’t let the overnight process intimidate you. There’s very little actual hands-on time. You mix all the ingredients the night before. Set the dough in the fridge and wait for it to rise overnight. You will be surprised at how fast the dough grows from its first to third trimester in just less than 24 hours. The dough should triple in size. You then shape the dough into little buns, wait for them to rise one more time and bake. Do it a couple of times you will think it’s as easy as baking brownies.
You can make this recipe without a mixer, but it’s a lot easier to do it with one. Kneading by hand can get tiring. I’d also invest in a electric scale. Baking, as you know, requires very exact measurements. Though I’ve been known to bake muffins and cupcakes without weighing the ingredients, I always use a scale when baking bread.
With a few tools, a foolproof recipe like this and some patience, you will be putting fresh, hot rolls on your dinner table in no time. Now if only Phoebe could understand the patience part…
From “Artisan Breads Every Day” by Peter Reinhart
- Instant yeast, 1 tablespoon (0.33 oz)
- Lukewarm milk, about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons
- Unbleached bread flour, 6 1/4 cups (28 oz)
- Table salt, 2 teaspoons (0.5 oz), or coarse kosher salt, 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz)
- Granulated sugar, 5 1/2 tablespoons (2.75 oz), or 1/4 cup honey or agave nectar
- Vegetable oil or melted butter, 6 tablespoons (3 oz)
- Egg, 1 large (1.75 oz)
- Egg, 1 large, beaten, for egg wash
- Honey or agave nectar, 1 tablespoon, for egg wash
- Water, 3 tablespoons, for egg wash
- Sesame seeds, optional
- Poppy seeds, optional
Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm water until dissolved. Set aside for 1 to 5 minutes.
Combine the flour, salt, sugar, oil and egg in a mixing bowl, then pour in the milk mixture. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 2 minutes. If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for about 2 minutes. The dough should be coarse and slightly sticky.
Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough is supple, soft and tacky but not sticky.
Whichever mixing method you use, knead the dough by hand for 1 minute, then form it into a ball.
Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days. Make sure the bowl is at least double the size of the dough.
On baking day:
Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 1/2 hours before you plan to bake the rolls. Divide the dough into 2-ounce pieces. Place each piece on the work surface, cup your hand around the dough then rapidly rotate it in a circular motion. Roll the dough into a tight, smooth ball. Assemble them about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicon pads.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it sit for 2 1/2 hours. The dough will rise again. If you want pull-apart dinner rolls, place them just touching each other on baking sheets. They will rise into one another.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees about 15 minutes before baking. Whisk together the egg, honey or agave nectar and water for the egg wash. Brush the egg wash on the rolls and sprinkle on poppy seeds and sesame seeds if using.
Bake rolls for 17 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes about 24 rolls.