Thursday, March 1, 2012
Bread Dough 101
I sometimes wonder if there is a pioneer gene- or perhaps it's all those Little House books I read in the 70s. Whatever the cause, doing "it" the old fashioned way has much apeal for me. Now don't misunderstand me, as much has I love quilting-I do it mostly with the help of a machine. As much as I like canning, I'd be less enamoured with the process minus my wonderful 5 burner gas stove. And bread making wouldn't happen without my Kitchen-Aid stand up mixer.
I got my cobalt blue, stainless steel bowl friend about 20 years ago as my first Mothers Day present and since then we have been inseperable. Shortly after she came into my life, I decided I would learn to bake bread. At that time, classes in things like bread baking were limited to large cities, where the "foodie" movement was but in it's infant stages. I taught myself. Taught might be a mis-nomer because what I really did was make a whole bunch of mistakes until the only thing left was somehow right. Being the quilt machine, gas stove, industrial mixer kind of girl that I am, my bread recipes tend to be a little mechanical and basic. On the flip side, once the basic bread is assembled then I can be creative in the outcome. My pizza dough become Foccacia, Garlic Butter Knots and Bread Sticks. Yeast Roll dough transforms itself into my Cinnamon Roll recipe.
Most people think bread is complicated- it isn't. The ingredients are as basic as they come. Flour, liquid, flavoring, levening....and time. It's the last ingredient that throws most people into dispair, and dough into trashcans. Bread needs time, and for some it's the one ingredient in such short supply that they dare not spare it. I get that. I love a good short-cut, but some drives are better taken at a slow pace. Bread is one of them. The following is my basic yeast dough recipe which can become Big Fat Yeast Rolls or with a few additional ingredients and a technique called a jelly roll you can have Cinnamon Rolls.
6-7 cups Bread Flour
2 cups milk warmed to no more than 110 degrees (bathwater temp)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
pinch of salt
In large mixing bowl (I use my beloved Kitchen-Aid with the mixing paddle) add warm milk, yeast and sugar. Begin mixing together. Add melted butter and egg, more beating. Lastly the pinch of salt.
After all ingredients are mixed, start adding the flour about a cup at a time. Make sure to give it time to incorporate. Before you add the last cup or so, change to dough hook attachment. Add the rest of the flour or as much as needed to make a SOFT dough. It should just be pulling away from the sides. "Knead" the bread using the dough hook for about 10 min.
Place dough in a large bowl that has been greased with either a little oil or the leftovers of melted butter from the paper or glass. Cover the dough with a towel or I use a plastic grocery bag and let rest and rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Place risen dough (lovely and spongey) on a floured surface and begin to knead it by hand. This is a great work out and not as complicated as it looks. You are simply working the dough- giving it some energy and preparing it to rise again. Simply push, roll and pull back for 10 minutes or until your arms drop off- which ever comes first.
Grease your baking sheets, loaf pans or whatever pan you will use to bake your rolls or bread. Remember to have plenty of room for the rolls/bread to rise. They will double again after shaping. Shape the dough and place it on/in baking pans. Cover with a towel or plastic. HINT: I always spray my rolls with cooking spray, roll them in butter or somehow "grease them". It will prevent sticking to the covering surface and give them a nice sheen in the baking. Let rise in a warm spot 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and bake uncovered for approximately 20 min. for rolls. Watch them the last few minutes- NO BURNED ROLLS! While watching them, do it up right and melt another couple of tablespoons of butter and brush it on the tops. Serve warm- YUM!