Archive for Yeast Bread

Incredibly Soft and Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls

Soft and Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls with sweet, creamy Cream Cheese Frosting…need I say more? 😉

These cinnamon rolls are so easy to make that you’ll never have to buy those rolls popular in shopping malls.

If you’re not too sure about making yeast breads, read my step-by-step instructions (complete with photos for each step) then take a leap of faith in yourself and give yeast-baking a try.  In fact, my two daughters (one is a teen, the other is 11) made the batch you see pictured below.  If they can do it, YOU CAN TOO! :

I promise you this: these are one of the best cinnamon rolls you’re ever going to eat. Well, that’s what I think of them, anyway.

Give my recipe a try. I know you’ll love it! 😀

Incredibly Soft and Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Dough Ingredients:

  • 4 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (or one packet) rapid rise yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk powder
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs, beaten lightly
  • 3/4 cup warm water (heated to 105 degrees)

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Dough Directions:

Place all but 1/4 cup of flour into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Save the extra flour for use later.

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Add the sugar to the mixing bowl.

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Add the rapid rise yeast.

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Add a pinch of salt.

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Add the buttermilk powder.

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This is what the container of buttermillk powder looks like. You can find it in the baking aisle of your grocery store. If you can’t find buttermilk powder, substitute the powder and warm water with regular (liquid) buttermilk (found in the dairy section). Heat the buttermilk as you would the water, adding the warmed buttermilk at the same time you add the melted butter and eggs (see below).

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Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, mix on low speed to combine.

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Add the melted butter to the mixing bowl.

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Add the beaten eggs.

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Add the warm water. Make sure the water is 105 degrees; I recommend using a thermometer to ensure you have the right temperature. You can find instant-read thermometers in most grocery stores nowadays. It’s fairly inexpensive, about $5.00. It’s worth the investment.

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Mix until a soft dough forms.

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It doesn’t look like much at this stage, but this sticky dough will soon become 12 super-soft, fluffy, giant cinnamon rolls that rival those over-priced buns you buy in malls.

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As soon as all of the flour and other dry ingredients are mixed in with the wet ingredients, remove the paddle attachment and attach the dough hook.

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Using the dough hook, knead the dough for 5 minutes. If the dough is still sticking to the side of the bowl, add a spoonful of the remaining flour to the bowl and continue kneading for a couple of minutes. The photo below shows a lot of the dough still sticking to the side of the mixing bowl; adding a spoonful more of flour should do the trick.

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Keep adding flour, a spoonful at a time, until the dough leaves the side of the mixing bowl.

I added just one additional spoonful of flour. After adding a bit more flour, the dough is tightening up and leaving the sides of the bowl.

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The dough is still a bit sticky, but once you see the dough begin to ball up around the dough hook with the sides of the bowl clearing off, STOP adding more flour.  You WANT the dough to be a little bit sticky.

It’s okay if the dough sticks to the bottom of the bowl, however. Again, do NOT add more flour once the dough begins to clear the sides of the bowl. Finish kneading the dough at this point; the total kneading time is about 10-12 minutes using your stand mixer. If kneading by hand, knead for about 15 minutes (oil your hands instead of adding flour if the dough is too sticky to handle while kneading).

After the kneading time is complete, spray a large glass bowl with butter flavored cooking spray.

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Place the dough into the glass bowl.

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Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Place in a warm place to rise until the dough has doubled in size.

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Depending on how warm or cold your rising place is, this step could take about 2 hours. A trick I learned is to place the glass bowl into a cold oven, then turn the oven on to 400 degrees–keep the oven on for EXACTLY ONE MINUTE then turn the oven off. After 30 minutes, check to see how much the dough has risen. If you need to, reheat the oven (turn it on to 400 degrees for precisely one minute then turn the oven back off). I did this “heating trick” a total of two times — once when I first put the bowl into the oven, and once more after 30 minutes. After one hour, my dough doubled in size quite nicely.

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Oh, I should mention that when my kids made these rolls, it was about 22 degrees outside with a bit of snow coming down. So, don’t let the outside temperature dissuade you from making these delectable rolls.

While you wait for the dough to rise, make the frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (no need to pre-sift)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

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Frosting Directions:

Place the cream cheese and butter into a small mixing bowl.

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Using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until creamy.

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Add the powdered sugar to the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed until the sugar and cream cheese-butter mixture is combined.

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Add the vanilla extract to the mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed until creamy. Set aside.

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Resist every temptation to eat the frosting with a spoon. Licking the beaters are okay, however. 😀

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Set the frosting aside and prepare the cinnamon-sugar filling.

Cinnamon Sugar Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

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Filling Directions:

Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Set aside.

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Keep the butter at room temperature to soften.

After the dough has doubled in size, it’s time to roll and fill the dough.

Roll the Dough:

Punch down the middle of the risen dough. You only need to punch it once; the goal is to deflate the dough, not beat it senseless.

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Flour the surface of your countertop then place the dough on top of the floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll out a rectangle, roughly 12×17 inches, give or take an inch or two.

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Now comes the fun part. Take the butter that’s been softening at room temperature and spread it all over the surface of the dough, stopping about an inch from the edges.

Go on…get your impeccably clean hands in that butter….

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Evenly sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar filling over the buttered portion.

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Starting at the long edge, roll the dough, jelly-roll style.

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We’re going to make a dozen cinnamon rolls, so using a dough scraper, sharp knife or unflavored and unwaxed dental floss, cut the rolled dough into 12 pieces.

An easy way to do this is to first the the log in half.

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Cut each half into halves.

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Slice each quarter piece into thirds.

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Continue slicing each piece until you get 12 pieces.

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These rolls will have to double in size again, and believe me when I tell you that they will DOUBLE in size. And this is BEFORE baking–the rolls will “grow” even larger while they bake!

For this reason, a “normal” 9×13-inch pan will be too small to hold these yummy rolls. I use a half-sheet pan to bake these beauties.

Prepare the pan by lining it with aluminum foil. You don’t have to do this; however, it makes clean-up so much easier!

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Place the rolls onto the pan. Space them out quite a bit–like I mentioned above, these beauties will RISE!

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***NOTE***

If you want to have these rolls for breakfast, hot out of the oven, STOP HERE.  Cover the rolls with plastic wrap (I recommend using the Press-N-Seal brand so that it sticks to the metal tray) and place the entire tray of UNRISEN rolls in the refrigerator OVERNIGHT.  Don’t worry–the rising process will slow waaaaayyyy down in your refrigerator’s cold environment.  You can keep the rolls in the ‘fridge for 12-16 hours, no problem.  In the morning (about 90 minutes earlier from the time you want to eat these rolls) — take the tray of rolls out of the refrigerator.  Remove the plastic wrap and let the rolls sit at room temperature for one hour.  After an hour, preheat your oven and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Let the rolls cool before frosting.

The implied task is that you start making these rolls at night, or late afternoon, so that you can refrigerate them for the requisite 12-16 hours prior to baking them in the morning.

***If you DO NOT WANT TO WAIT OVERNIGHT to enjoy these fantabulous rolls, finish the process by following the remaining steps below.*****

Okay, now where were we….  Oh yeah…we need to make those rolls rise.

Using my “heating trick” mentioned above, create a warm place for the tray of rolls to rise by turning the oven on to 400 degrees for EXACTLY one minute, then turn the oven OFF.  Place the tray into the warm oven. Let the rolls rise for about 30-45 minutes.

Look how much these babies GREW! Oh, they grow up so fast, don’t they?! Don’t blink or you’ll miss it! LOL 😀

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Look at the size of each roll, compared to the size of a pomegranate (which was the size of a softball).  And this is the size BEFORE baking.  Wait ’till you see the size these beauties become AFTER baking!

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Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls for 20 minutes. These rolls are meant to be a light golden brown when done.

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Let the rolls cool before frosting. Generously frost each roll then serve and enjoy! The rolls will stay fresh for about 4 days (if they last that long!). Cover any uneaten rolls with aluminum foil or place the rolls in an airtight container.

ENJOY!

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Chocolate Chips

Pumpkin bread, pumpkin turnovers, pumpkin muffins, and now, Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls–with chocolate chips too!  If I didn’t already have you at “cinnamon rolls”, you must surely be hooked now that I mentioned these yummilicious rolls have the added indulgence of Chocolate Chips!

I may have mentioned this in previous posts, but it’s worth repeating–I love anything made with pumpkin! 😀

These rolls are perfect for breakfast, or as an added dessert item on your Thanksgiving menu.

Wait…I forgot that not only are these PUMPKIN cinnamon rolls with CHOCOLATE, these are laced with orange inside and out.  I added orange zest to the filling; I also used orange juice to the glaze (I learned this one from my friend, Vikki Z.).  I have a daughter that doesn’t care for the addition of orange zest in the filling, but I think it takes these rolls over the top and sets it apart from the average cinnamon roll.  You can leave it out, of course, but I like it “in”.

Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll like it. 🙂

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Chocolate Chips

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Ingredients:

  Yeast mixture:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 packets active dry yeast
  Dough:
  • 1 can (15-oz) pumpkin purée
  • 2 tablespoons good quality honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all purpose flour
  Filling:
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) softened unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • Optional:  1 teaspoon orange zest (or use 1 teaspoon orange extract)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips, about 1 cup
  Glaze:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice

Directions:

1.  Prepare the yeast mixture.

Place the water in a microwave-safe cup.  Stir in the brown sugar.

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Heat the water-sugar mixture in the microwave for about 30 seconds.  The liquid must be between 98-105 degrees.  I find it best to use an instant-read thermometer to ensure the liquid is the right temperature.  Too cool and the yeast won’t proof properly.  Too hot and it will kill the yeast.  101 degrees–or somewhere between 98 and 105 degrees–is perfect.

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Once the liquid is at the right temperature, add the yeast.  I’m often asked what a “packet” of yeast looks like.  The photo below shows three packets, which is how they are commonly sold, in a set of three packets.

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Pour the yeast into the warm liquid.  Stir the mixture to dissolve the yeast.

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Let the yeast mixture sit for about 5-10 minutes.  It should get very frothy, like what’s pictured below.

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2.  Prepare the dough.  I suggest measuring out all of your ingredients beforehand.  The yeast will proof quickly on you, so you’ll want all of the ingredients measured out before you start to proof the yeast (in step 1 above).

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, place the pumpkin purée.  You can also do this by hand, but I prefer to use a heavy-duty stand mixer, like a KitchenAid, which is what I have.

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Add the eggs to the bowl.

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Melt the butter.  Let it cool for a couple of minutes then add it to the mixing bowl.

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Using the paddle attachment of your mixer, mix the ingredients together for a few seconds.

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Add the pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and salt to the bowl.  Mix again for a few seconds.

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By now the yeast should be very foamy — pour the yeast mixture into the mixing bowl; mix to combine.

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Mix in 3 cups of flour.

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After mixing in the flour, take off the paddle attachment and switch to the dough hook.

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Mix in the remaining flour, a half cup at a time.  You might not need all 6 cups of flour.

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Stop adding flour when the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.  Depending on how humid it is where you live, you might actually need to add more flour (up to a cup more–7 cups total).  The higher the humidity level,  the more flour you may need since flour absorbs liquid in the air (depending on how you store your flour, that is).  Anyhow, 6 cups of flour is about the norm.  If you’re mixing this by hand, do not use more than 7 cups of flour.  The dough will be slightly sticky, but that’s normal.  Too much flour and your bread will be very tough.

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After you’ve mixed in all the flour, set your mixer to low speed.  This begins the kneading process; continue mixing for 5 minutes.  If you’re kneading by hand, knead for 8-10 minutes (resist adding flour while hand-kneading–if the dough is sticking to your hands, lightly oil your hands or spray your hands with cooking spray to prevent sticking).

This is what the dough looks like after 5 minutes of kneading.

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It’s now time to let the dough rise.  Place the dough into a glass bowl that’s been buttered or sprayed with butter-flavored cooking spray.  I also lightly spray the top of the dough (so the plastic wrap won’t stick to it–see below).

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Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap then place a clean dish towel on top of the bowl.  Place the bowl in a dry, warm place to rise until doubled in size.  The time it takes to rise depends on how warm your rising spot is.  It could take anywhere from 30 minutes to more than an hour.  Patience is key.

I usually turn my oven to the Warm setting right when I begin my kneading process.  After 3 minutes of warming up, I turn the oven heat off and turn the oven light on.  This makes the perfect warm place for rising.  It takes about 30 minutes for my dough to rise in this setting.

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3.  While the dough is rising, make your filling.

In a small bowl, place the softened butter, brown sugar, and optional orange zest.  If you decide to add orange zest, make sure you don’t get any of the white pith–it will make your filling bitter.  Mix to combine.

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Mix in the cinnamon.  Set the filling aside until the dough is ready.

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4.  Fill and roll the dough.

This is what the dough looks like after it’s doubled in size.

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Generously flour a clean work surface.  Place the dough onto the floured surface — do NOT punch down the dough or knead it again.

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Roll out the dough into a rectangle.

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Gently spread the butter-cinnamon-orange mixture over the entire surface of the dough, stopping about a half inch from the edge.

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Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the butter-cinnamon-orange mixture.

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Starting at the long edge, carefully roll up the dough, jelly-roll style.

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Using a sharp knife (dental floss works well too), slice pieces of dough, about the width of your finger.  Place the slices into a buttered pan (you can use butter-flavored cooking spray too).  I recommend placing the slices about 1/2-1 inch apart to allow the dough to rise evenly.

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Spray the top of the sliced dough with cooking spray then cover with plastic wrap.  Place the pan in a warm place to rise again, until the slices are touching.

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Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven; let the rolls cool slightly while you prepare the glaze.

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5.  Make the glaze.

In a small mixing bowl, place the powdered sugar.

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Add the milk, maple syrup and orange juice.  Whisk to combine.

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6.  Drizzle the glaze over the top of the warm rolls.  Serve immediately and ENJOY!!

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Yeast Donuts

Yeast donuts are another favorite treat in my house.  Why wouldn’t it be?  Who doesn’t loved fried dough that’s rolled in sugar?  Uhh…NO one!  🙂

I remember when I was a kid, some neighbors would sell these sweet treats door-to-door.  We’d always buy a bag full!  Now my kids are learning to make these themselves.  They’re so delicious when eaten right after taking them out of the hot oil and rolling them in a bowl of sugar (cinnamon sugar is delicious too)!

Give these a try and let me know how you like them.

YEAST DONUTS

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • Oil, for frying
  • 1/2 cup sugar, for coating the donuts
  • Optional:  1 tablespoon cinnamon, for making cinnamon sugar

Directions:

1.  Heat the water in a microwave-safe measuring cup for about 30 seconds.  The water should feel warm to the touch (like the temperature of your skin).  Stir in the tablespoon of sugar and yeast.  Set it aside for about 5 minutes.  *Note: The yeast should have more than doubled in volume from all the bubbles.  If you don’t see a lot of bubbles, your yeast wasn’t “active” anymore and you should start this step over.

2.  In a mixing bowl, beat the egg then add the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar.

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3.  Slowly mix in half of the flour to the egg mixture.  Add the yeast mixture and mix well. Gradually add the remaining flour.  The dough should begin to leave the sides of the bowl but it will still be a bit sticky.  After you’ve added all of the flour and the dough has not left the sides of the bowl, add up to 3/4 cup of flour (don’t use more than 3/4 cup), a spoonful at a time, until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl.  Once the dough leaves the sides of the bowl, switch from the paddle to the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer.

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4.  Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Do not add more flour or it will make the dough tough.  If you’re kneading the dough by hand, if the dough is sticking to your hands, lightly spray your hands with cooking spray.

5.  Lightly oil (or use cooking spray) another bowl. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place it in the greased bowl, turning it around so all sides are greased. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and place in a warm place to rise. You want to let it rise until the dough doubles in size (about 1-2 hours, depending on how warm the room/area is).

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6.  After the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl.  Lightly punch down the dough.  Divide the dough into small pieces. At this point, you can either form rings, twists, or donut “holes”.  Place the formed donuts onto a greased pan.  Cover with a clean cloth and let them rise again for about 30 minutes.

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7.  Heat your oil.  Carefully lift up each piece of dough.  Lower into the hot oil and fry until golden brown.

8.  Remove from the oil, place on paper towels to allow to drain for a few seconds, then roll the donuts in sugar while still hot.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Homemade Pretzels

I love those pretzels you buy at the mall, you know the kind I’m talking about.  The ones that are either coated in cinnamon sugar, or the ones with salt that you can dip into creamy, melted cheese sauce.  YUM!

After searching the internet for good (easy) recipes for homemade pretzels, I came up with this version based upon many different variations. It’s somewhat sweeter than the kind you buy at the mall, but it’s oh-so-soft and buttery! I’m sure you’ll like it! Give my recipe a try! 🙂

HOMEMADE PRETZELS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (between 98-105 degrees)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons melted butter

Baking Soda Bath:

  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda

Optional toppings:

  • More melted butter
  • Cinnamon sugar (1/2 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons cinnamon)
  • Kosher salt (as much as you like)
  • Parmesan cheese and garlic powder (sprinkle on as much as you like)

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Mix together 2 packets of active yeast (rapid rise yeast is okay) with 1 1/4 cups warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar. Let it sit for 10 minutes to proof. You know your yeast is still alive (active) when it begins to bubble.

2.  In a mixing bowl, mix together 3 1/2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 cup sugar.

3.  Add to the flour mixture 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Pour the yeast mixture into the mixing bowl.

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4.  Using a dough hook attachment of a stand mixer, mix the dough together. The dough should start to come together after a few seconds and begin to pull away from the side of the mixing bowl. After mixing for about a minute, the dough should have come away from the sides of the bowl. Look inside the bowl; if you still have bits of flour at the bottom that isn’t getting mixed in, add water, a teaspoon at a time (you should not need to add more than 3 teaspoons) until all of the flour gets incorporated into the rest of the dough.

5.  Turn the mixer speed up to medium-high and knead it for 5 minutes.

6.  Prepare a clean bowl by smearing the sides with butter or spraying it with butter spray. I recommend using a glass bowl so you can see how much the dough has risen. Place the dough inside the glass container, turning it around so that you coat the ball of dough with butter. This is to keep the dough from sticking to the bowl as it rises. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the dough in a warm place to rise until doubled (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on how warm it is). You can place it inside your oven with the oven light turned on. You can also microwave about 2 cups of water until it starts to boil. Leave the boiling water inside the microwave then place your bowl of dough in the microwave. The steam and heat from the hot water will turn your microwave into a perfect warm place for the dough to rise.

7.  When the dough is just about doubled, prepare your soda bath. This is necessary to get your pretzels to have the nice dark brown coating on the outside. To prepare the baking soda bath, mix together 4 cups of boiling water with 1/2 cup baking soda.

8.  After the dough has doubled in size (after about 90 minutes), turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Cut the dough into roughly 12 small pieces.

9.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

10.  Recruit your kids to shape the dough into pretzels. This is the fun part! After shaping the dough into pretzels (and pretzel bites as shown in this photo), dip the dough into the baking soda bath. Let the dough soak in the baking soda bath for at least 10 seconds then place it on the parchment paper lined baking sheet.

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11.  Top the pretzels with kosher salt (optional) or leave it plain. Other options for toppings:

~ Raw sugar (also called turbinado sugar)

~ A mixture of parmesan cheese and garlic powder.

~ For cinnamon-sugar coated pretzels, melt butter in a small bowl. In another small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons cinnamon.

12.  Bake the pretzels for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown on top. Brush the freshly baked pretzels with melted butter after coming out of the oven. You can top it with more toppings at this point (kosher salt, cinnamon-sugar, garlic-parmesan, etc.).  ENJOY!

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Basic Yeast Bread Recipe

I love to bake yeast breads, but that wasn’t always the case.  I distinctly remember my very first yeast rolls disaster.  Instead of tender, soft, fluffy rolls, I baked up a batch of hockey pucks.

That was over 20 years ago.  Now I find that bread baking is one of the easiest things to do, once you understand how the ingredients work together.

I’m not a chef by any means, but years of trial-and-error as well as reading countless recipe books and articles helped me be successful when baking with yeast.

If you are intimidated by yeast breads, read on for some of the things I’ve learned over the years.  Once you understand how it all comes together, I’m sure you will feel confident enough to try your hand at it.

As always, feel free to leave a comment with any questions you may have.

I’ve also put together a tutorial video for making dinner rolls.  It’s an amateur video so be kind to me.  🙂

You can find my two-part video tutorial here:

How to make Sweet Dinner Rolls – Part 1:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7prj-ftdZs

How to make Sweet Dinner Rolls – Part 2:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLkjSAUVkc8

 

To make a good loaf of bread (or dinner rolls), all you really need are five basic ingredients:

  1. Flour
  2. Water
  3. Yeast
  4. Sugar
  5. Salt

THAT’S IT! FIVE ingredients!

Flour

There are lots of different types of flour—unbleached, bleached, bread, all-purpose, whole wheat (brown), white whole wheat, enriched, whole grain…the list goes on and on. Don’t be discouraged; the standard all-purpose flour will do in most of my recipes (and most recipes you’ll find on the internet as well).

Water

Water activates yeast. Too much water, however, will make your bread flat. Too little water will make your bread dense and dry. More on this topic in another post (see my post on Liquid to Flour Ratio — coming soon).

Yeast

As with flour, there are different types of yeast you can find at the grocery store, some are more common than others, however. There is active dry, instant, or fresh yeast. You may have seen packets or jars of active dry or quick (rapid) rise, bread machine yeast, and yeast cakes. I’ll talk more about yeast in another post (see my post on Types of Yeast — coming soon). You won’t go wrong if you use only Active Dry yeast; it’s what I use in most of my recipes. I usually buy the Active Dry yeast that comes in jars. You’d be surprised how little yeast you really need; most of the time, one envelope of yeast is really too much yeast for a basic bread recipe (scroll down for my Basic Bread Recipe).

Sugar

Yeast is an active organism, unlike chemical leaveners like baking soda and baking powder. Therefore, you have to feed it in order for it to grow. Oh, don’t be grossed out about this—feeding the yeast is a GOOD THING. You only need a little bit of sugar for this, about a tablespoon per envelope of yeast.

Salt

Yeast does not like salt. Just as sugar feeds yeast and enables it to grow, salt inhibits yeast fermentation. However, salt adds flavor to bread. You WANT flavorful bread, don’t you? Yes, yes you do.

Other ingredients (though not necessary, they do different things to bread when added):

Milk

Adding milk to bread helps make it have a softer texture, kind of like the soft sandwich breads you buy in the grocery store. You can also use dry (powdered) milk instead of “regular” milk in recipes. Some of my bread recipes call for dried milk. Breads made with milk will need to bake at lower temperatures (350 instead of 375 degrees). You will also need a bit more milk if you are substituting it for water to compensate for the milk solids. Yeast doesn’t dissolve well in milk; be sure to still use water when proofing (or activating) the yeast.

Butter (or oil)

Butta is Betta (use your own accent here). ‘Nuff said. Okay, seriously, adding butter to a bread recipe is really just for flavor. You can omit it. I personally think it makes my breads softer. Brushing melted butter on top of rolls or a loaf BEFORE (and after) baking definitely adds flavor, a nice color, and makes a soft crust. You can even substitute coconut oil for butter or oil (1:1). Aside from adding flavor, I’ve found that bread made WITHOUT butter or any type of fat/oil tends to get stale faster. Oh yeah, make sure to use UNSALTED butter as you’re already (usually) adding salt to the recipe, plus different brands of butter have varying amounts of salt added to SALTED (aka Sweet) butter.

Eggs

Eggs add color and richness to bread. It also adds a tad more protein. You can use whole eggs or egg whites (1/4 cup of egg whites roughly equals one large egg).

Sweet Stuff

Sugar feeds yeast, as I already mentioned before. Yeast needs sugar to grow. Sweeteners also make breads stay moist longer. I use either sugar or honey to sweeten my breads or rolls.

Vital Wheat Gluten

Gluten is the protein in flour that forms the structural framework of the resulting bread. Gluten develops during the kneading process, forming elastic strands that give the bread structure and texture.  Without going too much into the science of things, it is the development of gluten that makes a chewy bread chewy. Think of it this way: you don’t want a lot of gluten in things like cakes (that’s why you don’t want to over mix cake batter, so gluten doesn’t develop), but you want gluten in breads (so you develop that chewy texture), which explains the kneading process. Generally, the more you mix a batter or dough, the more the gluten develops. Also, gluten needs more water to fully develop and form those elastic strands. If you don’t have enough liquid in your bread recipe, the gluten will not develop fully and your bread won’t be as tender. Adding vital wheat gluten is especially important when baking with low protein flours (like whole wheat and rye flour), or in recipes that add dried fruit, nuts, or seeds.  I add vital wheat gluten to my bread recipes that call for both white and brown whole wheat flour.

Vital wheat gluten is becoming a common item in regular grocery stores these days. The brand I usually buy is Bob’s Red Mill.  If you can’t find it in your local grocery store, try looking for it in specialty stores or health food stores. You can also order it online from Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur Flour, or Arrowhead Mills.

So now that you know what the basic ingredients do for a good “standard” loaf of bread (or basic dinner rolls), here is a very basic recipe for a “standard” white loaf or pan of dinner rolls.

Basic Bread Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons yeast (or one envelope)
  • 1 tablespoon white, granulated sugar
  • 1 to 1¼ cups warm water (start out with only one cup; add the remaining ¼ cup if the dough doesn’t form a ball).

Directions:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together. Knead it for 8-10 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it (with a clean cloth or plastic wrap) and set it aside to rise until doubled in size.
  2. After the dough has risen, punch it down, shape it into a loaf (either on a baking sheet or in a greased loaf pan), then cover and set it aside to rise again.
  3. After the dough has doubled in size again, bake it (in a preheated, 375 degree oven) for 40-45 minutes (for a loaf) or about 20-25 minutes for rolls (the length of time varies by oven; bake until golden brown).

This basic recipe makes good sandwich bread, or bread for soaking up yummy gravies (this would be delicious with my pot roast recipe).

Once you master the basic bread-making techniques (and this basic bread recipe), try adding modifications such as honey, more sugar (for sweet breads), eggs, milk and butter, and even dried fruit.

For sweeter breads, see my other posts and recipes here.

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