I have to admit, this is my first time playing with the beast called ‘yeast’. Sure, I’d done my fair share of experiments in high school to see how this smelly powder does a little rendezvous with some water and flour and the whole bit and suddenly forms a life of its own. But I’d never run the test in my own kitchen (I have to admit, I have these fictional visions of the ball of glob forming arms and legs as it increases in size and then begins to take over my house like a frightening version of Alice in Wonder(bread)land.)
But I digress. I REALLY wanted to try, for once, to make my own bread. And come to think of it, it was actually pretty easy AND a really cool lesson to share with the kids. We found the perfect sunny spot in the house in which to let our dough rise and checked in on it so often with a whole bunch of “Ooohs” and “Ahhs” to encourage it along the way.
We punched out some hamburger-sized rolls and let them rise again (to the tune of more “Ooohs” and “Ahhs”).
I have to say that the bread actually turned out really well. We used it for some pulled pork sandwiches and our guest of honor for the evening (in from Nebraska) seemed pretty impressed.
I’m sure there are a thousand other recipes out there for a decent bread, but this one just seemed particularly easy and, with my nerves as they were, I wasn’t about to try anything too fancy. Small and simple, that was the name of the game – and I do say, I rose to the occasion!
The recipe comes straight from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, from where I also took my first lesson on yeast and bread-making! Thanks, Mel!
1 1/2 cups warm water
3/4 tablespoon instant yeast (or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour, give or take a few tablespoons
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl by hand, combine the warm water, yeast, sugar, oil, salt and 2 cups of the flour (if you are using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, let the yeast proof in the warm water and sugar for about 3-5 minutes until it is foamy and bubbly before adding the oil, salt and flour). Begin mixing and continue to add the rest of the flour gradually until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Judge the dough not by the amount of flour called for in the recipe but in how the dough feels (see a tutorial on working with yeast here). The dough should be soft and smooth but still slightly tacky to the touch.
Knead the dough in the stand mixer or by hand until it is very smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer or 8-10 minutes by hand. Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it has doubled (this usually takes about an hour).
Lightly punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly greased countertop. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and form the dough into round balls. Place the rolls on a lightly greased or silpat-lined baking sheet about an inch or two apart. Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap taking care not to pin the plastic wrap under the baking sheet or else the rolls will flatten while rising. Let the plastic wrap gently hang over the sides of the pan to fully cover the rolls but not press them down. Let the rolls rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through.