One of my first forays into cooking and baking involved making bread. For holidays and special occasions, my mom always made her own dinner rolls from scratch. And my husband, son, and family love, love, LOVE it when I bake bread. So when rounding out the menu for our BBQ to welcome in spring, yeast rolls were pretty much a no-brainer. I make my yeast rolls based on a recipe from my beloved Sunset bread cookbook. It is easy to make and the basic dough is quite versatile — I’ve found all sorts of uses for it in addition to basic dinner rolls. It will keep well in the coldest part of your ‘fridge (which is usually the very back of your ‘fridge) for 4 days. In cooler weather, I’ve found that it sometimes will keep well for up to 5 or 6 days. This is especially great when you’re having a
party few folks over, or at times when you’re feeling really busy, such as during the holidays, as you can make the dough up ahead of time. During the holidays, I often double the recipe.
I know a lot of people are nervous about trying to make bread, but as the ingredients are usually one of the most affordable ones in your pantry, you likely won’t risk financial ruin by trying out a recipe. Also, most yeast doughs are rather forgiving — I know that this one is. One time, I got distracted and forgot to include the melted butter. I simply kneaded in softened butter later. Another time, I forgot the eggs — once again, I simply kneaded it in later on.
Yeast is an organism — a Fungi, actually, according to Wikipedia — who’d of thunk it? 😉 — that gets reanimated when you add warm water and give it some food (usually a bit of sugar and/or some milk). It’s what makes yeast bread “rise” — and it’s also used in fermenting alcohol. Yeast bread is a bit sensitive to temperature — if the liquids you use or the environment you place it in are too hot, it will kill the yeast and the dough won’t raise. Conversely, if the liquids you use and the environment you place it in are too cool, the yeast won’t come to life.
I generally like to use Rapid Rise yeast, but regular yeast will work fine, too. I’ve found that with rapid rise yeast, the dough won’t rise quite as much before baking it as with regular yeast — it seems to finish rising while it bakes. Otherwise, the two are pretty much interchangeable.
I find everything about making bread relaxing and therapeutic: the mixing, the stirring, the kneading, the shaping and working with the dough…and nothing smells quite as yummy as baking bread. 🙂
Basic Dinner Roll Dough (Number of rolls/servings is dependent upon how you shape them)
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast (I prefer rapid rise yeast)
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
- 3/4 cup milk (skim or 1% work just fine)
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup (one stick) butter or margarine, melted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- approximately 6 cups (plus more when kneading) all purpose or bread flour (Note: I usually like to do a mix of half bread flour and half all purpose flour. Most flours come to you pre-sifted, in the bag, but if yours isn’t, then sift the flour before using in the bread dough)
Bread dough is easy to make. You just “knead” to plan ahead a bit. 😉
- Pour 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup milk into a medium saucepan. (This is 1 1/2 cups liquid total. You can use all milk or you can use all water, if you prefer. This will, of course, have some impact on the flavor and texture of the resulting bread, but it will all be good.) Scald the liquid (heat over medium to medium-high heat until bubbles just begin to form around the edges — just before it starts to achieve a boil). Remove from heat and add the stick of butter or margarine into the hot liquid to melt.
- Sprinkle yeast into the bottom of a LARGE bowl. Pour in 1/4 cup warm (as though you were fixing a baby’s bottle) water and stir to help begin dissolving the yeast. (Note: I always use a long-handled wooden spoon for this.) Stir in the salt and sugar.
- Once the liquid and melted butter has cooled (once again, about as you would for a baby’s bottle — it should feel pleasantly warm, but not hot), stir into the yeast and sugar mixture. (Note: I have sometimes placed the pan of the water/milk/butter into a sink filled with cold water to help it cool a bit more quickly.)
- Stir in the beaten eggs.
- Stir in about 4 cups of flour, one cup at a time. Don’t worry about measuring the flour precisely. The dough will become increasingly stiff.
- Stir in the 5th cup of flour, which should start giving your arm muscles a nice little workout. 😉
- Sprinkle the 6th cup of flour out onto a clean, smooth surface. Dump all the bread dough onto this surface and knead the dough until it’s nice and smooth and not all sticky like it was before (about 5 to 8 minutes). Don’t be afraid to add more flour to the kneading surface as necessary — sometimes you need more flour, sometimes you need less. (Note: I often wear disposable gloves for this part, as it can be a bit challenging to wash the bread dough away from under your fingernails and such.) Have fun with the kneading — it’s a great way to release stress. I find it very Zen-like and therapeutic.
- Warm a large bowl with hot water and lightly spray with cooking spray or lightly oil it. Place bread dough into the bowl, then either lightly spray the top of the dough with cooking spray or turn the dough so that the dough that was on the bottom of the bowl is now on top. This will keep the bread dough from drying out.
- Cover with a clean, lint-free dish cloth and place in a warm area (around 80F to 90F) to rise. (I often will turn my oven on to the “warm” setting, then turn it off, let it cool down a bit, and then place my bread dough there to rise. If I’m baking something in the oven, then I will often place it on top of the warm stove to rise.) Let rise until almost doubled; about 1 hour or so with rapid rise yeast; about 1 1/2 to 2 hours with regular yeast. (You’ll know the dough is ready when, if you poke two fingers into it, the indentations remain.)
- Remove dough from bowl and punch it down — the dough will be full of air bubbles and “blisters.” (I find this part to be quite fun, as well!) Divide into half or fourths. Place each dough portion in a lightly sprayed or oiled container, cover (make sure you spray or oil/grease the cover, as well), and place in coldest part of your ‘fridge (usually along the very back of your ‘fridge) to chill. (Note 1: You can skip this part, but chilled dough is easier to handle and shape. Note 2: I’ve found that old margarine tubs work great for storing bread dough. Note 3: Even in the ‘fridge, the dough will grow and expand, although more slowly, so make sure there’s “head room” in your container for the dough. If it starts to outgrow its container, punch it back down.)
- The chilled dough will keep in the refrigerator for 4 days.
When you’re ready to bake some dinner rolls:
- Simply remove some dough from the ‘fridge. Lightly flour your hands if necessary.
- Shape into desired shape and place in a lightly sprayed or oiled pan. There are several different ways to shape and bake the bread rolls, but the quickest and simplest is pan rolls, such as the ones shown below. This is in a 9″X9″ pan and has 16 rolls — about half the bread dough from the recipe above. Some might argue the pan is a little overcrowded, and I do have to bake them a bit longer than I might otherwise, but they come out quite tasty and do bake all the way through. When my mother shapes them, they are all smooth and beautifully shaped. Mine, not so much, but it still tastes yummy!
- You can even shape the dough ahead of time, cover the pan with some cling wrap, and keep it in the ‘fridge ’til you’re ready to let it rise and bake — another handy thing when you’re planning a festive or special meal or when you’re just plain busy with other things!
- To let rise before baking, cover with a clean, lint-free dish towel and let rise in a warm place for about 30 to 45 minutes (whether rapid rise or regular yeast).
- Preheat oven to 425F and bake on the middle rack until done, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.
- Remove from pan and place in a bread basket lined with a clean dish towel.
HINT: If desired, before baking, gently brush the top of the bread with a bit of melted butter (it doesn’t take much — for a pan the size pictured above, 1 tablespoon is PLENTY) or melted butter seasoned with a bit (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon) of Ranch salad dressing mix. I saw Sandra Lee on the FoodNetwork do that once, and hubby loved it when I tried that. It will make the top of the bread a bit browner in color, as well.
I promise you, when you smell that bread baking, you’ll say “Oh, that smells yummy! I like rolling in dough!” 😉