I’ll just preface this with a simple statement : I. LOVE. BREAD. No need to say much more…however…
These rolls come from “The River Cottage Bread Handbook” (merci mille fois, mon cher Matthieu !) and are delightful. I’ve had a lot of good luck with the recipes detailed by Mr. Daniel Stevens, as he gives excellent instructions and tried to take the fear out of breadmaking. I grew up kneading dough and enjoying my dad’s homemade bread. As a result, I’ve never felt bested by bread recipes…and YOU SHOULDN’T EITHER ! Not only does the bread taste infinitely better when made by hand, but it also is a fantastic stress-reliever.
If you can’t eat all the bread you make, you can easily freeze the rolls OR make half a batch. If you’re like me, however, I doubt you’ll have that problem…
White bread recipe (makes 12 rolls)
2 cups flour (I used all-purpose but if you want to be fancy, use white bread flour)
1 tbsp instant yeast
4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups plain yogurt (or milk)
1 1/4 cups warm water (between 105 and 115F)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 handfuls of flour (for coating)
In a large bowl, combine yeast and flour. Mix well to distribute the yeast throughout the flour.
In a separate bowl, mix the warm water with the salt and sugar and stir until dissolved. After making sure the water isn’t too hot, add the yeast.
SCIENCE TIDBIT : Yeast is actually ALIVE – I know it looks like a lot of nothing, sitting there in those packets (or the jar) on the shelves of your fridge. However, every little particle is actually an organism – a sensitive one, too. Between certain temperatures, the yeast organisms wake up, so to speak, from a dormant state (think brine shrimp) and begin to eat food (the sugar and salt we put in the water). Like a creature that is eating, the yeast also will need to “answer the call of nature” and pass gas – CO2, that is. This is what causes the bread to rise (I hope I didn’t ruin the magic for you…).
However, if the temperature of the water is too hot, the reaction will stop – killing the yeast. (This is what we do when we put bread in an oven ! KILL THE YEAST !) Hence the importance of water temperature….usually, if you can put your finger in the water without feeling uncomfortable, the temperature is safe.
Pour the water into the flour mixture and stir to combine.
Then add the yogurt and the oil. Stir until the dough comes together, then turn out onto a well-floured surface.
Knead for about 10 minutes or until the texture of the dough is smooth and silky – you will notice a big difference from what you start with and what you end with. While kneading, you are creating GLUTEN NETWORKS ! The mechanical process of kneading dough causes the proteins present in the flour to be rearranged into long strands. In between these long strands, you have the gas from the yeast. These two factors combine to affect the texture of the bread. This is why it’s very important to knead bread enough (otherwise the bread will be tough).
Form the bread into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl with high sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size – about an hour.
When ready, turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Use your fingers and punch the air (well, CO2) out of the dough.
Give it a few turns before forming it into a ball again. You can either let the dough rise again OR form the dough into rolls right now.
To form the rolls, slice (yes, with a knife) the dough into evenly shaped rounds. Flatten then with your hands, as if you were making pizza crust. Fold the top two corners down, pinching to seal. Then, roll the dough up until you’ve made a nice little…roll !
Slit the top and cover in flour.
Let sit on a greased baking sheet, covered with a towel, for about 45 minutes or until (yet again) doubled in size.
Spray with water and place into a SUPER HOT OVEN – a temperature of 500F ! This hot oven will kill the yeast, but not before the yeast released a final spring – lifting the bread in a final burst of energy. POOF ! This is why it’s important to slit the tops – it gives the bread a little more wiggle room for its final takeoff.
Bake for about 10 minutes at this high temperature and then reduce the oven temp to 350. If your bread is already brown, feel free to cover it with foil. Also, I like to put a tray of water in the lower section of the over (bottom pan) to create steam. The bread will have a lovely crust that way…but it is not mandatory. This pan of water has a fancy name (and it’s French, of course) : a bainmarie – quite snazzy, non ?
The bread is done when it sounds hollow upon tapping. It’s going to smell fantastic. Just warning you.
Bon appétit !