Thursday, May 28, 2009

Easy Rolls: baking with yeast

Baking bread/rolls from scratch may sound intimidating, but it's actually pretty easy. Aside from being fun and making your kitchen smell wonderful, baking your own rolls allows you to avoid all the bad ingredients in store-bought rolls: preservative chemicals, dough conditioners, high fructose corn syrup, and, of course, animal-derived ingredients. Rolls you bake yourself will be fresher and taste better, anyway. While it doesn't take much work, this recipe will take several hours to complete due to the dough requiring time to rise twice. I adapted it from a recipe found in an old copy of Fannie Farmer; I have found that cookbook more useful than any other for finding classic recipes to adapt.


1 packet of active dry yeast
1 cup of soymilk
1/3 cup of melted soy margarine (Earth Balance)
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour

extra flour to reach consistency and for kneading
enough margarine to grease a cookie sheet
1 to 2 tablespoons melted margarine (for brushing tops)
cooking spray

Make the soymilk slightly warm, but not hot, and pour into the bowl of a stationary electric mixer. Add the yeast and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Stir, then add the 1/3 cup of melted margarine, the sugar, and the salt. Set the mixer on a low speed and gradually add the 2 1/2 cups of flour. Let it mix for several minutes. If necessary, add just enough more flour to make the dough thick enough to handle; it is okay if it's a bit sticky because it will obtain more flour during the next step.

Now it is time to knead the dough. If you have a surface designed for this, such as a wooden board, use it. If not, just lay a pastry cloth flat on your table. Sprinkle flour upon your board or cloth and keep an extra scoop of flour to the side in case you need more. Transfer your dough. It helps to coat your hands with a little margerine or cooking spray. In a nutshell, kneading is using your hands to press the dough down, then fold it back on top of itself, then repeat, until it is easy to handle and rather elastic. If you would like to see kneading to obtain a better understanding, try looking it up on youtube. This video is short and shows decent kneading technique.

After kneading, spray the bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place the ball of dough back in the bowl. Cover it with a clean dish towel and place it somewhere warm. Allow it to rise for about an hour, at which time the dough should be about doubled in size.

Either spray your cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray or grease it lightly with soy margarine (I prefer the latter). Punch down the dough (releasing air bubbles and shrinking it back to previous size), kneading for just a moment if necessary. Although you can make any number of shapes, the easiest shape to make your rolls is round; just take a lump of dough the size of 2/3 of your fist and roll it between your hands. Place the shaped dough on the cookie sheet, evenly spaced. Cover with the dish towel and place in a warm spot to rise for about an hour.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and bake the rolls until just slightly browned on top, roughly 12 to 20 minutes. Makes 9 to 12 rolls, depending on how big each roll is.

Dough after kneading:

Three rolls, fresh from my oven:

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