Baking yeast bread. From scratch. Wait – wait! Don’t run away! It’s really not that hard – just requires some patience and lots of time. And once you figure it out, well worth the effort since the results are SO delicious. There are LOTS of great resources to get you started. One my favorite bread instructional guides is in the Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook – great instructions and step-by-step illustrations. I’m also a big fan of Baking Illustrated by the America’s Test Kitchen team. An online resource that I’m just beginning to explore is The Fresh Loaf, which has step-by-step lessons and lots and lots of resources.
I used to swear by making bread only “by hand”. And then we got a stand mixer. Oh my! A purist might shudder at the idea of using a stand mixer to mix and knead bread, but it makes the whole process MUCH easier. Which means that fresh bread is a regular occurrence in our house.
This recipe – most commercial hamburger buns / dinner rolls have milk in the ingredients and use egg to make them nice and shiny. I browsed around a bit, and found this Hamburger Bun recipe to use as a starting point. I’ve found bread recipes to be pretty forgiving about doing milk / butter subs. The egg wash is just to make the final bread extra pretty, so I just leave that part off of the recipe. This makes a nice soft slightly sweet roll that could be used as a hamburger bun or as dinner rolls.
1 cup “milk” (I used rice milk, soy milk would work as well)
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons margarine (I use Earth Balance “vegan buttery stick”)
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (approximately)
1 envelope yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1) Combine “milk”, water, sugar, margarine, and salt in a small saucepan. Heat on low, stirring occasionally, until the margarine melts. Remove from heat and cool until lukewarm. IMPORTANT: If your liquid mixture is too hot, it will kill the yeast. I go by feel and wait until the liquid is barely warm to touch. If you like to use an instant-read thermometer – the temperature should be about 110°F.
2) In a medium bowl, stir together 3 cups flour and the yeast.
3) Pour the liquids (cooled to “warm to the touch”) into the bowl of a stand mixer.
4) Using the “flat beater”, mix in the flour/yeast mixture 1 cup at a time on low speed. Mix until smooth.
5) Switch to the dough hook, and add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough starts to form a ball. Stop as needed to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl and the dough hook.
6) Use the dough hook to “knead” the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic (about 8 to 10 minutes). If the dough is still sticky, add small amounts of flour (about 1 Tablespoon at a time).
7) Remove dough from the mixer bowl and squish into a nice ball. Remove bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides (a silicone spatula works well). Coat the inside of the bowl with a small amount of oil. Swirl the ball of dough around the oiled bowl until it is lightly coated with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot to rise until the dough is doubled in size (about 60 minutes).
8) Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
9) After the dough has doubled in size, uncover the bowl and “punch down” the dough. (If you have kids, letting them do this step is great fun for all! Wash hands, roll up sleeves, and let the kids go for it.)
10) Form the dough into a thick log, and use a sharp knife to evenly divide it into 12 to 16 pieces, depending on how large you want each bun/roll to be. I find it easiest to cut the dough into two pieces, and then continue to cut into “halves”.
11) Form each piece into a tight ball. To get a nice smooth ball, I squish the dough, then stretch the dough into a ball by pulling the “edges” underneath and pinching them together. The “pinched” part becomes the bottom of the roll.
12) Place formed balls of dough on the parchment-lined cookie sheets, approximately 2 inches apart. Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball.
13) Cover with a clean tea-towel and let rise until the dough is doubled in size (about 30 to 40 minutes).
14) Preheat oven to 400°F.
15) Remove cover from your risen dough, put baking sheets into the oven, and bake about 20 to 25 minutes until the rolls are golden and they sound hollow when tapped. NOTE: Start with the shorter time then keep checking.
16) Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.