I haven’t done a post on yeast bread because I didn’t want to scare off any novice bakers. But I think it is time to bring on the yeast.
I taught a bread baking class this week, and while everyone there had baked at least something with yeast in it, they were eager to learn more about the process. I talked about the science of yeast, different flours, how various ingredients affect yeast growth and a host of other things.
I think the most important thing the students took from the class was that yeast bread is very forgiving – we didn’t exactly follow the recipe, the dough rose really quickly because the kitchen was warm, no one wanted to stop having fun long enough to pay attention and everyone had different ways of measuring, mixing, stirring and kneading. But in the end, we had beautiful baked goods and everyone learned a little more about yeast baking.
In the class, I used a recipe that I originally got from a Farm Journal bread book I found on the bargain table at a bookstore. I have adapted it a bit, and changed the directions to make it easier for the novice baker. I like the recipe because it is quick (which makes it ideal for a class), it teaches all the steps of yeast bread, and you can make so many things out of it. I have included directions for braided loaves, dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls.
Enjoy, and please comment if you try the recipe, or if you have any questions at all. I’ll end with the “blessing” that Rich and Calvin gave me when I left to teach the class last night – May your dough rise and may your loaves bake up golden brown.
Shortcut Sweet Dough
Adapted by The Cook’s Life
from “Farm Journal’s Homemade Breads”
This recipe has a lot of yeast for the amount of flour, but you need this much for it to rise quickly. Experienced bakers, feel free to reduce the yeast, but you will probably lose the “shortcut” part of the recipe.
1 cup milk
2 packages active dry yeast (1½ tablespoons)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4-4 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, approximately*
Heat milk until almost boiling, either in microwave or on the stove. Pour milk in a large mixing bowl and let cool until warm, no more than 115 degrees. Sprinkle dry yeast and sugar over warm milk. Stir until dissolved. Add oil, salt, egg and 2 cups flour. Stir vigorously for 2 minutes. Stir in enough of the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. You may not use all of the flour, but the dough should not look wet. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about one minute. Lift dough and flour surface. Cover with the upside down mixing bowl and let rest for 15 minutes. Proceed with your choice of following recipes.
*For whole wheat dough, substitute up to 2 cups whole wheat or white whole wheat flour for the same amount of all-purpose flour. Add the whole wheat flour first, as the first 2 cups of flour. Mix in other ingredients and then cover and let rest for 5-10 minutes before adding more flour and kneading. This allows the bran in the whole wheat flour to soften and absorb liquid.
Divide dough in half. Set one half aside. Divide the other half into 3 or 4 pieces and shape each into a fat rope 12-15 inches long. Put side by side on counter and braid loosely. Pinch ends tightly and place on lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat with other half of dough. Be sure to leave room between the braids for them to rise.
Cover loaves loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 30 minutes. Fifteen minutes into the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped with a finger. Cover with a tent of aluminum foil after 15 minutes if the tops are browning too rapidly.
Using a spatula, carefully lift the loaves onto a rack for cooling. They will be fragile while hot. Cool completely before wrapping tightly in plastic wrap or a zip top bag. Makes 2 loaves.
Divide dough in half. Roll one half into a log and cut log in half and then into quarters. Cut each quarter into three pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball and place 1-2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with second half of dough. Cover balls and let rise for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fifteen minutes into the rising time. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. If rolls rose to touch each other, they might need an extra 5 minutes to bake. Cool on racks or serve warm. Makes 24 small rolls.
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
2-3 teaspoons cinnamon
2-4 tablespoons butter, melted
In a small bowl, mix sugars and cinnamon together. Set aside. After the 15-minute rest, divide dough in half on a lightly floured surface. Flatten one half of the dough with your lightly floured hands to make a rough square. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about ½ inch thick. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Roll up loosely from the long side and cut into 8-12 pieces. Place the pieces cut side up on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with other half. Let rise 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fifteen minutes into the rising time. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm or room temperature, glazed or plain. Makes 16-24 cinnamon rolls.
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk, approximately
Mix powdered sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk together in a bowl. Gradually add more milk until the glaze is the desired consistency. Add milk very gradually to avoid lumps.