Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Making Some Serious Dough

I made a very delicious, bakery-style sponge cake. (And I do mean those Chinese bakeries) and I promise to share it next time! Today however, I will show you how to make bread. Maybe I will update again with more pictures some other time, who knows.

There is an art to bread making-- it's not like quickbread (which is not real bread) or cake. If a cake is not done (especially sponge cake), you can't just stick it back into the oven and bake it again. As soon as you take it out the air in it escapes and the cake deflates. But bread is different. If the dough is still raw, just stick it back in for a few minutes. No harm done. That was what I learned today while baking bread.

Bread is alive. You can see the bread grow as it goes through its first rise. You don't have to do anything-- the yeast takes over. Yeast is very sensitive to heat so 15 degrees hotter will cut the rise time in half. So treat the dough nicely, or you'll be baking a brick.

Bread-making is a long process that takes at least 3 hours-- proofing the yeast, rising the dough, shaping the dough, proofing the dough, and finally baking it. Don't worry though, you don't have to sit there are stare down the dough while it's rising. Just cover it with a blanket and leave it alone. Mixing, kneading, and shaping will probably take half an hour, and that's about all you do.


Nonstick loaf pans or rectangular pan, big plastic tub or glass bowl, candy or regular cooking thermometer (important)


75-85 degree room temp.

Butter Roll Recipe

  • 1 c warm milk 70-80 degrees F
  • 1/2 c butter, softened
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 c bread flour (do not use all-purpose, your bread won't rise as much or last as long)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (equivalent to 1 packet)
How to make some dough

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm milk. Break apart any lumps that may form. Heat activates the yeast and makes it foamy. This is called proofing the yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Beat eggs and in large bowl combine beaten eggs, butter, and sugar. Do not add salt yet. Salt kills the yeast when it comes into direct contact with it. When the yeast has proofed for 10 minutes add the flour and yeast-milk. Mix until incorporated and add the salt. Knead until it forms a ball in the bowl. (~3 minutes)
  3. Lightly flour the work surface and transfer the dough onto it. Knead for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on how efficient you are) until dough is perfectly elastic. (I feel like we're talking about physics collision carts here...)
    Knead by holding one end of the dough with your left hand and using the palm of your hand to push the dough away from you. Then bring the dough back in, rotate and repeat.
    Stop kneading when your dough can stretch thin enough for light to shine through without breaking. Watch out: over-kneading makes bread too tough and under-kneading makes a brick-bread. When you are done kneading shape dough into perfectly round ball by pulling the sides down. Then lightly coat your ball with olive oil and place in bowl. Cover with wet towel and put your dough to sleep for approx. 45 minutes or until your dough has doubled in size. In a 90-100 degree room the dough will rise in half the time. In a cold room the dough will take longer to rise. If your room is cold, put bowl in oven with the oven light on. Keep your precious dough away from drafts.
    How to test if your dough has finished its first rise: poke your finger in it. If the imprint stays without bouncing back it's ready.
  4. After your dough has completed its first rise, turn the dough onto a very lightly floured surface and lightly punch the dough all around and pat it down. We are releasing the CO2 that has built built up inside and getting it ready for it's 2nd rise-- or proofing. (some people rise their dough 3 or 4 times but we're going to stop here...)
    For butter rolls- Divide dough into small pieces. If you want to ensure that every piece is equal, you can weigh the dough. Form small balls-- I do it in the air with two hands. You can do whatever you want. Arrange in pan with a 1" space between each ball.
    ** You can get creative and braid the dough-- or put them in muffin pans!
  5. Proof (2nd rise) for 30-40 minutes until dough has doubled in size. Don't let your buns dry up!
  6. Preheat oven 375 degrees F
  7. Crack an egg, half an egg, or even 1/4 of an egg mix in some water, beat, and baste the top of the bread with it. This is called an egg-wash.
  8. Depending on the size and thickness of your dough, baking will take anywhere from 20-45 minutes. You can tell if a bread is done by knocking on the top-- if you hear a hollow thump then it's done! You can always cut it open to be safe. If it's not yet there, pop it back into the oven and bake for a few more minutes.
    ** Helpful note: The top of the bread should look dark brown but not burnt before you take it out. It's probably not done if it's light brown.

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