A simple technique for buttery, fluffy starters. Wow your family and guests by adding these to your breadbasket.
July 30, 2015
1 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
Practice Makes Perfect
You walk into your local bakery or pastry shop and see a gorgeous display of handmade breads and baked goods. Then you daydream for a minute about making them yourself. But you snap yourself out of it. Nah, you think, I could never make those myself. Yes, you can. It’s time to get your hands—and countertops—dirty (well, covered in flour at least).
Working with yeast dough can be one of the most satisfying journeys in the kitchen. The alchemy of transforming flour and water into perfectly light, buttery rolls or chewy, pillow-soft breadsticks goes beyond cooking. It’s art. And as with any worthwhile endeavor, mastery comes with practice. With our step-by-step guidance, your first batch will be great; your second will be even better. Forget your doubts—dive in and enjoy.
Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm milk in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes.
Worried about getting the milk temperature just right? Your finger makes a great thermometer—if you can’t put your finger in, it’s too hot. If it feels cool, it’s too cold.
4 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
2. Stir and set aside.
Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Stir 13.5 ounces flour and egg into the milk mixture, stirring until smooth. Cover flour mixture; let stand 15 minutes.
5 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
3. Form the dough.
Uncover and add 3.38 ounces flour and salt; stir until a soft dough forms.
6 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
4. Work with your hands.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent the dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).
7 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
5. Let it rise.
Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, for 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into the dough. If an indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)
8 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
6. Flatten the dough.
Punch dough down; cover and let rest for 5 minutes.
9 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
7. Separate servings.
Divide dough into 16 equal portions.
10 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
8. Play with your food.
Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), shape each portion into desired form: basic round ball, knot, snail, or twist.
11 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
9. Create a knot.
Shape each portion into an 8-inch rope. Tie each rope into a single knot; tuck top end of rope under bottom edge of roll.
12 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
10. Create a snail.
Shape each portion into a 20-inch rope. Working on a flat surface, coil each rope around itself in a spiral; pinch tail of coil to seal.
13 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
11. Create a twist.
Shape each portion into an 18-inch rope. Fold each rope in half so that both ends meet. Hold ends of rope in one hand and folded end in the other hand; gently twist.
14 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
12. Let it rise some more.
Place shaped dough portions on each of 2 baking sheets lightly sprinkled with 1⁄2 teaspoon cornmeal. Lightly coat shaped dough portions with cooking spray; cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, for 20 minutes or until doubled in size.
15 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
13. Brush with butter.
Preheat oven to 400°. Gently brush dough portions with butter; sprinkle with poppy seeds, if desired.
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14. Bake and tap.
Place 1 baking sheet on bottom oven rack and 1 baking sheet on middle oven rack. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes; rotate baking sheets. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until lightly browned on top and hollow-sounding when tapped on bottom. Place on wire racks. Serve warm, or cool completely on wire racks. Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 1 roll)
17 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
Variation 1: Orange-Buttermilk Dinner Rolls
Not fond of orange? Try substituting dried rosemary or lemon rind with dried dill. Keep experimenting and create your own signature rolls.
18 of 18Photo: Hélène Dujardin / Oxmoor House
Twisted Fennel and Coarse Salt Breadsticks
Substitute poppy or sesame seeds for the fennel seeds or sprinkle on a combination of all three.