Yes, yes, I know this is homemade bread - but really. Can it be that hard? After all, our grandmothers for generations back made bread every week, or maybe even every day if their family was large enough.
This is the recipe I cut my bread-making teeth on.
It started like this: Once upon a time (okay, it was the mid-70's) our family was visiting some friends, and our hostess served homemade dinner rolls. My dad took one bite, looked at me and said, "If you learn to make rolls like these, I'll double your allowance."
|This is the mid-70's me. Yes, Gunne Sax dress and all :)|
(By the way, I'm the only one who remembers him saying that...but I'm sure he did!)
I took him up on the challenge. I got the recipe from our hostess, followed the directions in Mom's old Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, and made rolls. Batch after batch. They turned out tasty and delicious. From there I branched out to using different flours, different methods, different recipes...but this one is still my favorite. :)
Jan's Dinner Rolls
2 packages instant dry yeast (or 2 Tablespoons)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter
2 cups whole wheat flour
4-6 cups all-purpose or bread flour
You can make this recipe completely by hand (like I did for years), or use a large capacity mixer (like I do now.)
First, heat the milk, sugar, butter and salt together. You can cheat and use the microwave, but I like to heat it up in a pan on the stove. But you don't want it to get too hot! Just warm enough to soften the butter.
Now, this is important! Before you do anything else, make sure your milk mixture isn't too hot. You want it to be lukewarm. You can stick a (clean!!!) pinky finger in to test it, or you can use a thermometer. If you do the finger test, it should feel slightly warm. If you use a thermometer, it should be between 110° and 115°.
(Does anyone know what happens if your liquid is too hot? It will kill the yeast. We don't like dead yeast. It makes hard, flat bread :( )
Pour this into a large bowl (or your mixer).
|Freshly ground wheat flour! Mmm-mm!|
Add the two cups whole wheat flour, two eggs and 2 packages yeast. Wisk these ingredients together until it's smooth.
Let the batter rest for about twenty minutes.
Yes, I said rest. You want to wake up the yeast and let some of those flavors mingle.
After twenty minutes or so, add the rest of the flour a cup at a time, mixing each cup in completely before adding the next. If you're doing this by hand, use a large spoon, and stir it in until you can't stir the dough anymore. If you're using a mixer, use your kneading hook and add flour just until sides of your bowl no longer have dough sticking to them and the dough forms a ball.
|This dough is just right - the sides of the bowl are coming clean,|
and the dough is elastic.
BUT - be careful not to add too much flour. Too much will make your bread heavy and stiff. Too little will make it hard to handle. This is where practice comes in....
Now it's time to knead the dough.
If you have a mixer, set your timer for seven minutes, and let the mixer work.
If you're kneading the dough by hand, sprinkle your clean counter or bread board with about a cup of flour, and then knead. Fold one side of the lump of dough over onto the other, and push down. Turn the lump a quarter turn and repeat. Do this until the dough is smooth and elastic - about five minutes or so.
After kneading, you need to let the dough rise. In a mixer, just cover the bowl and let it sit. If you're making it by hand, put the dough into a greased bowl and cover with a damp towel.
Wait for about forty-five minutes, or until the dough is doubled.
Now comes the fun part! Divide the dough into forty-eight balls - they'll each be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter - and put two balls in each part of a muffin tin. Be sure to grease your tins!
If you don't have two muffin tins, you can make thirty-six balls and space them out on a greased cookie sheet (with sides).
Cover the rolls, and let the dough rise another forty-five minutes or so.
Bake in a 350° oven for 18-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. As soon as you remove them from the oven, brush melted butter onto the top of each roll (optional, but makes the crust softer).
It takes about three hours for me to make these rolls, so if I make them in the morning, I have the afternoon to play!
On Saturday we took our first trip of the year to Mt. Rushmore.
Even this early in the year, there were quite a few tourists there.
Cute story - on one of our visits last year, on the very spot where I took this picture, we witnessed a young man proposing to his girlfriend! He must have been pretty confident, because the whole family was there - parents, grandma, brothers and sisters. What a memorable place for a proposal!
On this visit I saw something I had never noticed before. The faces of the presidents are carved so carefully, but the hair? Look at Lincoln's hair. It's natural stone. Lincoln's face just peers out from under the top of the mountain.
We also saw another mountain goat! This one was much smaller than last week's big guy licking salt off the road. This one was munching grass along the shoulder of the highway.
And what color is that grass? Green!!!
Spring has finally arrived!