Friday, January 14, 2011

Group Bread Baking is Wonderful

There are going to be a LOT of photos in this post...because there were a LOT of women baking yeast rolls together this week. If they see this post and look carefully, they might see their hands doing the work of making those delicious rolls!

While I very much enjoy baking bread by myself, it can be fun to bake in a group, too. This week a friend offered her kitchen for a group bread baking session (my kitchen being much too small and hers being gorgeous and spacious...with a proofing oven!) to raise money for our scholarships for women group, P.E.O. Although some of the women had baked bread before I was supposed to act as the teacher as needed, so I spent some time in advance working out how 7 of us would bake two kinds of rolls in one kitchen between 10 am and 4 pm. Seems like a long time until you put together all the rising and baking times needed!

The first shortcut was to make two of the dough batches ahead of time. The sesame seed rolls need to have the starter sit overnight anyway, so finishing them to the first rise stage in the morning, then letting them rise as I gathered my supplies and equipment and drove to the Baking Day site worked perfectly. I took photos to show them how the starter looked before it was mixed into dough

and it was fun to have some dough ready to shape to start off the day.

By starting this way (with clean hands) we were able to immediately handle the dough and to feel what dough that is smooth and supple and ready to go feels like.

That helped later when they were working with the second kind of dough that they had made themselves. It also meant that when we stopped for the delicious lunch provided by the hostess, with yummy cookies brought by one of the bakers, there were baked rolls to enjoy with lunch. Talk about a great incentive!

One of the best parts of this sort of day is there is lots of laughter and playfulness. I think the bread responds to that because these were really delicious rolls.

Some of the advantages of hands-on teaching is that I could show them how to adjust for too little water and to not get worried when the exact amounts given in the recipe don't quite make the dough we want. We were also able to feel the right temperature (not very hot) for the water, and to talk about how resilient bread dough is and how soothing it can be to knead the dough. I'm sure there were lots of other things that were learned that I'm not even aware of...I'm not a professional teacher and trust that a lot of things can be learned by doing and observing rather than being told stuff.

Each baker was provided with a sheet of baking tips I wrote up and with both recipes and they were encouraged to bake bread again soon to help retain what they learned...and because freshly baked bread smells SO good.

I'm going to send this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for her Yeastspotting event, a weekly carnival of awesome yeast breads and rolls and sweets.

Here are the recipes we used for our marathon roll baking:

Braided Sesame Rolls
from King Arthur Flour

• 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
• 1/3 to 1/2 cup cool water, enough to make a stiff ball of dough
• pinch of instant yeast

• all of the starter
• 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
• 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
• 2 tablespoons Baker's Special dry milk or nonfat dry milk
• 2 teaspoons instant yeast
• 2/3 cup lukewarm water
• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 large egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
• 1/2 cup sesame seeds

1) To make the starter: Mix the starter ingredients together, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight. Note: This is a dry, stiff starter. If it's too dry to come together, it may be that you measure your flour differently than we do here at King Arthur, or that you're in a particularly dry climate. Dribble in sufficient water to make the dough come together, and proceed with the recipe as directed.

(Note: In the morning you can see that the starter is good to go if it has gluten strands like those in this picture)

2) To make the dough: Combine the starter with the remaining dough ingredients, and mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a soft, smooth dough. You may need slightly more or less than 2 cups flour.

3) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large (8-cup) measure; cover, and let it rise for about 90 minutes, till it's just about doubled in bulk.

4) Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into six equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rough log, and let the logs rest, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. This gives the gluten in the dough a chance to relax, which in turn will make the logs easier to roll.

5) Working on a lightly greased surface, roll each piece into a thin rope about 18" long.

6) Take three of the ropes. Whisk together 1 large egg white and 1 tablespoon water. Brush each rope with the egg white/water (this will be the “glue” to hold the seeds)and coat with about 1/2 cup sesame seeds rolling the ropes gently in the seeds to pick up as many as possible.

7) Grab one end of each rope, and squeeze the ends together firmly. Braid three 'snakes' together.

Repeat with the remaining three ropes. The resulting loaves will be about 18" long.

8) Cut each braided rope into six 3" rolls. Squeeze the cut ends together to seal, and tuck them under.

9) Space the rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet. (We used Silpat silicon mats).

Cover the loaf or rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow to rise till very puffy, about 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

10) The rolls will need to bake for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cool on a rack.

Don't these look beautiful?

Yield: 12 rolls.

We found the water amount given in the recipe for these rolls to be much less than needed for the amount of flour called for. We ended up using over 1 1/2 cups water instead of 1 1/8 cups.

Shaped Bread Rolls 101
based on a recipe found on the King Arthur Flour website

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 packet instant yeast
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces
¼ cup nonfat dry milk
1/3 cup potato flakes
1 1/8 cup lukewarm water (we needed 1 1/2 cups or more)

Combine all ingredients and mix and knead them together…by hand, mixer, or bread machine…until you’ve made a soft, smooth dough. Cover and let the dough rise for 1 hour, until it’s puffy (though not necessarily doubled in bulk).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 16 pieces. (We used a scale and tried to keep the pieces of dough close in weight.)

Choose the shapes you want to create. For snails, roll each piece in a long snake,

then roll into a spiral shape, tucking the end under when finished.

For cloverleaf rolls, butter a muffin tin and for each roll take one of the dough pieces, divide it into three balls and place those three balls together

in the muffin cup
After shaping, let the rolls rise until puffy and almost doubled in size. We covered them with a piece of plastic wrap that we oiled on the side that touches the rolls. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown with an internal temperature of 190 degrees F.

NOTE: Risen unbaked rolls can be brushed with an egg white or egg wash (egg white beaten with some water, or egg beaten with some water) and sprinkled with seeds or sea salt. We used poppy seeds on some and sea salt on some. Both were yummy!

Finished rolls can be brushed with butter for a soft crust, but these are pretty buttery without that.


  1. Lovely! What fun you must have had!
    I did that a couple of times and it baffled me how much pre-thinking such needs in terms of calculating rising times and oven time.
    Great rolls!

  2. That sounds like an awesome day! How lucky for them to have you as a teacher.

  3. This is so cool! And the results of the day look fabulous!