Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
I have been asked several times for recipes of yeast breads I have posted on this blog. Unfortunately, since I have been making yeast dough since I was about 8 or 9, I do not use recipes for this (for me one of the simplest) dough. I have learned making it from my mother and it has become like second-nature for me. I don't have to measure anything and it always comes out great.
Now, there are some basic rules and it does take practice. Also good quality ingredients are important. Here is the basic ratio of ingredients I have in my head when making yeast dough:
500g flour (about 1 pound)
1 tsp. sugar
30g fresh yeast (about 1oz.)
0.5 liter warm water or milk (about 1 cup)
1 tsp. salt
That is the master recipe. I hardly ever make this small amount of dough for our large family, but this is ratio I go by. For rolls and such I usually use about 2 pounds of flour, for bread at least 3 or more. Flour should be room temperature or a little warm. I only use fresh yeast. It is cheaper here than dry yeast and it gives much better results in my opinion. It is the "real" yeast in my eyes. Now during my stay in the US or in the war times here (when we got dry yeast as humanitarian aid) I have used dry yeast, but I still prefer fresh anytime. It someone is starting to make yeast dough for the first time, I suggest this basic recipe for simple white buns.
This recipe can be expanded into mainly two directions: the salty dough and the sweet dough. Basically the number variations in only limited to human imagination :=).
Salty: For even better tasting dinner rolls, bagels, I just add to this recipe an egg and some oil. I have no idea how much, I never measure, but I would guess about 2-3 Tbsp. Most recipes ask for butter, but that is way too expensive. Besides I learned from my late grandmother that oil makes the dough much softer (while butter makes it crispier) which we prefer. So, I always use oil. Of course instead of white flour you can use whole-wheat flour or part of it. You can then add some seeds to the dough or oatmeal or wheat-germ or anything that goes. You can add chopped fresh herbs or dried herbs. They do not change the consistency of the dough. Garlic is a nice addition as well. Or even chopped roasted onions. For pizza I use only water and only add the oil, not the egg. For bread, I basically use the recipe, but lately I have been using sour-dough and only a tiny bit of yeast. I sometimes substitute honey for the sugar and use fresh-ground rye flour for at least 2/3 of the total amount of flour. I also let the bread rise a lot longer.
For a basic sweet bread, I add also an egg (or for extra wonderful dough, 2 egg yolks and save egg whites for meringue or something else), but reduce the salt a bit and add about handful of sugar (depending on what I am making and whether it?s going to have a topping or filling). Of course I also add oil like in the salty version. Lemon peel adds a wonderful aroma to this. I use this recipe several times a week. I am going to give some ideas for sweet breads/rolls a bit later. But first let me explain the process of making this dough. I usually put just part of the flour in a large bowl, add the warm liquid, about a teaspoon of sugar and crumble the fresh yeast on to it. Then I mix it with a whisk or spatula. This is the sponge and I let it rise for about 15-20 minutes. This will greatly reduce the rising time of the dough later.
When the time is up, the sponge usually is bubbly and has increased in size. Now it?s time to add the other ingredients (but not the flour yet). So, I mix in the eggs or egg yolks, the oil, the salt, the remaining sugar (if sweet dough) and still use the whisk to mix it well. Then the whisk can't be used anymore, because as soon as I add the flour, it's going to get too thick. I usually switch to a spatula by then or just go straight to direct "hands-on" contact (my 11y. old loves this stage the best). The left photo below shows white flour sponge, the rigth one whole-wheat already risen.
Then I start adding the flour slowly and start kneading. There is no way of telling how much flour exactly it will take. It depends on the temperature of the room, the ingredients, the humidity and sometimes even the baker?s mood I think =). That is why it is wise to add little by little and knead well. This is the part that is best learned from someone else, because it takes time to develop a feeling for the exact consistency. If some raisins, dried fruit or seeds are added, then this is the time to work them in.
Then the dough gets covered up and only needs to raise another 15-20 minutes. I usually use this time to prepare the fillings/toppings or additional ingredients.
This is white dough and below is whole-wheat
After this time, the dough gets either rolled out and cut/shaped into pastry of choice or just made into a roll and then cut and shaped. There are so many ways to shape it, it's hard to describe them all. Of course, the dough can also made a bit less stiff (less flour) and rolled/spread with hands on a baking sheet and topped with various fillings and toppings. You can be as creative as you want to be.
Then the dough rises one more time for 15-20 minutes in the pan or the sheet. Usually I "paint" the goodies with egg-wash before baking, bread I only brush with water. I usually bake small roll and such on 200C, while larger things and bread on about 180C. But that depends largely on the oven itself. Here are some variations that I have picture of:
Bread (usually make this dough in the Bosch mixer, because I grind the flour in it, otherwise it?s just too much washing and I prefer to knead in a simple bowl) and whole-wheat rolls with sesame seeds on top. These things are baked 2-3 a week and are our basic food.
Sometimes I make hamburger buns or hot-dog buns or shape simple buns in different ways. Sometimes I roll out this salty dough, cut into triangles, put a piece of cheese on each one (or ham or sausage), then roll it up ? that make tasty salty filled rolls sometimes I make Pizza rolls: I roll out the dough, spread it with a bit of tomato sauce (very thin - it runs), sprinkle with ham and other veggies finely chopped, then roll the whole dough and cut (like cinnamon rolls). I place the rolls cut side up and sprinkle with cheese. These are a bit hit. Or I make mini pizzas or calzones. The left picture below also shows salty treats, they have little heaps of bryndza (Slovak sheep cheese), but I sometimes use regular farmers cheese or cottage cheese mixed with some salt, an egg and some cornstarch.
Sweet The right picture above are dumplings filled with plum butter. Dough is rolled out, cut into squares, then plum butter is place on each square. The squares are pressed closed and then put seam side down into a greased pan.
On the left below are pictured little ?combs? filled with nuts. I just ground the nuts, mixed with an egg and some sugar and placed that mixture on each square, pressed the edges together and cut them with scissors. On the right are some sweet cheese-filled "baggies" I made today. I mixed some farmer?s cheese (like unsalted ricotta or cottage cheese) with an egg, some sugar, vanilla and a bit cornstarch. I rolled out the dough, cut it in squares, place some filling in the middle and pressed all four corners in the center.
Let me see how many other ways I use this dough. Of course there is the simple egg-braid I very often make for Sunday breakfasts. Just a basic sweet yeast dough with raisins, divide in three parts, roll each part into long sausage and braid all three together. Delicious with just butter or also preserves. Another variation I make for Sunday quick breakfasts are Cinnamon Bread and Raisin Bread. For the Cinnamon bread I just roll out the dough, spread it with water and sprinkle with a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Then I roll it up and place in a bread pan. The raisin bread is also rolled out, sprinkled with raisins, rolled up and placed in a bread pan. Of course I also make cinnamon buns, nut buns or just simple sweet buns. For all of them, I roll out the dough, spread with some soft margarine, sprinkle either with cinnamon sugar, or chopped nuts or nothing. Then I roll up the dough, cut it up and place on greased pan and bake. For cinnamon rolls, I spread warm with sugar icing (powdered sugar, teaspoon of margarine and milk), on the other rolls I pour vanilla milk (milk with vanilla sugar and some rum) a few minutes before they are done and return to oven to finish baking. They are very soft and juicy. Another option I often use is yeast dough sheet cake. I roll out the dough, put into a large pan, then top it either with cut apples, plums or a mixture of fruit. In winter, simple sweet cottage cheese filling is usually used. On top of that goes streusel (equal parts of flour, sugar and margarine crumbled, cinnamon is a nice addition).
Ok, I can't think of any other ideas at the moment, but there are many more. When I make some more, I will be sure to take some pictures and either update here or make another post. I love kneading this dough, it's very satisfying and feeds my family. And with a bit of experimenting, almost all of this can be done also with whole-wheat or at least part of the flour replaced. Have fun experimenting!