Bread as an essential part of #kitchentherapy is a must for one reason.
Bread says, “Take a breath, ponder lovely things, dream a bit.”
I don’t know about you, but taking a breath is a powerful thing to do.
Bread invites me to take it easy, to slow down, to become comfortable with making space for good things to happen. Bread has a great imagination. Bread doesn’t like to be rushed as it considers becoming light and fluffy and the perfect accompaniment to wine or butter or a great roast with rich gravy and creamy potatoes and…oh wait, I digress.
I encourage you to not be afraid of bread—of making it or eating it. These three recipes aren’t complicated. They are forgiving. Let them take the lead. You’ll be pleased.
These have all been tested, tried, and found to be joy-makers. And stress relievers. And comfort-providers.
Happy baking. I’m praying for you. We’re in this together, you know.
Mel’s Amazing French Rolls
Makes 12-16 perfect rolls, thanks to Mel (whoever you are). I’m sharing her exact recipe, because for the love, it’s the best. Here’s the link to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. I want to be friends.)
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast (or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar or honey
- 2 tablespoons canola oil or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, more or less (see note)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large bowl by hand, combine the warm water, instant yeast, sugar, oil, salt and 2 cups of the flour. If you are using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, let the yeast proof in the warm water and sugar for about 3-5 minutes until it is foamy and bubbly before adding the oil, salt and flour.
Begin mixing, and continue to add the rest of the flour gradually until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Begin kneading the dough for 4-5 minutes in a stand mixer (7-9 minutes by hand).
The dough should be soft and smooth but still slightly tacky to the touch. After a few minutes of kneading, stop the mixer and grab a small piece of dough to test if it needs more flour or not. It might leave a little bit of sticky residue on your fingers, but if you can roll it into a small ball without it sticking all over to your hands, it is good to go. If not, gradually add a bit more flour as needed.
Lightly grease a container or large bowl with nonstick cooking spray, and place the kneaded dough in the container.
Cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap or a large tea towel. Let the dough rise until it has doubled (this usually takes about an hour, depending on the warmth of the kitchen).
Lightly punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly greased countertop.
Divide the dough into 12 to 16 equal pieces, and form the dough into round balls.
Place the rolls in a lightly greased 9X13-inch pan, spacing them evenly apart.
Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap taking care not to pin the plastic wrap under the baking sheet or else the rolls will flatten while rising. Let the plastic wrap gently hang over the sides of the pan to fully cover the rolls but not press them down.
Let the rolls rise until very puffy and doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 15-17 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through.
Immediately out of the oven, brush with butter. Rejoice and eat too many. (But if you’re wise, you’ll freeze some so you can enjoy them for weeks to come).
Japanese Milk Bread (Hokkaido)
Makes one amazing loaf of bread, though I never just make one batch. This recipe is inspired by King Arthur Flour.
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
- 2-1/2 cups organic unbleached bread flour
- 2 T. nonfat dry milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 t. salt
- 1 T. instant yeast (1 packet)
First, make the tangzhong. Combine the first three ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Place the saucepan over low heat, and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it’s thick (about 3 to 5 minutes). You’ll know it’s ready when the whisk leaves lines on the bottom of the pan. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool slightly (about 5 minutes).
Carefully and slowly whisk in the remaining milk, then add the butter and blend. In a small bowl, whisk egg until fluffy, and slowly add to the tangzhong, whisking thoroughly. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and make a well in the center. Pour in the tangzhong, mix and then knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms. Shape the dough into a ball, and let it rest and rise in a lightly greased bowl for 90 minutes. It may not double in size, but it will definitely rise well. Gently the dough from the bowl, divide it into four equal pieces, and shape each piece into a ball. Take each ball and press gently into a rectangle. Fold the rectangle into itself (like you’re folding a letter), rotate the dough ¼, and roll out slightly into a larger rectangle. Roll that rectangle up like a swiss roll, and place it seam side down into a greased loaf pan. Repeat with the other three balls of dough. When you’re done, you should have a lovely loaf pan filled with four bread rolls.
Cover the pan and let the dough rise until it’s peeking out over the top of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the rolls with milk or egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water), and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
Remove the bread from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing and eating with reckless abandon.
Sweet Potato Cornbread (by Butter Be Ready)
Makes one 10″ skillet of great cornbread.
- 1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups whole buttermilk
- 3/4 cup cooked and mashed sweet potato (don’t go overboard with this or your cornbread will be too dense)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Pats of butter, honey or maple syrup for drizzling and serving
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Then line a 9×9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper or generously coat the pan with baking spray. Note: you can also use a large (at least 10-12 inches) cast iron skillet or a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Then set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together. Whisk thoroughly to fully combine and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and mashed sweet potato/puree together until combined and fluffy. Then pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Use a rubber spatula to fold everything together until just combined. Don’t overmix or your batter will be too dense.
Lastly, pour in the melted butter and fold it within the batter until combined. Empty the batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth out the top, if necessary, using a knife or spatula.
Bake the cornbread for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean. Allow the cornbread to cool down for 10 minutes before cutting into.
Slice the cornbread into wedges and serve immediately with extra pats of butter, drizzled honey or syrup. Seriously, this is delightful.