Little bread rolls! Really cute, really tasty and plenty to go around. No bread machine or dough hook here; just simple bread-making, from scratch, using your hands.
Breading-making can seem like a bit of a challenge and I know that its taken a while for me to get my head around baking a loaf rather than nipping to the local supermarket. But once I’d mastered it, smelt it, tasted it, got others to taste it and just generally congratulated myself on it; I started to realise why homemade bread is the only bread I should be eating.
Obviously, it would be amazing to eat homemade bread all the time, but knocking out a couple of loaves each week isn’t that easy or that practical. But if I ever have a free weekend its definitely worth making up some bread to go with dinner.
Warm bread rolls
The perfect accompaniment to a fresh bowl of soup or stew are these fantastic little bread rolls. Mini picnic sandwiches or burgers are also a great option when you have few of these rolls to hand. I also love to have BBQ pulled beef brisket piled high on a roll and finished off with a dollop of homemade slaw – perfection!
If bread-making is something you haven’t done before or something that you’ve tried and decided not to attempt again; then these bread rolls are the best place to start. I found that my bread making became a little easier and more successful once I’d understood the basic principles a little better. Generally making bread is all about creating the right environment for each ingredient.
So the most important ingredient in bread is probably the yeast, which is the thing that makes bread rise. I prefer to use fresh yeast; mainly because I know all bakeries and most restaurants will always use fresh yeast, but also because its free! I know! Completely free! All supermarkets with a bakery will prepare bread using fresh yeast and will generally have a mountain of it. Supermarkets can’t sell yeast as its a live product, but they can give it to customers for free upon request. My local supermarket is very generous and usually gives me enough yeast to make a few dozen loaves. So its worth saying how much yeast you want, otherwise it can go to waste. Usually fresh yeast will keep in a sealed bag or container, in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.
The main thing to know about yeast is that it will activate and produce carbon dioxide when given warmth, food and moisture. Bread rises as carbon dioxide is produced and becomes trapped. For these bread rolls the yeast is activated by sugar (food), milk (moisture and warmth) and kneading (further warmth). It is also important to know that high temperatures or too much salt can kill the yeast. Just like us, yeast is at its happiest at around 37°C. So at the start of this recipe its important to only warm the milk to around body temperature. (Use a thermometer to double check if you are unsure and allow it to cool if it is too hot).
Gluten is the protein that allows bread to stretch as carbon dioxide is released from the yeast. The gluten protein is formed when 2 other proteins, present in flour, come together during kneading.
Kneading not only helps activate the yeast but also allows gluten to form and build up. Therefore, its really important to knead dough really well for at least 10 minutes. When kneading use the heel of your hand to stretch the dough out and then use your fingers to fold it back on itself. After 10 minutes of repeating this process the dough should start to become smooth and elastic.
Allowing the dough to prove just means to rest it and give it the opportunity to rise. Over proofing can produce unstructured or uneven bread. So the 1st prove should only be for around 1 hour. Knocking back (hitting the risen dough with your hand) removes the air meaning the dough can be handled again and shaped. A second prove allows the shaped dough to rise again, this usually requires less time (around 30 minutes).
After a second prove the bread is ready for the oven where it should rise up evenly and brown nicely. The bread will be done when a hollow sound is produced from tapping on the bottom of the roll or loaf.
The above principles and this recipe can apply to rolls, loaves or any other shape of bread. Just shape the dough as you please once its ready. I also like to add spices to my bread to give it a more interesting flavour. A couple of teaspoons of spice can be added to the flour at the start of the recipe. My favourites are:
- Rosemary & sea salt
- Cumin, caraway & onion seed. Delicious!!
Easy Mini Bread Rolls
- 225 g Strong white bread flour
- 1 tsp Crushed sea salt
- 1 tbsp Olive oil
- 150 ml Warm semi skimmed milk
- 10 g Fresh yeast
- 1 tsp Caster sugar
- First place the milk in a small pan and gently warm. Watch the milk and test temperature regularly, do not boil. Ideally the milk should be around 37-40 degrees °C in order to activate the yeast (This is around body temperature so its easy to test this with your finger). If the milk is too warm it will kill the yeast, therefore allow to cool slightly if necessary.
- Whilst the milk is warming (or cooling) sieve the flour and crushed salt together into a large mixing bowl. Mix well using tips of fingers in a claw-like shape.
- (Salt will add flavour to the rolls but can kill the yeast, so best to add this directly to flour first.)
- Transfer the warm milk to a small jug and add the yeast, tsp caster sugar and olive oil.
- (Yeast needs food, warmth and moisture to activate which is achieved from the sugar and milk.)
- Once the yeast is in the milk, gently rub it between your fingers in order to dissolve evenly within the milk. Clumps of yeast can sink to the bottom so check it is all thoroughly mixed in.
- Next add the milk and yeast mixture to the flour a little at a time (add 3/4 initially) and mix using fingers and claw-shaped hand again, be careful not to squeeze the dough. Add enough liquid until it starts to come together and forms a nice sticky dough. Ensure you incorporate all flour from bottom and sides. Gradually add remaining milk making sure all the yeast has been added. Use luke warm water if more liquid required (better to be too I wet that too dry).
- Turn the dough out onto the work surface and knead for 10 minutes by hand until smooth and elastic. Use oil on worktop when kneading to stop the dough sticking. Don't use flour as this will dry out the dough.
- (Kneading is one of most important stages and provides the opportunity for 2 proteins in the flour to come together and form gluten and also allows the yeast to work its magic and release carbon dioxide (CO2). Use power from shoulder to knead thoroughly, the dough will go slightly whiter as you knead. Stretch out to see if snaps or stretches, continue kneading if not stretchy).
- Dough is smooth and gives an exaggerated bounce-back when pressed with finger.
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave in a warm place to double in bulk, this will take approx. 1 hour.
- (This is called the 1st prove and allows the dough to rise by build-up of CO2.)
- After an hour remove the cling film and hit dough firmly with your hand to knock back. This will release the built up CO2. Turn out onto the work surface and use finger tips to flatten then roll into an even sausage shape. Use knife to halve then halve again etc into 8 even pieces. If you want to be really even with your rolls you can weigh each piece to check they are the same size.
- To make rolls place the first piece of dough on the work surface and then place flat of hand on top and press down firmly to remove creases. Make a circular motion and gradually move in thumb and allow knuckles to rise, creating a smooth sphere. Repeat with each piece of dough.
- Place the rolls onto a lined or greased baking tray. Brush egg wash (1 egg mixed with same amount of milk) over each roll and sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds if desired. Place on tray to prove for a 2nd time. Cover with lightly oiled cling again. Leave them in a warm place until they appear well risen (30 mins).
- Once well risen add a tiny bit of sea salt to the top of each roll then bake for 25 mins at 180 degrees C (fan) - check at 15 minutes. Bake until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Spraying the oven with water at regular intervals can help create a better crust.
- Cool on a rack before devouring. And don't forget to enjoy that freshly baked bread smell 🙂