Quick, before I forget again…you’ll need…
4-5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons yeast (one packet)
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, margarine or shortening
1 teaspoon salt
If you’re using the packet yeast, you can skip this step and just mix the yeast into two cups of flour in your mixing bowl – technically, I can probably skip it too. But, I buy my yeast in big four pound containers and keep it in the fridge for anywhere from “no time at all” to “months on end” depending on the baking schedule, so I kind of like to know it’s still alive before I waste a bunch of time and effort with the mixing and kneading and so forth.
So I put a little water in a cereal bowl (about a quarter cup, maybe), zap it for fifteen seconds in the microwave to warm it just a tad, then put my yeast in it, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar and set it somewhere warm for about ten minutes to see what happens while I move on with warming up the milk.
Which is the next step. So, uh, yeah. You warm up the milk and fat (butter or shortening), either on the stovetop or the microwave. Stir until the butter is melted or almost melted; add your sugar and salt and mix it until it’s all dissolved.
You want it to be “Just Warm,” not hot – too hot, and you’ll kill your yeast (and possibly get scrambled eggs into the bargain). You should be able to stick your finger in it without yelping.
Add that to your flour and stir until mixed in; if you’ve “activated” your yeast first, pour that in too and mix it up.
Add the eggs and blend them on in there. Mix it up really well, so that there’s no flour left on the bottom of the bowl and your arm is getting tired and good grief, why didn’t anybody TELL you there’d be so much stirring?!
Now, if you are blessed with a KitchenAid or similar stand mixer that can handle this sort of thing, get out your dough hook. Add another two cups of flour and turn that sucker on. Keep adding flour a tiny little bit at a time until the dough is pulling away from the sides of the mixer and begins to form a smooth elastic ball.
Try to learn from my mistakes here, and always keep in mind that it is easy to add more flour…but a lot trickier to take out if you get a little too excited about adding more. eeeeeeeyeah. Some of us…are faster learners than others…
You’ll want to let it go for at least five minutes. Keep an eye on it even if the dough looked perfect the last time you looked, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to occasionally rest your hand on the top of your machine to make sure it isn’t getting so hot you could fry an egg on it.
Because that is not a recommended way to use these machines.
Or so KitchenAid tells me.
If you do not have a stand mixer, continue adding flour until you just can’t add anymore – the wooden spoon refuses to move through the cement-like creation you’re working on.
Then turn it out onto a floured surface and begin to knead in even more flour. You’re still going for that smooth elastic ball thing, and it will still take a good six to eight minutes. Keep thinking of the excellent workout this is for your upper and lower arms. (It really is.) (It’s also a great way to take out any frustration you may have…very therapeutic and when you’re done, you have a home filled with the scent of prosperity, plenty and love. And if you should find yourself still frustrated, well, you’ve now got better-toned arms with which to smack the daylights out of the problem.)
When you’ve got one of these…
…put it in a greased bowl big enough to hold twice as much, turn it to get some of that oil on the top, cover it with a clean cloth, put it in a warm, draft-free place and ignore it for about an hour while it doubles in size.
Then punch it down, cut the dough in half, and cover it again to rest for ten minutes. It’s the least you can do for it, after all, after having walked up and punched it for no apparent reason.
Then comes the fun part, the shaping. You can make the rolls any shape you please. ANY SHAPE YOU PLEASE. You can make them into crescents like I did this last time. This recipe makes about 24 crescents – you roll each half out into a circle, then cut it into twelve wedges. (Although actually, I do sixteen. Because the way I cut the wedges is like cutting a pizza – in half, then in quarters, then each quarter in half, and so on and so on.)
Or you can divide each half into six equal pieces, shape them into circles about 3-1/2 inches across – ta-da, a dozen hamburger buns. Or you can do the same thing but roll them out into roughly 5” long rolls – hot dog buns.
OR (this one is kind of cool because it looks hard but isn’t), you can grease a muffin pan, divide each half into twelve portions, then divide each portion into three (stay with me here). Roll each little third-of-a-fifteenth bit into a smooth ball and drop three of those into each muffin pan. After rising, they’ll look like you did something all fancy to get that cool “clover” pattern but it was just three little balls of dough dropped into a muffin pan!
You can also just drop one larger ball into the muffin pan to make regular old rolls.
Whatever shape you choose, after shaping put them on a greased cookie sheet cover them back up and leave them alone for about half an hour, then bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes, until they’re nicely browned and the smell of bread baking is driving everybody in the house nuts. Watch the bottoms! They tend to burn pretty fast.
Take them out and let them cool on your handy wire racks – if you can. But if you just can’t wait, well, we understand.
Just try not to burn yourself, ‘kay?