“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water is indescribable in its evocations of innocence and delight” – M.F.K Fisher
I’m going to make a bold statement.
There is nothing better than the smell of bread baking!
There I said it. But, don’t just take my word for it. Here is some proof: a UK study that surveyed 2,000 adults found that the smell of freshly baked bread was number 1. It beat out bacon, freshly mowed grass and even coffee. You can find the results here.
To me, the aroma of bread baking is comforting and titillating all at once. It’s soul warming, happiness inducing and whatsmore it’s a time machine that instantly transports me back to my childhood.
The thing is, I rarely bake bread – rarely bake in general really. I have a love hate relationship with baking. Most bakers like the precision of it, the fact that exactly measured quantities, come together to produce heartwarming creations. That’s what I hate about it. I lack the patience to level cups of flour and weigh out sugar grain by grain (which is what I imagine all great bakers do). But, I love baked goods. I know…it’s a problem…
But, these dinner rolls, buns, heavenly pillows, whatever you want to call them are, dare I say it, EASY. They do require a bit of elbow grease, and some I admit, measuring but they’re easy enough that it’s definitely worth it.
My recommendation is to make these on Saturday morning, after you’ve had your first cup of coffee and just before tucking into your second.
Grab some yeast, sugar, water, milk, an egg, salt, oil and some flour and get started.
Trust me you DEFINITELY can make these buns. So don’t be frightened. Add warm water (this may be the trickiest part. You need the water to be warm enough that encourages the yeast to bloom, but not so hot that it kills it…it is alive after all.) I normally turn on the hot water tap, and as soon as it starts to get hot, measure out 1/2 cup. Which I add to a cold bowl and then measure out my yeast and sugar. By the time I add the yeast and sugar to the bowl, the water is the perfect temperature. Let the water and yeast mixture sit for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, in another bowl, crack your egg, add your milk, salt and oil and give it a good stir, mixing everything until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
To a large bowl, add 3 cups of flour. Combine the egg mixture into the yeast mixture and give it a good stir. Then unceremoniously pour the whole thing into the bowl with the flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until most of the flour and liquid is incorporated.
Tip out everything from the bowl onto a clean, lightly floured worktop and start kneading. Now this part I find very therapeutic. Feel free to be rough with your dough. Punch it, slap it, pick it up and slam it hard against the counter…I just had a vision of a Brad Pitt in Fight Club.
You want the dough to be slightly tacky but it should spring back when you poke it. It takes about 8-10 minutes of abuse to get a smooth ball of dough. Once you get to that point, put the dough in a slightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and keep it in a warm place away from the any drafts. Pray to the dough gods, and let it proof (rise) until doubled in sized. I wait about 45 minutes to an hour normally.
Once doubled in size, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12.
I told you precision wasn’t my thing, but if you wanted even, same sized buns, feel free to weigh out 12 identical pieces of dough before rolling them into balls. Shape your dough pieces into balls and place in a buttered 9×12 pan.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let proof a second time. This is the trick to buns at are a little bit crusty on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Let them sit in the pan in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
In the meantime preheat your oven to 375°F.
After 45 minutes, dust the buns with a bit of flour and throw (actually, just gently place) them in the the preheated oven. Let cook for 15-18 minutes until the tops are floury and golden brown and the aroma in the house gives you all the feels.
There they are, wait until they’re cool enough to handle, slather with butter, take a bite and watch how all your woes disappear. Enjoy!
- 1 Tbl yeast
- 1 Tbl sugar
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 egg
- ½ cup milk
- 2 Tbl olive oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 cups flour + more for dusting
Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes.
In another bowl, combine the egg, milk, oil, and salt. Stir until well mixed. Add to the yeast mixture.
In a large bowl and 3 cups of flour, then pour in the yeast and egg mixture. Mix with a spoon until the wet and dry ingredients are almost incorporated. Tip out the mixture on a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until the dough is tacky, smooth and springs back when poked.
Add the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a tea-towel and allow to proof in a warm, draft free place for 45 minutes – 1 hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
Once doubled in size, remove the dough, and divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece until a bun shape and place in a 9×12 buttered pan. Proof for another 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, dust the buns with flour and bake them in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until golden, floury and delicious.