If you’ve read more than a couple of posts here at the Garden Deli, you might have noticed that I like baking bread – love it in fact. Luckily my family are pretty tolerant of my bread baking obsession, and generally eat the loaves I turn out of our oven. Most times the bread I bake is OK – at least better than the plastic wrapped supermarket bread we used to buy. But then there are some loaves that just aren’t as good as I would have hoped – spongy textured or missing in flavour. Very occasionally I pull a loaf from the oven that tastes absolutely fantastic – trouble is I’m never sure what went right and how to replicate these successes.
So I’ve decided I need to learn more about the whole bread baking process. I’m hoping that the more I know about how the ingredients react to kneading, proving and knocking back the more consistent my bread making will be. I’m re-reading the first chapters in my favourite baking book, and am thinking about taking a bread making course of some kind. I’m also going to start joining in with the Twelve Loaves bread making challenge. This is a great idea, hosted this month by Lora at Cake Duchess – a different theme each month and lots of recipes to inspire more baking. The theme for January is Clean Slate – simplicity after the excesses of the holiday season, so I’ve baked our favourite basic white rolls.
These bread rolls have become a weekly bake in our house – great for breakfast, packed lunches or with a bowl of soup. And the great thing is, they always turn out right – when I’ve read enough to find out why, I’ll let you know! The polenta in the dough gives a nice, slight crunch to the texture of the bread. I usually make eight large rolls with this quantity of dough, but you could make smaller rolls, or even get creative and make plaits or swirls…
White rolls with polenta
500g strong white bread flour
150g medium polenta (corn meal)
2 tsp sea salt
2tsp fast action dried yeast
about 400ml warm water
Mix the flour, polenta, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add enough water to bring everything together into a sticky dough – it does need to be quite wet and sticky to get rolls with a good texture. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for about 10 minutes. This is quite a messy job with a sticky dough, but it really is worth the mess!
Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with a damp tea towel or cling wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour – until the dough has doubled in size. Tip the dough out onto a board again and knock it back – spread the dough out to form a rough rectangle, fold the left third across to cover the middle third of the rectangle, then fold the right side over on top of this. Turn the dough through 90o and repeat this folding process. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover and leave to rise again. (If you’re really pushed for time, you can skip the knocking back and go straight on to shaping the rolls).
When the dough has doubled in size again, divide it into 8 equally sized pieces and shape each one into a slightly flattened ball. Place the rolls onto a greased baking sheet, and leave to rest for about 35-45 minutes. Get your oven heating so that it’s at 190oC, 375F, gas 5 when the rolls are ready for baking.
Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes – they will be a lovely golden brown and sound hollow when you tap the bottom when they are ready. It’s tempting to eat them hot from the oven with plenty of melting butter and homemade jam, but if you can leave them to cool for a short while at least, the texture will be better.