Made-from-scratch bread baking does take practice, but with a little effort, the holiday table can go from ho-hum to memory-making.
Bread and rolls are essential ingredients at holiday meals. Breads make for a savory side at any family gathering, the perfect foil for gravy or sauces, and the foundation for breakfast, late-night snacks, and layered leftover concoctions during the days after the celebration.
Many home bakers are intimidated about including homemade bread in their holiday meal plans.
“A lot of home bakers have yeast anxiety,” jokes Lee Clark, an instructor at King Arthur Flour’s Baking School at the Bread Lab, referring to the mixed results they’ve experienced before when combining this key ingredient with water, often at the wrong temperature or proportion.
Made-from-scratch bread baking does take practice, but with a little effort to master hands-on experience, the holiday table can go from ho-hum to memory-making. Clark and King Arthur Flour offer these tips for incorporating fresh bread into the holidays.
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Get a feel for your dough
Whether you plan to work with dough from start to finish or you want to develop dough in a stand mixer or for a bread machine, bakers need to spend some hands-on time understanding how dough should feel, says Clark.
“Dough should be soft and pillowy to the touch, not dry or claylike,” she says.
Also, bakers need to know not all dough needs to be roughhoused.
“You don’t have to beat up the dough,” she says. “Some dough needs to be ‘punched,’ but there are other ways to get air out of dough and also shape dough.”
Indeed, some breads require no kneading at all.
Bakers also need to keep in mind that unless they’re baking at elevations above 5,000 feet, they won’t likely need to modify their recipes or dough rising times. (Dough tends to over-rise at higher altitudes.)
Consider freezing ahead
Dinner roll dough can be made and frozen up to two weeks ahead of time. With rolls, mix dough and then shape it into rolls, freezing them on baking sheets storing them in an airtight storage container. When freezing dinner rolls at the dough stage, skip the step of letting the dough rise. You can wait until baking day to let that happen, removing the rolls from the freezer and letting them rise for four to five hours while you’re cooking the rest of your holiday meal.
Bread dough can also be made ahead and frozen for up to two weeks, then allowed to rise for four to five hours before baking. No-knead bread dough will produce different (but equally appealing) results depending on whether you freeze it or not.
Fresh home-baked breads and rolls generally only keep for a few days – and generally disappear within those few days. If you do have leftover breads and rolls, they will gain longer shelf life if frozen.
Ask a baker
Home bakers can tap King Arthur Flour’s Bakers Hotline for extra help with techniques or recipe rescues online or at 855-371-BAKE. Or they can enroll in classes through the Baking School calendar – offering students grains of truth about best baking techniques.
The King Arthur Flour Baking School welcomes all bakers, no matter your skill level or baking interest. Classes range from introductory demonstrations for beginners to intensive week-long professional courses, with a wide variety of hands-on classes for adults and children.