Basically Perfect Bread Dough
I came to a startling realization over the weekend: I’ve been writing Something Swanky for almost 4 years, and have never posted many of the recipes most used in my home on a daily basis! I’m always so busy trying to bake up the “next big thing,” that I rarely step back to share some of the basic recipes that have been so foundational to all of the other recipes on this blog.
So I asked around a bit on Facebook, and after getting the green light from many of you, I’ve decided to spend the next few weeks or so posting my most loved basic recipes that I use all the time in my own kitchen for my family and friends.
I thought this bread would be a great place to start, because I use this dough for so many uses in my cooking and baking. Most often (besides baking bread), I use it for pizza crusts, cinnamon rolls, doughnuts, and dinner pockets. But more on that at the end! I’ll tell you all about the different recipes I’ve used it for and suggest some fun variations. Read on!
I don’t do much step-by-step here, but for some of these basic recipes I will. Just because I really want you to understand some of the key (simple) principles that lead to a recipe’s success.
The most important part about making any bread is in the yeast and how the dough rises. I’ve found that proofing my yeast has made all the difference in the world (and trust me, I’ve had my share of bread failures before I started doing it this way)! Proofing involves dissolving the yeast with sugar and sometimes oil (although this recipe doesn’t call for any oil).
Start by sprinkling 2 tablespoons of yeast over 2 1/2 cups of warm water– think of warm bath water, and it should be about perfect. I like to proof the yeast in a 4-cup measuring cup. It make it easier to measure out the honey… which is coming next.
Drizzle the honey over the yeast until the water level reaches the 3 cup mark (a cheat to measuring the honey without the hassle of measuring it in a separate cup). This will gently push the yeast below the water, aiding in its activation.
Let the yeast rest for about 5 minutes. You can go ahead and get the rest of the ingredients together in your stand mixer while you’re waiting. You’ll know it’s ready when everything looks nice and foamy. Like this:
Pour the yeast water into the stand mixer with the flour, salt, and dry milk (you’ll have to scrape to get all of the honey out). Attach the bread hook and knead until dough starts to form, and then another 6 minutes beyond that. You can also do this part with a wooden spoon and your hands, but I really love using my stand mixer for this.
I usually stop kneading when the dough looks like this:
Use well floured hands (and sometimes a pinch or two of flour into the bowl if you feel like the dough is still too sticky) and work the dough into a ball. Lift the dough and give it a quick spray of non-stick cooking spray underneath and around the sides of the bowl. Replace the dough, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and let rise in a warm place (like the stove top over the pre-heating oven) until doubled in size. It should look something like this:
Punch the dough down, and now it’s yours to do what you’d like with it!
You can, of course, bake it into two loaves of bread. And maybe even whip up a batch of honey butter to go with it…
…which is my absolute favorite way to eat homemade bread. Fresh out of the oven of course!
There are so many ways to use this dough recipe. Some of them include:
- Cinnamon Swirl Bread – Divide the dough into two balls. Each of these will be one loaf. Roll each loaf out and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Drizzle 2 tbsp of melted butter over the cinnamon sugar (2 tbsp per loaf, so 4 tbsp total). Roll up the dough, like you would cinnamon rolls, but form into a loaf and place in bread pan to bake like normal.
- Pizza Crust – This recipe makes 2 crusts. Divide the dough and roll each ball out into a circle to place on a pizza pan. Poke holes through out the crust before topping and baking.
- Cinnamon Rolls – recipe coming soon
- Dinner Rolls – Divide dough into 20 even balls. Place dough balls into a baking dish side by side to bake. Brush with butter. Optional – mix into the dough: crushed garlic, parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning!
- Doughnuts – Roll dough out to approximately 1/4 inch thickness. Cut doughnuts. Let rise until doubled and then fry in hot oil.
- Monkey Bread – Replace the canned biscuit dough in this Caramel Filled Monkey Bread recipe with balls of dough from this bread recipe (but half the bread recipe– as is, it make about 2-3 monkey bread recipes).
This recipe has been much loved and used by my family. I hope you love it as much as we do!
**Side note: the perfect honey butter can easily be made by mixing together 1 stick of softened butter (margarine won’t work) with about 3 heaping tbsp of honey (you may find you like more or less honey– you can adjust as desired).
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