In my bread baking adventure, I am beginning to realise that practice really does make perfect. You can read heaps about making the perfect loaf and avoiding common mishaps (bread that doesnt rise, yeast that doesnt froth, crust that's too hard, rock hard buns, etc) but you aint gonna get it right unless you try and try again and improve your technique.
Making bread is really not difficult technically, but it does require a lot of patience, especially if you're a novice and not a natural baker (I do believe some people have a natural ability to craft the perfect loaf with minimal effort).
So, though I had success with my first loaf -- Delia Smith's Quick and Easy Wholemeal Loaf -- I wasn't too successful with my next recipe, Potato and Resemary buns ... well, at least at first.
Unlike the Wholemeal Loaf, this recipe required some kneading and some knocking back. Also, the yeast has to be 'activated' by dissolving it in tepid water before it could be added into the flour mix.
I decided to try and try and until I succeeded. The obssessive compulsive in me needs to succeed. It took me three tries berfore I got it right. My first two attempts (pic below), the dough didn't quite rise as it should have and they sorta were a cross between a biscuit and a bun .. a buncuit.
The recipe calls for instant yeast which you can combine with the other dry ingredients before adding the required liquid. I substituted it with active dry yeast and followed the same instructions.
The problem? Active dry yeast needs to be "activated" first -- by dissolving it in tepid water which will cause the yeast to froth and hence get activated. My mistake? The second time, my water wasn't quite tepid -- it was a little colder and so the yeast didn't activate. (Tepid water, by the way, is very warm water but at a temperature that's allows you to dip you fingers in and keep them there for a good 10 seconds without getting scalded).
The third time, I got it right. The yeast frothed up nicely and the dough did rise.
Also important is to get the texture of the dough correct. After mixing the dry ingredients with the water and kneading, your bread dough should be sticky but should be able to come off your mixing bowl in one lump. You should not have to scrape little chuncks from the base and sides.
And, with bread it's better to have a little too much water than too little.
These potato rolls taste way different from the ones you get in kedai runcit or even those from bakeries. For one thing, while those are sweet buns, this one is savoury and a little hot hot or spicy, courtesy of the ingredients: ground black pepper, salt, dried rosemary and sage. You first have to boil and mash one potato (better with the skin on, scrubbed of course) and the mix together with the high protein bread flour, salt, butter, herbs and yeast. Mix and knead for about 5 to 10 mins, adding 1 cup tepid water. Knead till you get the right texture. Cover with a damp cloth for 60 to 90 mins. By this time it should have doubled in size (if it hasn't you're in trouble -- as I was my first two times).
Next, de-gas the dough by gently "punching" it and the shape them into balls (bigger than a golf ball, smaller than a tennis ball) and place them on a greased and lined baking sheet. Cover the dough balls with a garbage bag for another hour.
15 mins before the hour, preheat your oven to 180C.
Bake for 10 mins, rotate the tray and bake for another 10 to 15 mins. The bottoms should be slightly crisp.
The rolls taste great eaten alone or with a little butter. They semll wonderful while baking and you can most definitely get a herb high ;)
For the full recipe (and to get hooked onto a great link) go to www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/potatorosemaryrolls