Making bread takes me back to childhood, when my parents’ kitchen would magically transform into a bakery. I’d produce homemade focaccia, baguettes, and country loaves; the final product was always delicious, and made the hours of preparation worth it. But as my life got busier, bread baking became too time-consuming, and I defaulted to doing it only on holidays and special occasions.
My love of homemade bread, however, never faltered — so recently, when the mood to get baking struck, I decided to whip up some sourdough. Whip up, of course, is a ridiculous way to describe baking sourdough, as it takes longer to prepare than most breads. Craving the taste but lacking the time, I decided to use a DIY bread kit purported to simplify the process. Keep reading to learn how it went — and how sourdough rolls made from a baking kit measure up against sourdough rolls made from scratch.
The Scoop on Sourdough
While people have been making sourdough for centuries, it reemerged as a popular activity for home bakers during the COVID pandemic. Sourdough’s distinctly tangy flavor comes from the starter; a “starter” is a flour and water mixture in which natural yeast and bacteria grow. Many sourdough recipes use a starter as the bread’s primary leavening agent, rather than commercial yeast. This gives the bread its signature taste (and was previously used out of necessity as commercial yeast wasn’t always available). Once the starter is well-fed and fermented, it’s ready for bread baking.
Many years ago, I baked my first loaf of sourdough — and it turned out amazing. I didn’t make it again, though, because it required so much patience and attention to detail. This time, to save myself time and energy, I bought a bread kit and chose rolls over a large loaf. I used a recipe included in the Duffy’s Dough Essentials Kit, which comes with a dehydrated starter, flour, sugar, and recipe book.
Activating the Starter
To begin the bread baking process, I activated (or “woke up”) the starter. The steps below outline this process.
- First, I crushed the dry flakes of starter in the jar and added enough warm water to submerge them. After stirring the mixture, I loosely covered the jar and allowed it to sit on my kitchen counter for three hours.
- Then, I combined the starter in a bowl of 1 ½ cups flour, one tablespoon sugar, and plenty of warm water until it reached a chowder-like consistency.
- This mixture sat covered at room temperature for over eight hours, until tiny bubbles formed on the surface. Once my starter was successfully activated, it was time to make the dough.
Making the Dough
I placed one cup of the starter in a bowl and ½ cup back in the jar to store in the fridge. (I plan to use the leftover starter for another bread baking experiment.) Back to the rolls: Here’s how I made the dough.
- I mixed together the starter, 2 ½ cups flour, ½ cup water, 3 tablespoons tepid melted butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, one egg, and one tablespoon salt until it formed a slightly sticky dough.
- Turning the dough onto a floured surface, I kneaded it 10 minutes to develop the bread’s gluten structure.
- Next, I placed the dough in an oiled and covered bowl and allowed it to rise in the fridge overnight.
Baking the Rolls
Now comes the best part — actually baking the rolls (and enjoying that fresh bread smell!). Here are the steps.
- Removing the dough from the fridge, I placed it on a floured surface and shaped 10 balls. Transferring the balls to a greased baking pan, I gave them two hours to rise, covered, at room temperature.
- Next, I baked the rolls at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes.
- The golden brown rolls cooled for 10 minutes before getting brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with flaky sea salt.
My Taste Test
You’re probably familiar with the delectable smell of baking bread — its yeasty aroma permeates not just the kitchen, but the entire house. My rolls didn’t just smell good — they delivered on flavor and texture, too, with perfectly crusty exteriors and fluffy insides. The starter’s mild sourness complemented the richness from the butter and egg, and the melted butter and salt gave the rolls a sweet yet salty kick.
I’m a confident home baker, but having a kit that provided me with ingredients and a recipe to follow helped me nail these sourdough rolls. I did make a couple of modifications to the recipe — like letting the dough rise in the fridge rather than at room temperature. While the dough didn’t rise significantly after sitting in the fridge due to the cold temperature, this step enhanced the sourdough’s taste. My second modification was the finishing touch of butter and salt on the rolls. That’s how dinner rolls were served at my house growing up!
Even with the help of a bread kit, making these rolls was a rewarding experience. I can guarantee that the remaining starter will be used wisely on my next sourdough baking adventure.
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