If like me you have a mortal fear for yeast dough, then I’m here to help. You see, until a couple of years ago I thought that only special people could work with yeast. Now I’ve figured out that unless you want to make brioche or paninis it’s actually quite easy. By quite easy I mean no heavy machinery required and that my son (who was 16 at the time) has successfully recreated this recipe.
The dough is very versatile, I’ve used it for pizza bases, pittas, focaccia, pizza spirals, savoury monkey bread and even cinnamon buns. I’m sure you can find individual recipes for each but, I’m all for one size fits all kind of recipes. Once you have made this dough it’s easy to change it up a bit by substituting milk and butter for the oil and water. This enriches the dough, making the rolls taste like something from your Grandma’s kitchen.
9 cups plain flour
1 sachet instant dried yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup cooking oil
1 litre warm water
Add the flour to a large bowl and then in three separate places add the salt, sugar and yeast onto the flour making sure that the yeast doesn’t touch the salt. Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast to evenly distribute everything. Make a well in the centre and pour the oil into the well. Now add the warm water to the flour and oil a little bit at a time, bringing everything together to form a soft dough. Don’t add all the water at once as the quantity required may vary depending on the moisture content of the flour you are using. You are looking to end up with a soft dough that is not sticky and comes out of the bowl cleanly.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead until you end up with a smooth dough. Being someone who has little patience with with kneading I will probably only spend 10 minutes doing this, but it seems to be sufficient. Oil the bowl you made the dough in lightly and return the dough to the bowl, cover the dough and leave it to rise for 2 hours.
Once the dough has risen punch it down and separate into little balls depending on the size you want. I have a tiny oven so everything I bake tends to be small. Place your little balls of dough on a lightly greased oven tray and cover it. Preheat your oven to 180ºC for 10 minutes while your rolls rise. A tip if you have one of those little electric ovens with the 2 plate stove on top (like me), use the grill and the oven element at the same time to bake your rolls. This will ensure that your roll are evenly browned. In my majestic oven the first lot takes about 20 to 25 minutes. I tend to look for an even brown colour on the top and bottom and would usually pick one up to tap at bottom. If you hear a hollow sound they’re ready. To make them pretty brush with butter when they come out of the oven then leave on a cooling rack to cool.
To diversify you can take a larger piece of dough and press it out in a lightly oiled baking tray. It should be roughly ½ an inch thick, then make indentations with your fingertips randomly across the surface. Now you have the base for a focaccia, I would normally just brush with garlic butter and bake at 200ºC for 10 to 15 minutes. I’ve made it for my Dad once with some black olives popped into each indentation and brushed it with garlic butter and that was impressive.
When I make pitas I prefer using a dry tawa or pan. I would section the dough into the amount of pitas I need and make the balls slightly bigger than a golf ball. Roll it out as you would a roti but, not as thin, it should be about ½cm thick. Heat up your pan on a high heat, then turn down to slightly higher than medium. Place the pita onto the pan and let it cook until it starts to bubble, wait a bit longer and it starts ballooning. Once it is almost fully puffed up you can flip it and cook the other side. If you’ve ever baked your own pitas I’m sure you have experienced the unenthusiastic number of fully puffed pitas, then you will be delighted by the success rate of these pan fried ones. If I fry 12 pitas I’ll only end up with 3 not fully puffed. The unpuffed pitas end up like extremely soft naan breads and my kids make foldovers instead of pita pockets.
Lastly I’d like to mention cinnamon buns. When I have some dough left over all I do is roll it out to about 1cm thick. Then brush the dough liberally with softened butter and sprinkle with brown sugar mixed with cinnamon. Roll the dough up into something that resembles a Swiss roll and cut into 2cm wide disks. Take a baking tray and grease it with butter, now place your disks into the baking tray and leave to rise. Bake for 20 mins at 200ºc. You can glaze your cinnamon buns with icing sugar or enjoy as is.