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Basic crusty rolls

Basic crusty rolls
Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Baking bread at home has been out of style for years -- for good reason. These days, you can count on finding terrific baguettes, focaccia or country breads at the market or bakery, so why mess with kneading and rising ... Read more

Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes, plus 2 hours rising | Makes 18 rolls
  • 1 ( 1/4 -ounce) envelope dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups flour, divided, plus more if needed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons cornmeal

Step 1Sprinkle the yeast over one-fourth cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees) in a large bowl and let stand until the yeast dissolves, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Step 2Add 1 1/4 cups warm water, the salt and

Step 33 cups flour to the bowl with the yeast. Mix with a wooden spoon to make a sticky dough. Or use a heavy-duty stand mixer and mix until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Step 4If working by hand, scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured board at a comfortable height that allows you to fully extend your arms and knead. Add sprinkles of flour as necessary. To knead, fold the dough; push down hard on it, pushing away from you, then turn the dough a quarter turn. Fold again, push, turn. Every once in a while, pick up the dough ball and slam it down hard on the board, then continue kneading. Knead for about 10 minutes, adding flour as needed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Test to see if you've kneaded enough by slapping your hand on the dough, holding it there for a count of 10, then lifting your hand up. If bits of dough stick or cling to your hand, continue to knead, adding flour. If the hand comes off clean, the dough's ready for the next step. If using a mixer, change to a dough hook attachment, add sprinkles of flour as needed, and knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic and forms a mass around the hook.

Step 5Place the dough in an ungreased glass or ceramic bowl, cover with plastic wrap (tightly over the edges to contain the moisture) and let rise in a warm place (90 to 100 degrees) until double in bulk or an indent remains when you press the dough near the edge with your finger, about 1 hour.

Step 6Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a work surface. Form the dough into dome-shaped rolls by cutting or pulling off pieces a little bigger than a golf ball and pressing the dough into your cupped hand, pinching the seams together on the bottom. Place the rolls on ungreased cookie sheets that have been sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover the rolls lightly and let rise again until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Step 7Heat the oven to 450 degrees, placing a small cake pan on the floor of the oven to heat as the oven heats. Brush the rolls with cold water. Have ready about a dozen ice cubes. Place the rolls in the oven, then quickly and carefully place the ice cubes into the hot pan on the bottom of the oven (steam will rise immediately) and close the oven door.

Step 8Bake for about 23 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned.

Note: This dough takes longer to rise than doughs with sugar. Make it by hand or use a heavy-duty electric mixer with dough hook attachments.


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