310g (10+9/10 oz) lukewarm filtered water
6g (1/5 oz) dry yeast
6g (1/5 oz) sugar
6g (1/5 oz) salt
6g (1/5 oz) bread improver
500g (17+3/5 oz) bakers' flour
20g (2/5 oz) canola oil
1. Pour the warm water into a large mixing bowl, and sprinkle the sugar and yeast over the surface. Whisk up with a fork, then leave for 15 minutes for the yeast to activate. The surface should become covered in bubbles.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and either hand mix, then knead on a lightly floured bench for 8-10 minutes, or machine mix with a dough hook for 1 minute on slow, then 7-9 minutes on high. You need to develop the gluten in the dough to the point it passes the 'window test' (you can pinch it, pull it thin and be able to see through it without it tearing).
3. Form the dough into a ball, using your fingertips to force the dough inside itself around the base, creating tension around the ball. Turn upside down, and pinch together the edges to form a sealed seam.
4. Place the ball, seam-side down, into an oiled stainless steel, glass or crockery bowl. Cover with silicon wrap, plastic wrap or a damp tea towl.
5. Leave in a warm place and allow to double in size - depending on temperature, this can take anywhere from 1.5-4 hours.
6. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured bench and deflate by gently pressing down on the dough. Using a sharp knife or dough scraper, cut into the desired number of equal sized pieces: 8 pieces for larger hamburger style rolls, 16 for sliders or dinner rolls. The pieces should be within 10g weight of each other; it is worth using a set of scales to check when you are first learning, because it is important that the rolls all cook at the same rate.
7. Form the pieces into individual rolls by either:
a) Using your thumbs to force the dough inside itself, creating tension around the ball. Pinch the base to seal;
b) Using your hand with fingers spread like a claw cage. For this method, roll the dough piece on the floured bench in such a way that the base of your palm and fingertips are touching the bench, while the dough rolls and 'rattles' inside the finger cage, until the ball is formed.
8. Place the rolls seam-side down onto the baking pan/tray with a baking paper liner that has been lightly dusted with flour. The rolls will double in size as they proof, so either space them such that they will just touch (if you want rolls to tear apart), or spread them out further (if you want individual rolls).
9. Dust the tops of the rolls with flour. Cover with a damp tea towel, and leave in a warm place until the rolls have doubled in size and a gentle finger press leaves a permanent indentation in the top. This will take between 1 and 4 hours.
10. Preheat oven to 220C (430F) with a stainless steel pan as a water bath, placed ona lower shelf.
11. Boil a kettle, and when boiling add approximately 1/2 a cup to the stainless steel pan. Ensure you use a glove over your hand to avoid flash steam burn!
12. Dust the tops of the rolls again lightly with flour and slash 2mm (1/12") deep with a sharp knife or razor blade if desired, which will allow the rolls to expand fully as they rise.
13. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the water pan and rotate the pan/tray with the rolls on it.
14. Bake for a further 5-10 minutes until golden brown. If the rolls are getting too brown on top, turn the oven down to 200C (390F) and/or place a sheet of aluminium foil lightly over the top. When the rolls look golden brown and are hollow sounding when drummed with the fingertips, they are ready. The 'baker's treat' method of testing is to rip one in half, 'just to check!'
15. Finally, cool on a wire rack.
These rolls can be baked with a range of different flours. Replace 1/5 of the bakers' flour with wholemeal flour fo make more healthy 'golden rolls'. Add spelt or rye flour for other interesting variations.
This recipe can also be baked as a bread loaf, either shaped in a banneton or baked in an oiled tin. Simply give the dough an additional knead for 3-5 minutes before shaping the loaf, and increase the total bake time to 25-30 minutes.
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