A loaf of no-knead bread

The Need to Knead

Have you been baking lately? Have you gotten caught up in the bake your own bread craze or making a sourdough starter? We’re all looking to try something new, and while it may sound fun, the thought of baking my own bread is somewhat exhausting! The very thought of yeast often has even the most experienced cook heading for the hills, but I’ve learned to trust the process.

I’ve discovered that baking with yeast is one of the greatest kitchen pleasures you’ll ever have! There’s nothing like the feel of the smooth, springy dough bouncing to life under your fingertips. It’s relaxing and exciting at the same time. A loaf of bread is somehow born, not made, and your part in it is both practical and almost magical. The whole process is mysteriously addictive!

Naturally, unless we’re true bakers, we feel that baking with yeast has no place in our culinary repertoire or in our life at all. The truth is, I felt this way once too. Sure, I could bake a batch of muffins, or cookies, or brownies. However, compared to baking with yeast, those are a walk in the park and the result happens rather quickly.

If you’re really afraid of the whole yeast process, never fear: of course I have a suggestion. When the recipe calls for you to use dried yeast, and froth it up in the separate bowl before you mix it into your flour, try using instant yeast. All you have to do is open the little packet and mix it straight in with the flour. It’s just like using baking powder, which makes it a little less intimidating. After all, why should one raising agent be more frightening than another?

For most of us, cooking is a necessary evil and sometimes a pleasurable activity, but it has nearly always been rushed. We have our jobs, children to tend to, and so many other countless things in our daily lives that time is generally so tight, we’d rather go to the local bakery and pick up a loaf of bread than spend what might seem to be countless hours baking it.

Yes, using yeast has its own momentum. It requires time, so it may not be an everyday activity, but sometimes we all need to lift ourselves out of the everyday. Getting dinner on the table quickly makes you feel efficient. Baking a batch of soft dinner rolls out of a prepackaged container that you knock against the counter to pop open may make you feel content and allow you to get your frustrations out. What it won’t give you is the feeling of satisfaction and competency that soft, delicious Dinner Rolls from scratch will. Get that feeling when you try our Basic Dinner Roll recipe!

At the risk of sounding crazy, I’m going to tell you that baking with yeast is an almost grounding experience and I’m sure those of you that bake with it will agree. Did I forget to mention how easy baking with yeast really is? You’ll see huge returns with little effort. True, it helps to have a free-standing mixer in your kitchen complete with a dough hook to do the kneading, but it’s certainly not necessary. Even with a mixer, you should still finish it off with a little hand kneading. Therein lays the deep satisfaction of the whole exercise.

Still not sure about kneading and yeast? Try my new favorite No-Knead Bread recipe. I’ve adapted this recipe from Mark Bittman, originally published in The New York Times courtesy of Jim Layhe and the Sullivan Street Bakery. It doesn’t take a ton of effort, but you’ll need time and a bit of patience.

So go ahead, make a nice batch of those delicious silky Dinner Rolls or a big loaf of No-Knead Bread. Have no fear, trust the process, and feel one with the dough. Another feel-good bonus is that freshly baked bread and rolls make your house smell amazing!

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