How to Make GF Yeast Rolls
Nothing is more enticing than the flavor and aroma of freshly baked yeast rolls. Many of us are mystified about using yeast. Add in the gluten-free component and successful bread-making seems downright challenging.
The truth is that homemade gluten-free rolls are within easy reach. Can you successfully make delicious, delectable yeast rolls? Yes! Follow these simple tips and you’ll rise to the ranks of gluten-free artisan baker.
Choose the right yeast. Bread begins and ends with the yeast. Choosing the right variety, feeding it, adding liquid that’s the correct temperature and proofing are essential to creating a dough that rises successfully.
There are several forms of commercial yeast: active dry yeast, instant yeast (also known as rapid rise yeast) and fresh cake yeast, to name a few. I recommend active dry yeast. It’s twice as potent as fresh cake yeast and it allows for proofing, which shows the yeast’s viability (proves it’s alive). Instant yeast is stronger than active dry and is coated with ascorbic acid and sugar. My experience when using instant yeast is the rise is aggressive but once the bread is baked and cooled, it can collapse due to large holes inside the loaf.
Proof the yeast. Yeast is a living organism; make certain yours is viable. In my recipes, I do this by proofing the yeast, a method that adds a little sugar and warm water to commercial active dry yeast. Sugar feeds the yeast. Warm water (about 110 degrees F) activates it. To get the right temperature, run very warm tap water over your wrist: it should feel just below burning to the skin. Do not boil water or microwave it since there are trapped heat areas that may be above 120 degrees F. This will kill your yeast. To avoid doubt, use a kitchen thermometer, available at your local grocery store.
Add sugar and warm water to your yeast. Gently stir ingredients and then cover the bowl with a tea towel to keep the mixture warm. If your yeast doesn’t have a foamy head (about ¾ inch or more) after 10 minutes, two things may have occurred. Your yeast may be old (always check the expiration date on the package) or the water temperature was wrong. Too cold, the yeast won’t activate. Too hot (over 115 degrees F), the yeast is killed. No matter the reason, if your yeast doesn’t proof, your bread won’t rise. Start with fresh yeast and repeat the process.
Mix the dough. With gluten-free dough, you mix your bread only once. The more traditional method of kneading the dough and doing it twice belongs to the wheat bread bakers. Gluten-free bread only requires a single mixing since yeast is not feeding on the gluten. A second mixing only results in a denser loaf and it might even break down the xanthan gum. The mixing process takes different amounts of time depending on the machine you use. Mixing by hand takes about 10 minutes. For heavy-duty stand mixers, 5 minutes. A food processor takes about 2 to 3 minute for the dough to form.
Shape the dough. Your dough will resemble muffin batter or a thick cake batter with a little bounce when you touch it. It will not look like traditional wheat bread. (It’s not supposed to.) After mixing, simply spoon the batter into a greased muffin pan or onto a greased baking sheet. The dough is sticky, so use a rubber spatula or your hands dipped in water. Parchment paper dusted with a little gluten-free flour helps when shaping dough into rolls. It’s a little like working with very soft clay.
Rise the dough. Dough can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 3 hours to proof or “double in size.” To expedite the rising process, I use a warming oven set at 80 degrees F. If you don’t have a warming oven, turn your oven to the lowest temperature for 2 to 3 minutes; then turn off the heat. Mix your batter. Place your dough in the oven, allowing it to rise. (If the oven feels hot instead of warm, leave the door ajar.) Placing dough on a kitchen counter or area that is about 75 degrees may take a little longer, but slower rising dough makes tastier loaves.
Is it done? Every oven is different so your baking time may vary slightly from the recipe. Use your senses to determine when your rolls are done. The first thing you should notice is the great aroma of freshly baked bread filling your kitchen. Next, look at the color—most bread bakes up golden brown. Finally, a roll should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. If you’re in doubt, use a kitchen thermometer. When done, the temperature in the center can range from 190 to 210 degrees F.
For more recipes and special-diet baking tips, click here to purchase Living Without’s Gluten-Free Baking Recipes & How-To’s.
Living Without contributor Mary Capone (bellaglutenfree.com) is author of The Gluten-Free Italian Cookbook and creator of Bella Gluten-Free allergy-friendly baking mixes. To buy this cookbook, click here.