Yeast 101: a required course for new grads

My son Nik, a 23-year-old newly minted college grad out on his own for the first time, emailed me last week with this question: “Mom, how do I make a baguette?”

Well, nothing like jumping right in with both feet, kiddo… A baguette? Though Nik has been part of the King Arthur family since 1990, when he modeled a kids’ apron in one of our first catalogues, he was never interested in baking.

Till now. Hunger and thrift have opened his eyes.

Initially, I thought I’d send him to our baguette blog. Then I thought better of it—the kneading, the overnight starter… nah.

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Eureka! Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking has been getting a workout lately here in the King Arthur Flour test kitchen. Authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François have truly made crusty artisan yeast breads easily attainable by ANYONE.

Including my son, the kitchen neophyte.

I emailed him this paraphrased recipe from Five Minutes a Day:

“2 pound bag King Arthur Flour
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast (if you can get instant – otherwise, 2 packets of the regular yeast)
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon salt

“Mix all together — will be very gloppy. Do this in a LARGE bowl. Let rise at room temp. for 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate for up to 7 days. When you want to bake: Pull of a hunk — about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds, like an oversized softball or a small cantaloupe. Stretch into whatever shape you like – long and skinny like a baguette, fat, round and flat… It’ll be sticky; just wet your hands to work with it.

“Put on a WELL GREASED PAN. (Parchment is preferable; I’ll assume you don’t have that.) Let rise for an hour or so; no need to cover. While rising, preheat oven to 450°F. Use a scissors to slash the top of each bread before baking. Set a shallow pan in the bottom of the oven. And just before you put the bread in, pour in 1 cup of boiling water; it’ll make steam, which gives the bread a nice, shiny/crackly/crunchy crust.

“Bake for 25 to 40 minutes, depending on shape (long and skinny bakes faster); should bake till dark golden brown.”

An hour later, I get a call on my cell. Nik’s in a Giant supermarket in D.C. We spend 30 minutes doing some virtual shopping together. “I found the King Arthur Flour. Where’s the salt? Which of these kinds of yeast should I get? Can I use this big plastic bowl, it looks like something for kids on the beach?”  We never do find the plastic wrap…

Next day, an email with attached photo:

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“The inside is really nice too. Perfect moist inside with crunchy outside!”

Believe me, from a kid who’s been known to send me ONE-LETTER emails (“K” – yes, it makes sense in context), this is absolutely effusive.

My son, the baker!

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So OK, Nik’s loaves don’t look exactly like mine. But I’ve been at it a lot longer; he’ll get there. And he can’t go wrong by sticking with Five Minutes a Day, which he can use to make these cinnamon rolls…

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…a nice challah…

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…and yes, the promised crusty artisan loaves.

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Nice crumb, eh?

But for the time being, you know what they say…

Cinnamon roll, $2.00.

Challah, $4.95.

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Using email and a cell phone to teach your 23-year-old son how to bake bread: priceless.

Nik isn’t keen on sweets. Heck, he doesn’t even like chocolate. Talk about the acorn falling FAR from the oak… But if he ever wants to impress breakfast guests with his baking prowess, I’d recommend these Ridiculously Easy No-Knead Sticky Buns in a heartbeat.

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My version of Nik’s “big plastic bowl” is our 6-quart dough-rising bucket. In go the flour, salt, yeast, water, eggs, honey, and vegetable oil.

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The ingredients don’t begin to fill the bucket at this point, but don’t let that fool you into using a standard-size bowl; the dough will eventually rise quite emphatically.

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Stir to combine. This is a good start…

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…but keep stirring. You want to make sure all of the ingredients are thoroughly moistened, with no floury patches left.

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Our sturdy dough whisk, with its flow-through blades, does a first-rate job here.

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See how this ultra-sticky dough falls right through the blades?

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Here we are, nicely mixed.


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Put the lid on the bucket, and let the dough rise for 2 hours at room temperature. Here it is at the start of the rise…

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…and here it is at the end. Now it goes into the fridge overnight. It can live in the fridge for up to 3 days or so; longer than that, it’s best to freeze it.

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Now, for two of our favorite sticky bun ingredients: baker’s cinnamon filling, and sticky bun sugar.

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Add water to the cinnamon filling…

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…and stir to make a smooth, spreadable paste. Boy, is this tasty; and you just saw how easy it is. Set it aside while you make the topping.

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Drizzle melted butter, honey or syrup, and brown sugar in a 9″ round cake pan. Be sure to spray the pan with non-stick vegetable oil spray first. Sprinkle sticky bun sugar atop the rest of the ingredients; this is what gives sticky buns their ooey-gooey stickiness.

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Add pecans or walnuts, halves or chopped. Set the pan aside while you make the buns.

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Take the dough out of the fridge; see how much it’s grown overnight?

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Look how the gluten has developed—all on its own. Fermentation over time develops gluten just like kneading does. So no-knead breads substitute time for kneading. I’ll take that trade any day!

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Ready to bake sticky buns? Begin by sprinkling some flour atop the sticky dough in the bucket.

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Grab 1/3 of the dough in the bucket; this will be a scant 22 ounces, if you have a scale.

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Place the dough on a well-floured work surface; a silicone mat works well here. Sprinkle more flour on top.

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Quickly roll the dough into a rough 15″ x 10″ rectangle. You want to work quickly, because the colder the dough, the easier it is to work with.

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Spread the filling on the dough, and roll it up starting with a long (15″) side. Don’t be over-zealous and roll it super-tight; if you do, the centers of the buns will pop up as they bake. Be firm, but gentle.

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Cut the log into eight 2″ slices; a pair of scissors works well here.

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Place the slices in the prepared pan.

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Wet your fingers, and flatten gently.

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Cover with plastic wrap or a plastic shower cap, and let rise…

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…till noticeably puffy.

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I used two 22-ounce pieces of dough to make two pans of buns side by side here, testing different fillings. The filling on the right is a caramel-nut filling you’ll find in the Five Minutes a Day recipe.

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Bake the buns in a preheated 350°F oven.

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In about 45 minutes, they’ll be golden brown…

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…and their interior temperature will register somewhere around 190°F.

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Turn the buns out of the pan onto a rack. Ahhh…. Scrape any leftover topping out of the pan onto the buns.

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Here’s another experiment I did. No sticky bun sugar on the left; see how the nuts slid off the buns? The sticky bun sugar keeps things “stuck” till the buns have cooled.

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WOW. Trust me: anyone can make these. That means YOU.

Still skeptical? Take a look at Sticky Buns: The Video, now showing on a computer near you. Like, the computer you’re looking at right now. Like—right here:

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Ridiculously Easy No-Knead Sticky Buns.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Balthazar, New York City: Sticky Bun, $4.00

Entenmann’s Cinnamon Swirl Buns, 29¢/ounce

Bake at home: No-Knead Sticky Buns, 69¢ each; 15¢/ounce

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Gambles

    I made this dough in the same bucket shown (it was sprayed w/ Pam lightly), and it rose exactly the correct amount before it went in the fridge. By the next day, the dough had sunk back down to almost the original height! I didn’t check it in between so I don’t know if it rose in the hours immediately in the fridge or if it just fell immediately. It does look somewhat gluteny. Should I continue or just trash it? I’ve never done a no knead before.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Yes, that’s absolutely fine – it’s supposed to rise and then fall. It won’t rise again for the remainder of its time in the fridge, so just go ahead and keep following the recipe. I’m sure you’ll end up with some delicious bread! PJH

    2. Gambles

      Thanks for the quick response, PJ! I needed that since my time was growing short…..

      I did complete the recipe, but it left me with a few questions. Since I assume there are others like me that read through the blog questions looking for my answers before I bother you all again, I decided to just ask here instead of calling.

      As I started putting together my sticky buns, I realized I wasn’t clear as to whether the filling and sugars listed in the original recipe were intended to be used for each pan or each full 3 pan recipe?? I went with the concept of 1/3 of the filling recipe for each pan since 1/3 of the dough went in each pan, but it was VERY thin with lots of gaps so I made more and continued on. With the sticky pan prep, I decided to use 1/2 of what was printed for each pan – assuming it was supposed to be 1/3 since I was trying to have a little extra sticky stuff.

      With my extra added cinnamon filling, it was perfect. As for the sticky, it seemed to be very little to me making me wonder if it was actually supposed to be per pan???

      I feel stupid to be so confused, but the dough makes 3 pans so shouldn’t the other parts of the recipe also? But with that assumption, I didn’t have good luck.

      Question #1: Which was it supposed to be?

      And most importantly to my future sticky bun attempts: I really wanted gooey syrupy topping so to achieve that, (question #2) which ingredients would I increase and which would I decrease? Also, I don’t use nuts for my own buns. Does extra sticky bun syrup bind up the gooeyness?

      I hope that made sense and will help others also.
      Thanks so much, as usual, for these blogs. They have given me successes that surprise even me! – and I KNOW I owe that to KAF owners/employees! You ALL rock!
      Suzanne

    3. MaryJane Robbins

      HI Suzanne,
      Sorry for the confusion with the printed recipe. If you check out the video on the blog, it seems a little clearer. The recipe CAN make 3 batches of rolls, but because you don’t have to make 3 batches at once, the filling/sticky measures are for a single batch.

      If you want to make more sticky, try upping the sticky bun sugar, or using a little corn syrup or golden syrup as well. Those invert syrups help keep things liquid and gooey. ~ MJ

  2. Karen B

    A couple of other notes: I cut parchment circles to line the bake-and-give pans, because boy do they leak the butter. Since I make so many pans at once, I combine all the topping ingredients in a big bowl, and use a tablespoon scoop to plop the filling into the pans (5-6 of my scoops).

    Reply
  3. Karen B

    I LOVE this recipe, it is easy and makes terrific Christmas gifts especially in the bake and give paper pans. The dough is marvelously soft and easy to roll out with very little pressure, which is great this year as I am recovering from carpal tunnel surgery. I make 12 pans at a time, freeze them as per the directions in your “Freeze!” blog post, and give them to the lucky recipients along with the thawing and baking instructions. Do spring for the Cinnamon Filling Mix and Sticky Bun Sugar — those ingredients really put these rolls over the top! The only substitution I make is using walnuts instead of pecans, because a friend is a walnut grower in CA and gives me 20 lbs of shelled meats every year!

    Reply
  4. kathleen

    I use an oversized pizza wheel to cut my dough. Doesn’t seem to squish it as badly as scissors do.

    Good idea, Kathleen – I’ll have to remember that. Thanks! PJH

    Reply
  5. JoeleenAchurch

    What fun to find a no-knead bread! I would love to try these sticky buns with whole wheat flour. Can you recommend weights for the flour… how much and if any other ingredients need to be changed? Thank you so much. Your blogs are so much fun to follow… great ideas from you and all the blog followers:)

    Joeleen, scroll down to the second part of this no-knead blog post, and you’ll find a recipe for no-knead whole wheat bread. I think it would be excellent for sticky buns or cinnamon rolls. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  6. Nutrilisa

    PJH, They came out delicious! Easy and exactly as shown! Thanks for another fantastic dessert! The blog and video helped greatly! Regards Nutrilisa

    So glad to hear it, Nutrilisa – enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  7. Nutrilisa

    Dear PJH,
    I followed your directions and reviewed the video. The blog was a terrific help, too! The first pan is in the oven as I write this, and smelling heavenly! I am always a little shy about working with yeast doughs, but this was sooooo easy! If it tastes have as good as it smells and looks, I will be thrilled! Thanks for your help!

    I’m betting these will be just as good as you hope – let us know, OK? PJH

    Reply
  8. ezonezoff

    boy, I have been having such trouble with my artisan Bread in 5 Min A Day – was doing great all summer and now am getting tough chewy crumb and soft crusts……so sad have moved on to breads that require more time …any suggestions?

    Yes, cut back on your flour and/or increase your liquid a bit. The same recipe you made on a hot, humid summer day will perform very differently on a cold, dry winter one. How about this: try increasing you liquid by 1/2 ounce of water for every 8 ounces used, and see what happens. Don’t give up! I know we’ll figure this out – together. PJH

    Reply
  9. ohbegrey

    hi, pjh–i so love the interaction of you and your son nik doing the virtual shopping for ingredients for bread and the recipe you gave him for the “baguette”–priceless, indeed and forever!

    and he did a wonderful job of making the bread, too.

    i see that irene actually gave a blogger a substitute recipe for the “sticky bun sugar” kaf sells–amazing…..you people at kaf are a great example of how we all would do well to behave to each other, and a good example of what America used to be. keep on!

    Reply
  10. GirlG

    I’m kinda confused.Do you divide up the topping ingredients that are listed on the recipe between the pans or are the ingredients listed for one pan?

    The amount of topping listed is for one pan… PJH

    Reply

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