|Mmm..is there anything better than fresh bread from the oven?|
When I think of my Grandma, I think of a farmhouse that smelled like buns. Grandma was always baking, and when we were hungry, buns and jam would be on the counter. Every Sunday we'd make the trek out to her farm, where the table would be laden with farm fresh chicken, milk, vegetables right from the garden, and her home made bread. There was no such thing as kid food, just real, simple, delicious things to eat straight from the farm.
These days, people usually buy bread from the store and if one is going to bake it, usually they throw everything in a bread maker and turn it on. When I got married, I asked my Mom to come to the house and teach me how to make bread from scratch. I wanted to keep my roots and be able to pass the skill of bread making on to my own kids and grandkids. In the years that have followed I've had the chance to buy a bread maker, but I refused since I prefer making bread by hand. There's nothing like the smell of yeast and the feel of dough beneath my fingers to take me right back to Grandma's kitchen.
I don't know where this recipe comes from originally, but my Grandma made them in her 90s and they were a favourite when I was a teenager. While they are made with white flour, you could try substituting 1/2 whole wheat flour but you'll get a heavier bread. Flax seeds add a delicious texture and flavour to the dough. Originally they didn't contain any butter or oil and were a little dry, but I added 1/4 cup olive oil to the dough and they rose up light and fluffy. You can, if you wish, make these in your stand mixer but if you make the full recipe the amount of dough may be a little too much even for a Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand mixer (which is what I use).
8 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup ground flax seeds (buy them ground or grind your own in a spice grinder)
2 packets (or 4 1/2 tsp) of rapid (instant) yeast
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups very warm warm water
Combine FOUR cups of flour and the yeast in a large bowl. Set aside. In a different bowl, combine sugar, salt, oil, and hot water. Add the water very gradually to the eggs, whisking as you go, slowly warming the eggs, but being careful not to scramble them. Once you've combined the eggs and water mixture, pour into the flour/yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon. You could use a stand mixer, but I found with 8 cups of flour total the amount of dough was a little too much for my mixer.
Gradually add about two more cups of flour, continuing to stir, until a dough forms. If the dough is still very sticky, add the remaining cup of flour. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead about 5-10 minutes.
Let the dough rest, covered with a clean tea towel, about 15 minutes, in a nice warm spot. I like to put mine in the oven with the light on-the heat from the light generates enough heat to help dough rise.
Punch down and shape the dough into 24 rolls, placing them on two greased (or parchment paper lined) baking sheets. Cover the shaped rolls with clean tea towels and allow them to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.
Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Just before putting the rolls in the oven, beat together 1 egg and 2 Tbsp of water and brush over the rolls. Adjust the racks in your oven so that you can bake both pans at once, rotating and switching the pans (swap the one on top and bottom) half way through your baking time, at about 8 minutes. Bake for about 16-20 minutes total, until the tops and bottoms are browned and they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the oven to the counter and let the buns cool.
Makes 2 dozen
If you aren't going to eat these within 2 days it's best to wrap them up well and freeze them.