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Kneaded Notes: Holiday Baking Guide

As the holiday season approaches, it’s the time of year when the two most frequently asked questions we get are:

#1 My family’s favorite holiday recipe calls for fresh cake yeast, but I can’t find it in my local stores, so now what can I do?

#2 How can I prepare dinner rolls ahead of time so that I can serve them fresh and hot out of the oven with my meal?

We’re here to assist. Here are the answers you need!

Answer to question #1:

Fresh cake yeast is only sold in a limited number of stores in the Upper Midwest and Northeastern US in that choose to stock it based on demand for the product. Even in those regions the availability is ‘spotty’ and the stores will generally only stock it during the holiday baking season. Since cake yeast is so perishable and requires constant refrigeration, we only sell it through supermarkets and it is not available through online sources.

Due to the limited availability of the cake yeast, many bakers do successfully substitute dry yeast in place of cake yeast, even in their traditional family recipes. Since dry yeast is essentially cake yeast that has been dried, using the proper conversion and given a little extra time to fully activate, dry yeast will yield the same results. Keep in mind that cake yeast has been sold in many different sizes over the years; therefore, if a recipe doesn’t specify the weight of the yeast cake, it is best to determine the amount of dry yeast you’ll need based on the amount of flour in your recipe. For more information and a cake yeast-to-dry yeast conversion table, click here >> Yeast Conversion Table

If your recipe does not contain milk or water in the ingredients to hydrate the dry yeast, you can hydrate the dry yeast in a small amount of warm water to re-constitute it into cake yeast. Work it into a paste-like consistency with your fingers using about 1 tablespoon or less of warm water. Once it becomes like a paste, let it sit for about 5 minutes, then you can crumble it into your other ingredients like you would the cake yeast.

Answer to question #2:

Below you’ll find a few ways to prepare your dough ahead so that you can save time and serve your homemade rolls fresh out of the oven!

One way to prepare Yeast rolls and Sweet Yeast rolls ahead of time is to partially bake them, freeze them, then later finish baking them to serve them warm out of the oven. When a dough is par-baked, the yeast action is ceased, the dough has risen to its final volume and there is no risk of damage to the yeast or dough structure.
To par-bake, prepare the dough according to the recipe instructions up to the baking step. While the dough is in its final rise, preheat the oven to 275˚F. Bake the rolls at 275˚F for 25 – 35 minutes. The time will be dependent on the size of the dough pieces. Only bake them to the point when the crust has formed, but has not started to turn brown. Cool completely, then wrap them airtight and freeze. When you’re ready to serve them, remove them from the freezer and leave them at room temperature for 45 – 60 minutes, or until they reach room temperature. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Bake the rolls for 10 – 15 minutes, or until they have reached the desired crust color.

Refrigerating Dough
All doughs can be refrigerated. Chilling dough slows the activity of the yeast, but doesn’t stop it completely. For this reason, it may be necessary to punch down the dough a few times over the first few hours it is in the refrigerator. Once the dough has completely cooled, it may need to be punched down only once every 24 hours. Most doughs will last approximately 3 days in the refrigerator; however, it is best to use it within 48 hours.

Refrigerating dough after kneading (bulk dough): This is the best way to refrigerate your dough. After the dough is kneaded, place in a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. You can also store the dough in a large zipper plastic bag (sprayed with oil to prevent sticking) and then place in refrigerator. The refrigeration time is considered the first rise. When you are ready to use your refrigerated dough, remove it from the refrigerator, punch it down and allow it to rest before shaping. If you are using the refrigerated dough for more than one baking time, only take out the amount needed – or separate the dough beforehand into the desired amounts you will be using each time. The final rising will be longer than indicated in the recipe because the dough will still be cool. Bake according to the recipe directions.

Refrigerating dough after shaping: Cover shaped loaves or rolls tightly and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator, partially unwrap, and let rise until the dough passes the ripe test. Bake according to the recipe directions.

Freezing Dough
Freezing dough at home doesn’t compare to commercial frozen dough. Frozen dough manufacturers have access to superior freezing equipment that freezes the dough very quickly, allowing them to successfully freeze doughs with minimal damage to the yeast and dough structure. In home freezers, dough freezes slowly, increasing the risk of damage to the yeast and dough structure. Often, the result is a less than optimum product with low volume.
In general, for doughs to be made into loaves of bread or other larger volume finished products, we recommend the “bake first, then freeze” rule. However, following the guidelines below, people do have success freezing roll or pizza doughs for up to 2 weeks at home.

How to freeze rolls or pizza dough:
After the dough has been kneaded, immediately divide it into properly sized dough balls for your rolls or pizza crust. (For pizza, flatten the dough ball into a ‘disk’ about 1” thick.) **NO RISING** Place the roll dough balls or flatten pizza dough on a baking sheet, greased or lined with a silicone mat or parchment, then freeze. Once the dough pieces have formed a hard ‘shell’ around the outside, transfer them to a zip loc freezer bag, seal the bag, airtight, and then return them to the freezer. Dough pieces may be kept in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

To thaw, remove the bag from the freezer and put it in the refrigerator overnight.

For rolls: About 1 ½ – 2 hours before dinner, remove the dough balls from the refrigerator, place them on a baking sheet, lightly greased or lined with a silicone mat or parchment. Let rise. Bake them according to the recipe instructions and serve hot rolls, fresh from the oven!

For pizza crust, remove the dough disk from the refrigerator and place on the counter for about 30 minutes, or until it has warmed up enough that you can roll it out into a crust. Roll it out to the desired size and proceed with the sauce, toppings, etc and bake according to recipe instructions.

Freezing Finished Baked Products
Bake First, Then Freeze method:
Fully baked, completely cooled breads can also be successfully frozen. Wrap the cooled bread, airtight in a plastic bag or plastic wrap, then place, airtight in a second self-sealing freezer bag. Freeze for up to 6 weeks. Let thaw at room temperature, partially unwrapped to allow moisture to escape. If you would like to serve the bread warm, wrap the loaf in aluminum foil and place in a 300˚F oven for 10-20 minutes depending on the size of the loaf.

Questions? Contact us here.

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