But sometimes you just want something simple. A hearty bread that will stand up to homemade preserves or even a wedge of cheese. Something without sugar, that could potentially transition to a sandwich if need be.
For those times, I recommend bolillos. They are the most basic form of bread, with flour, water, salt, yeast and a pinch of sugar. There is something comforting about a food whose ingredients I can count on one hand. They emerge from the oven browned and rustic, with a crisp crust and a soft interior. This bread doesn't steal the show, but it's a perfect back up dancer.
Bolillos (makes 16 - 20 rolls, from Prairie Home Breads)
1 pkg active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup lukewarm water
6 - 6 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups lukewarm water
* In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 cup lukewarm water and set aside to proof (see if it gets foamy), about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine 5 cups of the flour with the salt and sugar. Pour in the yeast mixture and the additional 2 cups lukewarm water and stir until the dough forms a ball (I do this in my stand mixer, but you can also do it by hand with a wooden spoon).
* Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 - 8 minutes, adding more flour if the dough gets too sticky to handle. The dough should be nice and smooth when you're done. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a large oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Because I wanted the rolls for breakfast, I did this the night before, popped it in the fridge overnight and then pulled it out when I woke up in the morning to let it warm up a bit).
* Grease two baking sheets and set aside (or use your Silpat). Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Cut the dough in half and divide each half into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and then flatten it with your hand into a 4 inch oblong football shape. Place about one inch apart on the prepared baking sheets, cover with slightly damp kitchen towels and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. (I find rolls this large to be slightly intimidating at breakfast time, so I made mine a bit smaller and left them round instead of oblong).
* Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. With a serrated knife, cut a 1 inch deep slash down the center of each roll. Brush with canola oil, if desired (I didn't bother). Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown.