Welcome to my kitchen

A while ago, I realized I was serious enough about bread baking to stop diddling around with the 3-packs of yeast from the grocery store, or even the small jars for a small fortune. So I pulled up my big girl pants, and ordered "A Pound Of Yeast". It's in my freezer, and I use it regularly, and I guess that makes me "A Baker". Even though I always said "I can't bake". So, join me on my journey, and let's see what that pound of yeast makes, and where we go next....

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Anybody Want Some Warm, Soft, Fresh and Fluffy Buns?

A few days ago, I emerged from a run of not cooking (I’d done a HUGE Mexican-inspired feast we’ll see in a few days, and I was tired….really tired…) to find I had some really nice knockwurst in my refrigerator, for which I’d thoughtfully bought some jarred sauerkraut.

Since I still wasn’t mentally (or physically) up to a full-blown cooking extravaganz-o, I figured that was a good start on a dinner that night.  I was going to slowly and gingerly futz around in the little kitchen that day anyway (“futz”, yet another highly technical term from me….hope you’re keeping count), doing some other simple tasks, so I’d be close to the “hearth” all day, and I figured why don’t I throw together some bread, too?

Buns, hot dog (or hottie dawg) buns seemed to fit the bill.  They could be made fairly quickly, they were low stress, they worked with the nice, plump knockwursts and ‘kraut to make krautie dawgs, and, well, it’d been more than a week since I’d made bread, and I was jonesing for the smell of yeast and bread of some ilk browning in my oven.

So, hottie dawg buns it was.  I’d toyed with the idea of making hot dog buns (or hamburger buns, same recipe, different shape) a couple of times before, and for some reason always thought……nah….the stuff from the store’s just fine.

No.  It’s not fine.  Homemade’s better.

And the really good news is these babies can be made in about 4 hours or so.  *AND* they don’t need an inferno-hot oven to bake, so they can even be made in the summer.  OK, the oven’s still pretty hot, but for homemade bread, you gotta sacrifice just a bit.

Just in time for the long, 4th of July weekend, and all those grill-ztravaganzo’s, let’s make some hottie dawg buns.  Which you can also shape into hamburger buns, ifn’s that’s what you’ve got over the fire.

The usual suspects:

And a key supporting player…

Any dry, powdered milk without additives (you want just “dry milk solids”) will work, dudn’t have to be King Arthur’s.  That’s just the brand I have, frankly because it comes in a small enough package that I can a) store easily, and b) use before it goes belly-up.

But the powdered milk, egg, butter and sugar are the keys to the flavor of these puppies (hot dog buns, puppies, get it….yeah, keep my day job).  This makes a nice, rich dough which is surprisingly easy to handle and shape.  I was really pleased with how easy the dough was to work with.  And no, you don’t need a mold to shape them.   You’ll see.  Have faith….

And for this, you want bread flour, not AP.

OK, into the bowl of your  beloved KitchenAid (someday I’ll write a sonnet to my KitchenAid, it’s soooo critical in the development of my inner baker…well, I’d write the sonnet if I could write poetry, but I digress), put the flour, salt, powdered milk, sugar and yeast.

Add in the egg, butter and water, and mix on low speed with the dough hook until it starts to come together (Come Together, right now, over me….sorry, slight flashback to the late-stage Beatles there…) into a dough.   Comme ça !

Once you’ve achieved dough, crank the speed up to medium, and knead until the dough clears the sides of the bowl.  It will not climb totally up onto the hook, but stick slightly on the bottom of the bowl.  Keep an eye on the texture during both steps of the mixing/kneading; you may need to adjust the flour/water to keep the dough in the “tacky but not sticky” range.

And into the greased doubler, turned over to oil the top, please.

And thence to take its little nappie poo, and let the yeastie bugs eat and belch and eat and belch and make that lovely carbon dioxide.

Cover the bowl/doubler with plastic wrap (grease/oiled side down, just in case), and then go do your nails, or play with the Ever-Circling Vulture Dogs, or something.

I don’t know that the tea towel covering over the plastic wrap is essential.  Of course, sometimes you JUST cover with a towel, no plastic, and in those cases obviously the towel  is critical.  I still usually always throw a clean towel over the plastic wrap, but I think, for me, it’s more psychological than practical.  If I can’t SEE the dough, I don’t stand there looking at it for the whole doubling time, frantically obsessing about whether or not it actually IS doubling.

I know.  I’m a strange bird.

But at least I know how to cope with the strangeness.  Usually….

But I digress.

After an hour-and-a-half or so at room temp, yeah, it’ll have doubled.

Gratuitous shot of doubled dough.

Time to pull out our favy-fav piece of kitchen equipment.  Let’s all put our hands together for…..MR. SCALE !!!!  (insert wild applause here)

Nicely covered with a sheet of plastic to keep him from getting slimed by the rich dough.

Divide the dough into half, and then into equal parts for the number of  buns you’re making.  As always, I halved the recipe (which made 12), so I needed 6 dough blobs.

Yes, I weighed them.  Yes, I adjusted.  Yes, they were still a skosh (there’s that technical cooking lingo again, still keeping track?) “unique” in sizing.  They were, as they say, close enough for government work.  If they’re off by half-an-ounce or so, it’s no big whup.  Several ounces, well, that might be a problem.

There’s the little guys formed into the preliminary balls (oh……I am *so* resisting a snarky double entendre here….).  Even for the oblong hottie dawg buns, you want to start with a round.  If you were making this dough into a loaf, which you totally could, and it would be totally awesome, you’d leave it in one (or two for the whole recipe) blobs.  Well, actually you’d shape the large blobs into a large, tight round (must not go to snark, must not go to snark).

We’ve talked about the shaping process for rounds.  Same deal-io here.  Cup and tuck and rotate.  Cup and tuck and rotate.  Make the round nice and tight, and make sure the seam on the bottom is sealed really well by gently pressing against the board.

Lightly mist the top(s) of the dough with spray oil, cover with oiled plastic wrap (and the obligatory towel if you’re me), and let them sit for about 20 minutes.

Grease a sheet pan or 2 (depending on your yield) or line with a Silpat or parchment.  Begin to form the hottie dawg buns by gently flattening them and then folding in the sides to make a rough rectangle.  Use a gentle hand, because, again, like with most doughs, we’ve waited a long time, and worked hard, to get some bubbles and airiness in the dough.  Treat it rough, and it’ll pop and collapse like your hopes after a bad first date.

Push down in the center to seal the seam, and create that lovely surface tension.  After you’ve got the rough shape made, fold the two long edges together, turn the bun seam side down, and gently roll it under both hands to stretch it out to the length you’re looking for.  Avoid tapering the ends like you would for a baguette or a hoagie roll.  As you shape them, put them on the prepped sheet pan.

You’ll end up with...

Not bad for free-hand, huh?

If you were making hamburger buns, you’d leave the lil' dough blobs in a round, then just gently flatten them a bit to get the shape/size you want.  For a loaf, you’d essentially do the same thing as with the hot dog buns, but with the larger dough blob(s), and then put into a greased loaf pan.

Again mist the top of the dough with spray oil, and cover with oiled plastic wrap (and the obligatory towel if you’re me).  Leave them to proof again at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until almost doubled.

Another gratuitous shot of doubled dough.

Take an egg and mix in a splash of water, and paint the surface of the buns with it.  If you want, toss on some sesame or poppy seeds for kicks, taste and garnish.


I used sesame seeds on half, and left the other half plain.

Bake in a pre-heated 400°F oven (350°F for loaves) for about 15 minutes, or until the venerable  golden brown and delicious.  Loaves will take about 35-45 minutes.

Will ya look at that?

Those be some sexy hottie dawg buns.

Cool for at least 15 minutes before splitting, stuffing with your hottie dawg fabrication of choice and enjoy.

Good crumb, too, I’d say.

Here’s the proportions for 12 buns.  Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s
 Apprentice  (Buy that book.)

Basic White Bread
(Adaptable to hot dog or hamburger buns, soft dinner rolls or loaves)
Makes 18 dinner rolls, 12 hot dog/hamburger buns or 2, 1-pound loaves

21.5 ounces unbleached bread flour
1&1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup powdered milk
3&1/4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 large egg, slightly beaten, at room temperature
3&1/4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted or at room temperature
1&1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon room temperature water (may need up to 1&3/4 cup)
1 egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water (optional) for egg wash
Sesame or poppy seeds for sprinkling

Mix flour, salt, milk powder, sugar and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add beaten egg,  butter and water.  Mix on slow with dough hook  until dough starts to come together, then increase speed to medium and knead 6 to 10 minutes, until tacky but not sticky.  Dough should be soft and supple.  Adjust water/flour in SMALL amounts as needed during early parts of mixing/kneading process.

Place in greased container, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 90 minutes to 2 hours.  Gently deflate dough, and either cut into 2 equal pieces for loaves, or appropriate numbers for rolls or buns.  Shape into tight rounds, spray with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 20 minutes.

Lightly grease two 8&1/2 by 4&1/2 inch loaf pans or line two baking sheets with parchment or a silicone liner.  Shape the dough into loaves or buns, and, as shaped, place in the prepared pans.  Spray the top with oil, cover with plastic and let proof for 60 to 90 minutes, or until almost doubled.

Preheat oven to 350°F for loaves or 400°F for rolls/buns.  Gently brush the top of the dough with the egg wash, and sprinkle with seeds as desired.  Bake loaves for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating 180 degrees halfway through for even browning if needed.  Bake buns/rolls for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Immediately remove the loaves from the pans and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before cutting.  Cool rolls/buns for 15 minutes before splitting and serving.

If it's bread (or made with yeast), the cool place to be is YeastSpotting !

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