Friday, November 25, 2011

Whole Foods Friday: Let's Bake Some Buns

Most of the time when I make dinner rolls, I make round ones.They're the easiest to make, and, let's face it, fancy shapes don't make the buns taste any different. And a basket full of precise round buns has a certain appeal. They look professional.

But for a special dinner, of when you've got a little extra time to be creative, those fancy shapes can get a basket of buns noticed on table full of other delectable delights.

It takes a lot of practice - and a lot of luck - to get all of your fancy-shaped buns to look alike - but that shouldn't even be a goal. Hand-crafted items don't need to look identical. Part of the beauty of artisan breads is that each one is a little different. No matter how careful you are in shaping your buns, you can't control how they rise in the oven.

Even if your creations look the same going in, you might find that they don't rise or brown exactly the same in the oven. So don't worry about it - have fun with creativity, and don't worry about perfection. After all, they'll taste the same when they're done, right?

Buns, glorious buns

4 cups (1 pound, 2 ounces) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons cane sugar
1 1/2 cups cool water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened
Olive oil for drizzling
Dried herbs (optional)
Melted butter (optional)

Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, water, salt and softened butter in the bowl of your stand mixer. (Or you can do this by hand, if you prefer.) Knead just until the dough starts to become elastic - you aren't looking for a smooth, shiny, finished dough - just one that is well-combined. This is a fairly wet and very sticky dough at this point. Don't worry about that, it will firm up during its long rest.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil - just a splash - into a plastic zip-top bag. Transfer the dough to the bag, close the top, and refrigerate at least 8 hours, or up to two days.

On the day you will be baking, remove the dough from the refrigerator open the bag to expel the trapped gas, and massage the dough in the bag to mash out the bubbles. Leave the bag sitting on the kitchen counter to warm up a bit - at least an hour, but two is better.

Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Knead it briefly, the form it into a ball.

Line several baking sheets with parchment paper, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

To make crescents:

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll the first piece into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Brush the circle with melted butter (optional). With a pizza or pastry cutter, or a sharp knife, cut the circle into 6 wedges.

Take the first wedge and hold it by the outer edge and gently pull and stretch the dough toward the point until it stretches to about twice its original length. Lay it down on your work surface and start rolling it beginning at the wide end and working towards the point. Place it on the baking sheet and form it into an arc or half-circle shape.

Continue with the rest of the wedges - and with the rest of the dough, if you want to make the full batch of crescents, leaving sufficient room between the rolls so they can rise.

Cover the finished rolls with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled in size. They should feed puffy when you poke one in the side. Brush with additional butter before baking, if you like.

Bake at 350 degrees until nicely browned, about 25 minutes. If you aren't serving immediately, let them cool on a rack. For softer tops, cover them with a clean kitchen towel as they cool.

For herbed swirl rolls:

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. roll the first piece into a rectangle about 5x9 inches. With one of the long sides facing you, brush the surface of the dough with melted butter, leaving about 1/2 on the far side uncovered.

Sprinkle the dough with your herbs of choice - dill is a nice choice to go along with fish, or oregano for a Mediterranean-themed meal. Or use your favorite herb mix. about 1/2 teaspoon is more than enough.

Beginning on the side closest to you, begin rolling the dough towards the far side - rolling loosely. When you get to the far side, pinch to seal the seams.

Cut the roll into two pieces about 4 1/2 inches long, then cut each of those into thirds. Place the buns cut-side up, on prepared baking sheets, leaving room between them for rising. Continue with the remaining pieces of dough, if you want to make all swirl buns.

Cover the finished rolls with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled in size. They should feed puffy when you poke one in the side. Brush with additional butter before baking, if you like.

Bake at 350 degrees until nicely browned, about 25 minutes. If you aren't serving immediately, let them cool on a rack. For softer tops, cover them with a clean kitchen towel as they cool.

Round buns, two ways:

Sometimes all you want is a plain, round bun, and there's no reason you can't use this dough for that purpose. This dough will make 2 dozen small buns, but you can certainly divide it into fewer pieces for larger buns. Besides making round dinner rolls, you can also make sandwich buns.

For round buns, simply shape them into rounds. You can do this by rolling them on the counter top until you have firm, round shape. I usually prefer the "bubblegum" method: I hold the dough ball in my left hand and push into the center of the dough with my left thumb while pulling the outer part of the dough with the fingers of my right hand over the indentation my thumb left behind. I pinch the dough together, make another thumb indent, and pull and pinch again. After several of these motions,the dough is firm and bouncy, with a nice, tight skin.

Why do I call it the bubblegum method? Well, once you do it a few times, you'll see that it's very much like the way you form a piece of bubblegum with your mouth before you blow a bubble. You'll see.

For sandwich buns, you probably want larger buns - figure about a dozen from this amount of dough. Once you have made the round shape, flatten it from the center outward, leaving the center indented and the edges thicker. Aim for a round disk that is about an inch thick.

Cover the finished rolls with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled in size. They should feed puffy when you poke one in the side. Brush with additional butter before baking, if you like.

Bake at 350 degrees until nicely browned, about 25 minutes. If you aren't serving immediately, let them cool on a rack. For softer tops, cover them with a clean kitchen towel as they cool.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Funny, but that's *almost* exactly the same dough that I used for my TG rolls. The dough is easy, fast and best of all, holds well in the refer for a couple of days, so an easy do-ahead. Actually, two doughs, one as much KAWWWF as I could get away with and three shapes of each. I love shaping rolls! When I do round rolls, it is one in each hand, circled on the bench, as I was taught in 1968, and its fast. The one roll form that I've never mastered is the same simple round shape, robustly flavored dough. THe interior is softish, but with serious chew; some would even say tough. The top crust was even more chewy and had some very small skin bubbles, almost like a French roll, but not crusty. If one smashed a roll, there would be no crust flakes. Any ideas? I have no clue and have been experimenting off and on for 30+ years. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. -Craig

Jesica @ Pencil Kitchen said...

These look delectable AND professional! Good job!

Nesrine said...

Hi, loved loved loved , am passionate about baking , and your rolls seem PERFECT.
well, I'd like to ask you, if I don't have instant yeast, only dry active yeast , can I make those ?? thank you in advance and if you can reply to me on my mail I will be very grateful .
nesrine.gamal AT gmail DOT com

Donna Currie said...

I emailed this as well, but it's a good question, so I thought I'd answer here as well.

You can use active dry instead of instant. There are some slight differences between manufacturers, but nothing to worry about. When I use active dry, I always add it to the water, first. The larger granules need a little more time to dissolve, so if you add that to the dry ingredients or to the dough, you risk having a few yeast blobs in the finished bread. You don't have to proof the active dry, just add it to the water and give it a minute or two to soften up.

Kickassninja said...

Made the dough last night and baked some today, even though I was rushed for time, and scrimped a little on rise time, the kids thought they were Amazing!
Can't wait to bake the rest of the dough tomorrow

Donna Currie said...

I'm so glad you liked them!

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