Thursday, February 20, 2014
My Big, White, Soft Buns
These are dead easy, and if you prefer the whole lot of dough can be baked in a large loaf tin. Shape it as you please (crescent, cloverleaf, fold over) and if you prefer a shiny top, brush it with an egg wash before baking. These freeze well, so don't be discouraged by the amount of dough.
You Will Need:
1/2 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons dry granulated (not instant) yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, warmed
4 tablespoons margarine (yes, really. You can use butter if you prefer, but it does change the texture and shelf life) softened in the warm buttermilk
1 tablespoon coarse salt
4-5 cups strong bread flour. You can use part wholemeal if you like (I often do).
Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in a bowl and stir well. Let stand a few minutes until the yeast has foamed. Add the buttermilk, margarine, salt, and 3 cups of the flour. Beqat this in by hand with a wooden spoon. You will need to adjust the recipe to your brand of flour (some take more liquid than others). Add slowly until it comes together in a ball. At this point, toss it in a bowl, cover it, and let it stand 15 minutes.
Return to your dough, and begin to knead it. Resist the temptation to keep adding flour unless it is so sticky it cannot be handled. It should be tacky, but not clinging to your hands. Knead until it feels smooth, but don't obsess about it "windowpaning" because this sort of bread rarely does. Just knead until it is smooth, and not too sticky, and it will be fine. Place it in a buttered bowl, cover with cling film, and let double-about 2 hours.
Punch the dough down, return it to the bowl, and let it rest 15 minutes.
Grease a baking sheet or loaf pan. If making buns, divide the dough into lumps roughly the size of a walnut. You can go larger if you plan to use them for sandwiches, but for plain old dinner buns, I like to keep them on the small side (as everyone ends up eating a couple anyway). Smooth and shape them by stretching and pinching the dough from the bottom. The top should be taut. Place them on a baking sheet leaving about 1 inch apart. You can do these in cake tins if you like, and it is nice to serve half a dozen buns in a round shape. Dust lightly with flour through a sieve if you like (or use an egg wash, etc.) and cover lightly with a tea towel. Let rise in a warm spot (atop the oven is great) for 25-30 minutes, or until light. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. I like to snip the tops with a pair of kitchen shears before baking, but it isn't necessary.
Baking time will vary, but small buns should take about 30 minutes, rotating the pan after 15. The large loaf may take as long as 50 minutes, so keep an eye on it. For loaves, I like to have an internal temperature of about 200 degrees F. I don't know how I survived before instant read thermometers.
Cool on racks completely before freezing.