Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hamburger Buns

 The Joy of Cooking is one of my favorite cookbooks.  I learned to cook from this book.  The Bread Maiden Clan's favorite roast chicken, pancake, and chili recipes can all be found in this book.

Not to mention, the following hamburger bun recipe.  Over the years I have made this recipe a bunch of different ways, substituting wheat flour for white, vegetable oil for butter, and so on. I find myself using this recipe for all kinds of things. 

It's technically the "milk bread" recipe, but I've made one big alteration here.  Instead of using milk, which results in a dense, chewy bun, I use chicken or vegetable stock, which makes them lighter and fluffier.  If you need a chicken stock recipe, here's mine (scroll down to CHICKEN STOCK).


2 1/4 tsp yeast (one packet)
3 tablespoons warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp salt
one large egg
5 tablespoons (or 71g) softened butter
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth, or milk
2 cups bread flour
1-2 cups all-purpose flour
dash of olive oil
one large egg (for egg wash)

1. Proof the yeast by putting the water in the bottom of a bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer) and sprinkling the yeast on top.  Let it sit for about five minutes.

After five minutes, it should be puffed up slightly and have a yeasty smell. 

2. To the bowl, add the milk or broth, softened butter, sugar, salt, and egg.

3. Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer or a spoon, mix thoroughly.

4. Slowly add the 2 cups of bread flour with the stand mixer on low speed. Mix until the dough is moist but not sticky, about a minute or two.

Before we get to step 5, let's talk about baking for a second.

Most people who don't like baking say, "I don't like baking because it's too technical and you have to measure things exactly or else it won't work." 

These people think as long as you measure out the ingredients exactly as indicated in the recipe, it will come out perfect, but if you stray too far from the recipe, all is lost.

Not so, my friends.

Baking actually calls for a great deal of flexibility, depending on the weather, the strength of the other ingredients, how they work together, and even how adventurous you're feeling that particular day.

I'm not saying you can just throw in or omit ingredients willy-nilly.

But the way to bake is by following the dough and how it feels and looks.  It takes time to figure out.  It takes making a recipe more than once.  But once you get comfortable seeing the signs for how something should look and feel, I guarantee you will always have success baking.

Now back to these dinner rolls.

5. With your stand mixer still on the low setting, slowly add the remaining two cups of all-purpose flour.


This is important.  Add the all-purpose flour about a half cup at a time. WATCH the dough.

Around the 1 1/2 cup mark, it should start gently pulling away from the sides of the bowl, forming a ball on the paddle.

If it isn't doing this, add the final 1/2 cup of flour.

Once it is slightly pulling away from the bowl, turn off the stand mixer and remove the paddle, replacing it with the bread hook.

6. Once the bread hook is on, turn the mixer onto medium-low speed and mix the dough for about 10 minutes. 

After five years, my mixer needs a little assistance.

The dough should really pull from the sides of the bowl and form a ball on the bread hook. 

After ten minutes, the dough should be elastic and smooth.

7. Pour a dash of olive oil into a large bowl.  Take the ball of dough out of the mixer and spread it in the bowl to coat it in oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let it rise for about 90 minutes to 2 hours.

  After two hours:


8.  Once it has risen to twice its original size, gently punch the dough down, take it out and knead it in your hands a little bit, then return it to the bowl, recover with plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  You'll probably want to preheat your oven at this point to 425 degrees F.

9. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and move to a flat surface.  You will need a pastry cutter and a kitchen scale for this part, if you want perfectly evenly-cooked buns.

Take the plastic wrap off the bowl and use to cover your kitchen scale, so it doesn't get all greasy from the dough.

Using the pastry cutter, divide your dough into quarters or so.

Now, decide how big you want the buns to be.  For small dinner rolls, you'll want them to be about 75 grams each.  For hamburger buns, you'll want them closer to 95 or 100g.

Weigh each piece of dough and adjust accordingly until each piece is uniform in weight.  Roll into balls and put on your...

...parchment-lined baking sheet.

Once you have your buns on the baking sheets, score them using a sharp knife.  Just draw a little cross on the top.

Take your second egg and crack it into a small bowl.  Whisk with a fork, then use a pastry brush or piece of paper towel to apply the egg wash to the top of each bun.  This will make the buns nice and brown and give them a shiny coating.

Stick these in the oven for about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets once they've done all the rising they're going to do, at about 12 minutes.  Once again, you want to rely on sight, not just what the recipe says, to determine when to take the buns out of the oven.  Because these hamburger buns are pretty big, I'm going to bake them for longer than the allotted time, about 17 minutes instead.

These buns look great!  And they're so easy to make.  I hope this puts you in the mood to have hamburgers this week, to go with your homemade hamburger buns!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie, Version I

 Chicken pot pie is a great recipe for leftovers.  It does take a weekend afternoon-to-night to assemble everything and bake it, but once it's done you can freeze it and reheat it on an especially busy weeknight.  If you have some of the ingredients (chicken stock, cooked chicken) lying around the house, it might take an hour to assemble. 

This recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen. 

credit: America's Test Kitchen
 When Mr. Bread Maiden and I were watching the episode, I thought the way they used a crumble topping instead of a biscuit topping was sacrilege.  That could not POSSIBLY be the best chicken pot pie.  You know why? Because *I* make the best chicken pot pie, and it uses the biscuit recipe I outline here.

But, you know what?  ATK's crumble may not be the *best* topping.  But I thought about what it would take to make my biscuit topping, and how I had already made chicken stock from scratch, and roasted a chicken from scratch, and cooked vegetables and mushrooms and made a sauce, and it was 8:30pm and there were tons of dishes in the sink ... and I went with the crumble.

If you want to be a domestic goddess and make all the elements yourself, I suggest you make one element per day so you don't go crazy and exhaust yourself, like I did.

By the way, even though this recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen, they put their recipes behind a paywall.  So I found the recipe here, at Food, Folks and Fun.

1 1/2 pounds cooked chicken or one whole raw chicken
3 cup chicken broth (or some carrots, some celery, an onion and a head of garlic)
2 tbls vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 small celery ribs, chopped fine
salt and ground black pepper to taste
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, caps wiped clean and sliced thin
1 t soy sauce
1 t tomato paste
4 Tbls (1/2 stick or 56g) unsalted butter
1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk or cream
2 tsp juice from 1 lemon
3 Tbls minced fresh parsley leaves
3/4 cup frozen baby peas
2 cups or 10oz all-purpose flour
6 Tbls or 86g butter, cut into chunks and chilled
3/4 cups plus 2 Tbls cream
1/2 cup or 1 oz parmesan cheese
2 tsp baking powder 
1/8 tsp cayenne powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

If you already have chicken stock and leftover cooked chicken, please feel free to skip the next two steps.


1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Set a roasting or baking rack into a deep roasting pan.
3. Rub a chicken with melted butter, salt and pepper and place on the baking rack.  Put the pan in the oven for about 10 minutes.
4.  Turn the temperature down to 375 and bake another 30 minutes or so, until the internal temperature is about 145-150.  It doesn't matter if the skin isn't crispy; you're just going to discard the skin anyway.  Take it out and let it cool before you take the meat off the carcass and shred it up.  Place the chicken meat in a bowl and set aside.
5. You aren't finished with the oven yet!  Turn it back up to 450!  If you don't have chicken stock available, make this easy stock recipe and let it simmer while you cook the vegetables and mushrooms and bake the topping.

1. Take the chicken carcass and place in a large stock pot.  Cover with cold water, turn your stove up to high heat and let the water come to a boil.
2. While it's coming up to a boil, cut up a carrot (or just use the stems and leaves from the carrots you plan to use in the filling), some celery (or the leaves from the celery in the filling), cut up an onion into quarters and a head of garlic in half, and add to the water.
 3. Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for about an hour.  Turn off the heat, let the stock cool a little bit, and then pour the stock through a sieve into a very large bowl or a large measuring cup.
4. Measure out three cups of stock, then pack up the rest into plastic containers and then refrigerate or freeze.


1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, carrots, and celery.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes.  Set aside in the bowl with the chicken pieces.
2. Add a little more oil if you need it, and put the cremini mushrooms in the Dutch oven.  Stir until the mushrooms are covered with oil, then throw the lid on and let them cook until mushrooms have released their juices, about 5 minutes. 

3. Remove cover and stir in soy sauce and tomato paste. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated, mushrooms are well browned, and dark fond begins to form on surface of pan, about 5 minutes. 
4. Transfer mushrooms to bowl with chicken and vegetables. Set aside.
1. Combine 10 oz flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in large bowl. Sprinkle 85g of chilled butter pieces over top of flour. 
2. Using fingers, rub butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in Parmesan. Add 3/4 cup plus 2 tbls cream and stir until just combined. 
3. Crumble mixture into irregularly shaped pieces ranging from 1/2 to ¾ inch each onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. 
4. Bake at 450 degrees F until fragrant and starting to brown, 10 to 13 minutes. Set aside to cool, then break up into chunks.
1. Heat 1/2 cup of butter in empty Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, stir in 1/2 cup of flour and cook 1 minute. 
2. Slowly whisk in reserved chicken broth and milk. Bring to simmer, scraping pan bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, then continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute.
3. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and 2 tablespoons parsley.  Stir chicken-vegetable mixture and peas into sauce. 
4. Pour mixture into 13 by 9-inch baking dish or casserole dish of similar size. 
5. Scatter crumble topping evenly over filling. Bake on rimmed baking sheet until filling is bubbling and topping is well browned, 12 to 15 minutes. 
6. Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon parsley and serve, or let cool, cover with foil, and stick in the freezer. 
The filling is nice and creamy, and the crumbles stay nice and crunchy on top.  All in all, a fabulous meal that I will definitely make again!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pressure-cooker wheat berries

When Mr. Bread Maiden and I lived in Austin, we got to a point in our first year when we made the switch from mostly grocery-store bought meals, to mostly farmer's market-bought meals.

It wasn't easy.  Well, in a way it was.

We had an amazing garden for all our herbs and vegetables, and we would buy our meat and dairy at the farmer's market.

Austin was also where I began my bread journey on the way to becoming Bread Maiden!

I miss this place
 The Austin Farmer's Market was unique in that it had weird things like, say, wheat berries for sale. 

Wheat berries, according toWikipedia, are "the entire wheat kernel (except for the hull), comprising the bran, germ, and endosperm."

 I tried using wheat berries for baking by grinding them up, but they didn't have enough gluten to rise a loaf of bread.  So there's been a bag of them in my pantry from Austin, to Warwick Village, and now to Del Ray.

Don't tell Slow Learner, but Mr. Bread Maiden and I are making her a ton of granola bars for her birthday.  Post to come!

But anyway, we were rooting around the pantry for grains to use in the granola, and we came across the wheat berries.

Mr. Bread Maiden suggested we cook them as a grain for dinner, which is exactly what we did.

We turned to this book: Passionate Vegetarian, by (no joke) Crescent Dragonwagon.

The book is really excellent and a nearly comprehensive review of vegetarian cuisine, whether bean, grain, seed, or rhizome.

Basically, by following her recipe we didn't follow her recipe at all.

First, I rinsed the wheat berries and picked out all the hulls.  It's easy to do; cover the berries with water and swish it around with your hand; the hulls rise to the top and you can pick them out.

I threw about two cups of wheat berries into my pressure cooker, then poured in about 8 cups of water and chicken stock.

Put the pressure cooker on medium-high heat until you reach pressure, then turn it down to medium and cook for about 35 minutes.

Apropos of nothing, my pressure cooker is a "presto."  I like it.

Once the wheat berries are done, remove the pressure cooker from the heat and wait for the pressure valve to release.

Wheat berries, once cooked, have a nice, chewy texture.

Rinse the berries and chop up an herb (we used parsley).

Throw the parsley and salt into the wheat berries, and you have a dish rich in dietary fiber, iron, vitamin C and whole grain.

We ate ours with sauerkraut and pork chops.  Very tasty and incredibly easy!