Now, I’m a PhD student. And, in order to make it as a PhD student, you need a daydream escape hatch, some plan that you’ve concocted for what you’re going to do when you drop out. Because you see, to keep yourself from going crazy, you have to threaten to drop out at least once a week. That’s just the way it works.
My plan involves an imaginary company: “Em’s Buns. They’re cheeky.™” (That would be the company name and slogan, there.) In my vision, Em’s Buns is a bicycle-pulled food stand from which I will sell little stuffed buns on various street corners as an afternoon snack.
The idea for afternoon buns was inspired by the buns they have at the St. John Hotel. I’ve never had their afternoon buns, but I read their description of them as “warm little buttock-like buns” and I thought it was the most hilarious and ingenious thing ever. Because, when I think about it, a little stuffed bun is exactly what I want as a snack in the afternoon. So, I decided I absolutely had start working on making them.
The idea is that the filling will be different every day, made from really good quality ingredients, based on what’s in season, what seems inspiring that day, etc. But, there will always be one savory and one sweet option, and if you don’t want either of them, well I hope you’ll come back tomorrow and try again!
Of course, even though it’s an imaginary company, I have been working on perfecting my bun baking. Just in case.
This recipe is written so you can make half the batch savory and half sweet. The savory ones are stuffed with an enticing salty, briny, fatty combination of olives, dried sausage, and provolone cheese. The sweet are not too sweet, with tender sugar-tossed apple chunks offset by the creaminess of a mild Brie and just a suggestion of rosemary. After all, you don’t want your afternoon snack to give you a sugary toothache.
Stuffed Buns (makes 2 dozen)
1 1/2 cup good quality whole milk
6 tablespoons un salted butter, melted
2 teaspoons raw cane sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten (save the white for the egg wash)
1 teaspoon sea salt
5 cups about, all purpose flour (plus more as needed)
1. Heat the milk to just over 100F, then in a large bowl, stir together the warm milk, melted butter, sugar, and yeast. Let this stand for about 5 minutes, until the yeast is foamy.
2. Stir in the 2 eggs, egg yolk, and salt. Then stir in about 4-4 1/2 cups of the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. (This can all be done in the bowl of a standing mixer using a bread hook as well). At this point you should have a shaggy dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface (use the last 1/2 cup of flour) and knead, adding more flour in small amounts if needed (ooh, pun!), for about 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and smooth. If you’re mixing the dough in a mixer, add a bit of the extra flour (about 1/4-1/2 cup), just enough to give you a stiff dough and mix on low with the bread hook for 10 minutes.
4. Coat a deep bowl with a little bit of oil, put the dough into the bowl, turn the dough to lightly coat it with oil, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and stick it in the refrigerator overnight.
5. After about 12 hours, punch down the dough, then fill and bake it as directed below.
Sausage Olive & Cheese filling and Apple & Brie filling:
5 1/2 ounces provolone cheese, cut into 12 small cubes
5-6 ounces good quality hard salami, chopped
1/2 cup chopped, pitted green olives
6 ounces good brie (or another similar triple creme cheese)- rind removed
and cut into 12 pieces (this is easier if it is cold)
1 cup finely chopped apple (one of the sturdy, good for baking ones like
Cortland, Jonagold, or even Gala or Granny Smith)
a squirt of lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary (optional)
1 egg white for egg wash
sesame seeds for sprinkling
pearl sugar for sprinkling
1. First off, toss the apple with the sugar, rosemary, and lemon juice and set aside.
2. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, punch it down, and divide it in half. Put half back in the fridge. Roll the half you have out into a log, then divide this log into 12 equal pieces (I usually divide it in half, then half again, then thirds, but if I were really being detail oriented I would use a scale).
3. One at a time, take a piece and roll it into a ball. Stretch this ball into a circle about a quarter inch thick, and pull it even thinner around the edges.
4. In the middle of the dough circle, place one piece of provolone, one or two little pieces of salami (1/12th of the salami pieces, in fact), and a small scoop of the chopped olives. Then, take the edges of the circle and gather them up around the filling, pinching and twisting them tightly together to close up the bun. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
5. Repeat this procedure with the remaining 11 pieces that you cut filling them with the provolone, salami, olive mix. Once this dozen are on the baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
6. Then, start the second dozen. Take the remaining dough out of the fridge and divide it into 12 pieces.
7. Fill these buns in the same manner as the first, except put a piece of brie and a scoop of the apples in each. Put these buns on a second parchment lined baking sheet. When finished, cover with a clean towel and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
8. Preheat the oven to 350F. When the first dozen buns have finished rising, brush them with the egg white and sprinkle them with a pinch of sesame seeds each. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a cooling rack immediately.
9. In the meantime, brush the second dozen buns with the egg wash and sprinkle them with a pinch of pearl sugar each. When the first batch is baked, bake the second batch.
10. The buns are the very best still slightly warm from the oven, and are definitely best the day they are baked. But, they keep for a couple of days and rewarm nicely.
Via Los Angeles’ March Food Blogger, Emily Vikre “Fiveandspice“
Emily Vikre is the author of the blog Fiveandspice for which she creates and photographs recipes and writes about the meaning she finds from cooking and sharing food with others. She’s been obsessed with cooking and food photography since she was about 6, and is loving having an outlet for this passion. Emily has an M.S. in nutrition communication, but her general approach to food is not to worry too much about nutrients and instead concentrate on eating real, home cooked foods, and doing it with attention and pleasure. Currently, her day job is as a doctoral student in food policy working on a project to empower new immigrant women to make healthy eating and physical activity choices. She lives with her husband in Boston where their kitchen table is always open for a friend to drop in for a snack and a chat.