Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Knotty, Knotty, Little Buns

Slowly but surely, baking my way through Gourmet Magazine's great bun selection from February's Roll With It article.
This has got to be my most abused and dog-eared copy of a foodie mag yet. I love it when they do a variety of one kind of food, be it cookies, brownies, buns, etc. It gives one a chance to experiment with a theme, and discover textural and flavour differences.
I made these Cracked Wheat Topknots last night for a nice dinner with roast chicken, kasha salad and roasted asparagus with pecorino and walnuts. They were the perfect accompaniment and I loved the texture that the cracked wheat (bulgur) lends them. As an added bonus, they are rich in whole wheat for a nice balance of healthy and light flavours.

Cracked-Wheat Topknots, Gourmet Magazine, Feb 2009
Makes 2 dozen rolls
Active time:1 hr
Start to finish:5 3/4 hr (includes rising)

Who knew rolls could be so, well, adorable? But of course looks aren’t everything: They’ve got substance, too, with a satisfyingly salty crust—flaky sea salt has fantastic texture—embracing an enjoyably chewy, pretzel-like interior.

1 1/2 cups boiling-hot water
1/2 cup medium bulgur (also called cracked wheat)
1 tablespoon table salt, divided
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (a 1/4-oz package)
1/4 cup warm water (105–115°F)
1 tablespoon mild honey or sugar
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading and dusting
1 large egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
1 1/2 tablespoons flaky sea salt (preferably Maldon)

Stir together boiling-hot water, bulgur, and 1/2 tsp table salt in a small bowl and let stand until bulgur is tender, about 40 minutes.
While bulgur soaks, heat milk with butter in a small saucepan over low heat just until butter is melted.
Stir together yeast, warm water, and honey in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.) Add flours and remaining 2 1/2 tsp table salt to yeast mixture.
Drain bulgur in a sieve, then mix bulgur and milk mixture into flour mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a sticky dough forms.
Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead, dusting surface and your hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and almost smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Form dough into a ball.
Put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Punch down dough (do not knead), then halve. Cut half of dough into 12 equal pieces (keep remaining half covered with plastic wrap). Roll each piece into a 12-inch-long rope with floured hands (flour surface only if dough is sticky). Make a loop with each rope, wrapping it around fingers of one hand, then knot dough twice through loop, leaving 1 end in center on top and tucking bottom end under. Transfer to a baking sheet, arranging rolls 2 inches apart.
Make more rolls with remaining dough, transferring to second sheet. Cover rolls with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.
Brush rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake rolls, switching position of sheets halfway through, until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes total. Transfer rolls to a rack to cool at least 20 minutes.

These buns are going Yeastspotting with Susan from Wild Yeast!