Jan’s BunsPrint Print Without Images
Monday was a great day for me. A stat holiday in summer is ignored, as we’re all busy at the farm and the market is open, and Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving mean we’ve just come off a very busy few days at the market and my day off usually involves an extended family gathering. But a holiday in February meant Rob and I could enjoy a leisurely day at home with no agenda! With it being Family Day, the invitation went out to our children to join us for supper, and I knew that what my family would enjoy more than any fancy gourmet dinner was homemade chicken noodle soup and buns. In what I refer to as my “previous life” (pre-Lepp Farm Market) I regularly baked buns for my family. No, they weren’t healthy whole wheat buns, but big, fluffy white buns perfect to slather with jam or my personal favorite, peanut butter and Roger’s Golden Syrup. But now a recipe that had been etched into my brain had vanished from memory as I hadn’t made them in the last four years. A call to my long-time friend Jan was required.
Jan is the kind of friend every young mom needs. She had children just a bit older than mine, she cooked, baked and canned like a professional and was a constant source of encouragement to me as I raised our family. She was always there with a kleenex, a hug, and words of affirmation that I would survive toddlers and teenagers, and that my children would turn out to be just fine! But Jan was also a hairdresser, and while our children were small, I could book a morning with her and she would come to our house and cut and style everyone’s hair. Even Grandpa would stop his tractor long enough to take his turn in our kitchen. And in between the haircuts, she taught me how to bake buns. On this Monday, as I mixed, kneaded and pinched the soft, yeasty dough, the memories of the joy in my childrens’ voices as they burst in after school and their noses took in the aroma of freshly baked buns rushed back. My warm, slightly flour-dusted kitchen became a memory album of the many times we shared this simple meal at our family table. And as I set my dough in the oven to rise, I lovingly covered it with the hand embroidered tee towel set I received from my Oma as wedding gift 32 years ago, appropriately stitched “Monday”.
4 cups milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup room temperature butter
1/3 cup shortening
1/4 cup sugar (use ½ cup for a sweet dough for cinnamon buns)
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp. instant yeast
9- 10 cups flour
Combine milk and water and scald. I use my 8 cup glass measuring cup and do this in the microwave, approx 5-6 minutes. You want the milk to be about 120 degrees; it should be steaming with bubbles forming around the edges.
Add the softened butter, shortening, sugar and salt to the milk mixture and continue to stir until the butter and shortening are melted, and salt and sugar are dissolved. It’s OK if there are still a few small unmelted pieces left. Now the mixture should be at baby-bottle-warm temperature.
In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the milk/butter mixture to the eggs and mix until thoroughly combined.
Add 5 cups flour and beat well, about another 3-5 minutes.
Mix the yeast with 1 cup flour. I do this so that the yeast is thoroughly combined with the flour before I add it to the batter.
If using a stand mixture, switch to the dough hook and add the flour and yeast mixture, as well as another 3 cups flour. You have now used 9 cups of flour so far. Let this knead in your mixer for at least 3 or 4 minutes, and then you’ll gradually add more flour in ¼ cup increments, enough to make a soft dough, but not too sticky. You want it to be pulling away from the sides of the bowl as it mixes. Give yourself at least 2 minutes of kneading each time before adding more flour to make sure that the flour has thoroughly incorporated into the dough. This is where experience comes in. I’ve learnt that when I stop my mixer, I want the dough to settle by about 1 inch, and then I know I’ve added enough flour. I usually use a total of 10 – 10 ½ cups of flour.
Put the dough into a large, greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour. The oven, with the oven light on, is a good place. My oven has a 100-degree proofing setting, and it’s perfect.
Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough. To form the buns, you can either take small pieces and roll them in your hands to form a smooth ball, or my preferred method – the pinching method. With lightly floured or buttered hands, pinching off a large handful at a time, form buns by pinching off a small egg-sized ball. The pinching action is not unlike making a fist, but using only your forefinger and thumb. Place on greased cookie sheets. Do not worry if these do not look perfect. Leaving an inch or two between them will give room for spreading. Once you have a sheet full, you can take each bun and lightly squeeze it through your thumb and forefinger once more, pushing with the other hand underneath. They will round out nicely and more so as they rise and bake. Cover again with a tea towel. Let rise another 30-45 minutes. There’s a number of good youtube videos online that demonstrate shaping dinner rolls.
Preheat oven to 375F and bake 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown. It helps to check the underside of the bun to make sure they’re done, you want the bottoms lightly browned as well. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.
Yields 3 dozen. Whatever doesn’t get consumed that day should be frozen.