Posts Tagged ‘yeast’

Feather Buns

I’ve been thinking about a certain issue of late…why is it that grandmother’s have the best recipes? After pondering for a good, long, while, I’ve come to a conclusion.  They have their whole lives to find them! I’ve got a good recipe here, a crappy one there, but see, I’m only 31.  Just wait til I’m 80!  Hooo, boy.

Of course, upon further pondering, a different thought occurs to me.  This is not a universal rule. One of my grandmothers was capable of whipping up a dinner party for 10 officers with no planning, at the drop of a hat, while my other grandmother’s specialty was Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese with hot-dog rounds stirred in.  Hmmmm.  Oh well, she had other specialties, I guess.  Like horseback riding.  And cooking broccoli in the pressure cooker ’til it was brown.  Oh, and Frosted Flakes.

Anyway.  These lovely feather buns have been at every family holiday for a great many years, and I’ve taken it upon myself to continue the tradition since my grama’s hands have a hard time mixing and shaping.  They are truly lovely.  I generally eat at least 3 the moment they come out of the oven.  With jam.  Or butter.  Or nothing.  I especiallly love them as mini ham or turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving.

Grama B’s Feather Buns
yields approx 3 dozen

Warning: silly me– I attempted to make a 1-1/2 batch in my kitchen-aide mixer.  Ha!  Overflow! I’d stick to one batch at a time if I were you!

  • 1 cup hot mashed Russet or Idaho potato- reserve the cooking water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter or shortening (I use Spectrum Organic)
  • 2 cups whole milk, scalded and cooled
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cakes fresh yeast or 2 pkgs instant dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm, not hot, potato cooking water
  • 8 to 8-1/2 cups all purpose flour

In a large bowl, mash the potato together with the sugar and shortening.  Stir in the milk, salt and eggs.  You’ll be left with a fairly sloppy batter.  Separately, dissolve the yeast in the reserved warm- not hot- potato water.  Stir into the potato mixture.  With a whisk, stir in 2 cups flour.  Cover with plastic and allow to rise for one hour.

Transfer to batter to the bowl of an electric mixer and add about 6-1/2 more cups of flour.   (Unless it’s a particularly dry day, I always use the extra 1/2 cup of flour.)  Knead for about 8-10 minutes to make a soft dough, stopping to scrape down the dough as needed.  At this point, the dough may still feel a little sticky, but the moisture will even out during the next rise.  Cover with plastic and allow to rise until double in bulk, about one hour.

Place your *oven rack in the center-most position and turn on the oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly sprinkle your work counter with flour.  Using a bench-scraper and scale portion out the dough into 1-3/4 to 2 ounce balls.  (Alternately, eyeball it!!  Each finished ball should measure approx. 2-inches in diameter).  To roll the balls, cup your hand over the piece of dough as it sits on the counter.   Begin moving your hand in a clock-wise motion (think: wax on, wax off”), until the piece of dough becomes a ball.  You’ll notice that the underside of the dough has formed a little belly-button.  Place the dough balls on a baking sheet- 12 per sheet- and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Bake for 12- 15 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack and try your darnedest to not eat them all at once.

*I find that these cook more evenly when baked one tray at a time.  If you are short on time and must bake 2 trays at the same time, place your oven racks in the upper third and bottom third of the oven.  Be sure to swap the trays, top to bottom and bottom to top, midway through the baking time.


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I’ve never been happy with homemade pizza dough, or really, with homemade pizza for that matter.  I mean, we’ve had good ones, but great ones?  Not really.  What we get at Dopo, for example, is just so much better! I really think it has more to do with the ovens we use at home.  Even with a pizza stone, it’s really hard to duplicate the hot deck-oven that you’d use in a restaurant.  Plus, the fact that my oven is janky and old probably doesn’t help! But I just can’t give it up, so here’s another try.  This time I used Judy’s recipe that she learned years ago in New York.  I know her recipe works in the restaurant, so we’ll see if it works at home.

Now, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly because of a few things.  First, I didn’t have the right sized pan to put the dough balls in so that they were spaced 3 inches apart, so I put them on a rimmed cookie sheet instead, which is what they do at Dopo.  Also, It was a cold, rainy day when I made the recipe, so the water I used was slightly warmer than what is called for.  That being said, I may have needed to add a bit more flour because my dough turned out a bit sticky.  I know that weather conditions play a not-insignificant roll in baking. Also, I know that we do, sometimes use dough-balls that are only 24 hours aged, rather than the preferred 48, at Zuni, and since this is my plan for dinner tomorrow night, the dough-balls will have only aged for about 36 hours.

Judy’s Pizza Dough recipe (with a few of my own variations due to equipment availability, etc)
yields 5 five-ounce dough balls

  • 1 teaspoon freeze-dried yeast
  • 1-1/4 cups water between 65-70 degrees
  • a pinch of sugar (optional)
  • 15 ounces bread flour, plus another scant cup to dust the dough before baking
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon mild tasting olive oil, to rub on the finished dough balls

Lightly oil a  rimmed cookie sheet, and set aside.  Combine the yeast and 1 Tablespoon of the water in a large mixing bowl and whisk to dissolve.  Leave it until it begins to bubble.  You can add a pinch of sugar to speed things up. Add the remaining water, then stir in about one cup of the flour to make a wet batter.  It will look like a lumpy pancake batter. Combine the salt with the remaining flour.  Add half of that to the wet batter and stir vigorously for a few minutes.  You should have a soft, sticky dough.  Now work in all but about one quarter cup of the remaining flour-salt mixture, then scrape the shaggy, stiff dough on to the counter.  Tip the remaining flour on the counter and work it in, lifting and slapping the dough on the counter to activate the gluten.  Once the flour is incorporated, knead until the dough is uniform but well shy of the “smooth, shiny ball” stage, about three minutes.  The dough will be soft, and, if you slap a clean, dry hand to it and count to five, your hand will stick.

Tip the dough onto a clean, dry work surface and let it rest for a few minutes.  Cut into 5 one-ounce chunks.  Shape each chunk into a rough ball, then, using one hand to cradle the soft dough from above, gently roll and shimmy the dough ball in place to tighten and set the round shape.  The underside of the dough ball will look like it has a belly button.  Lightly rub each dough ball with olive oil so it won’t form a crust, then place belly-button-sideways on the cookie sheet.  Space the dough balls at least three inches apart.  Wrap the sheet tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 48 hours.

So this is what I’ve got so far.

Dough balls about to rise in the refrigerator

Dough balls about to rise in the refrigerator

We’ll see how they turn out tomorrow night.  By the way, what’ll I top them with?  Well, I’ve got a lot of asparagus in the fridge.  Some Asiago.  Spring onions.  Mmmm, maybe some braised artichokes?  And I’ve got to use up some of that arugula I harvested from the garden.  I guess we’ll be eating a few different pizzas for dinner tomorrow night!

after 24 hours

after 24 hours

The dough did seem almost over-proofed by the time we went to use it, after 36 hours.  I had used slightly warmer water than the recipe called for, so perhaps I’ll stick to the recipe next time.  Also, it’s possible that my refrigerator is warmer than is ideal.

In the end, I turned my oven all the way to the broil setting, which turned out to be 600 degrees, according to my oven thermometer, and I preheated it at that temperature for 45 minutes with my pizza stone on the very top shelf.  I don’t think I stretched my first pizza thin enough, and it took longer to cook, never really getting golden.

spring onion, asparagus, scott's bacon, sorrel

spring onion, asparagus, scott's bacon, sorrel, asiago

The next pizza, we stretched thinner, brushed extra-virgin olive oil on it, and then topped it and baked it.  It got more golden, and cooked more quickly, making the dough less crackery and tough.  It was definitely the best homemade pizza we’ve made.  The dough itself was really tasty too.

spring onion, marjoram, braised artichokes, scott's bacon, asiago, arugula

spring onion, marjoram, braised artichokes, scott's bacon, asiago, arugula

Still, neither were even close to the quality of a restaurant-made thin-crust pizza, but these were the best ones that we’ve made at home!

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