The Hottest Buns in Town
Whew. My first 4th of July in Seattle and wow, it was fun. Old friends in town, new friends coming over, lots of food and fireworks and slap scrabble. It was our first party in a Seattle and I’m so glad we did it. But WHEW! There was cooking going on in my tiny kitchen, SO much cooking. Four pies were baked: cherry almond, black raspberry (I didn’t even know such a thing existed until this week!), strawberry rhubarb custard and blueberry lattice. A gigantic cabbage salad with a peanut dressing. More baked beans than I think anyone wants to see in one place. And pulled pork sandwiches. I wanted pulled pork sandwiches badly. Having never made them, I turned to the Lee Bros. for their recipe. Did I mention that we’re talking about 13 lbs. of pork?
It was an intimidating amount of meat. And while the flavor was fantastic (think tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, cane syrup), I have to fault the Lee Bros. for tricking me into thinking that pork shoulder would get as meltingly tender as I wanted in the amount of time they claimed. I now know that pulled pork wants at least 8 hours if you’re on the low-oven-roasting path. It was a close one and I have Sam and Brandon to thank for pulling a delicious dish out of the mess I started, because by the time we realized that the pork needed several more hours of roasting to liquify all that fat, we had already eaten all of the salads, sides and pies in the house. Not to mention the copious amounts of wine I had befriended by then. Thank God for chef friends who are more than competent at drunken cooking!
At some point John made a diagram about when to stop cooking the meat. It was a question of quality vs. time, measuring the increasing quality of the pork as it cooked and our changing expectations relating to our hunger levels. I swear it was genius at the time.
By now you’re maybe thinking “Gee Brandi, your last 3 posts are about meat. What gives?” It’s true, we’ve been awfully carnivorous this month. Which is why I will now turn my attention to the real reason I’m here talking about a pulled pork dish that I can’t even begin to explain how it came to be. My point? The bun. I will admit that when I mentioned to some people that I wanted to make my own buns, there was some skepticism. It was too much work, they said. There are perfectly good buns out there that somebody else made. But I just didn’t buy it. I mean, EVERYONE has a pulled pork recipe up their sleeve (well, except me apparently), but when a girl really wants to take it to the next level, then it’s the bun that gets people’s attention. So I made them anyways. Even though with 4 pies (3 requiring pre-baked crusts), an ungodly amount of beans, and half a day’s worth of pork, we were totally out of oven space.
And you know what people talked about the most at the BBQ? Those sexy little buns of mine.
There were lots of them, rising all over the house.
They were glazed with egg and sprinkled with seeds.
And then baked until they were puffed and golden.
I don’t care how much effort they were (not THAT much really), I’m never buying a bun from the store again.
And just so no one thinks I’ve stopped caring about dessert, here’s a blueberry lattice pie that was devoured in about 15 minutes flat.
LIGHT BRIOCHE BUNS RECIPE (adapted from Comme Ça restaurant, printed in the New York Times):
3 TBSP warm milk
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 1/2 TBSP sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)
1. In a glass measuring cup, combine one cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg.
2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a large spoon, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. You can either transfer the dough to a clean surface for this or knead it right in the bowl. It’s a touch sticky, but resist the urge to add more flour.
3. Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in the fridge. This long proofing time will make a nicer flavor and also make it easier to shape while cold.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap lightly coated in nonstick spray and let buns rise in a warm place for one to two hours, until they almost double in size.
5. Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. If desired, sprinkle with seeds. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 17-18 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
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