Portabella n Colby Buns with Birdseye Chillies

It’s been way too long since my last post, and even longer since I baked, so naturally I was raring to go and recover lost ground. Besides there”s only that much commercially produced bread a girl can eat before her stomach begins to talk back, and I wasn’t going to wait for that to happen. But special occasions call for special treats and my bakers brain went into high-gear… hmmmm… what could I do that I hadn’t done before.

Using fresh ingredients is always a priority so I was thrilled when I saw this pack of little Portabellas sitting on the shelf in the grocery section of the supermarket.

That did it, I knew I had a recipe brewing in there somewhere. And then I spotted Colby Cheese. Now Colby is sort of like Cheddar, just more elastic and with a more neutral taste. Kind of like a mild Cheddar on a Trampoline. Perfect for pairing with my Portabellas, since I wanted those little beauties to shine through, with the cheese providing an accent, just that subtle bit of flavouring and mild richness to the bread that I finally decided on baking.

Birds-eye chillies completed the trinity and that was it. A recipe was born…

So back to the Portabellas, and do remember to wipe them clean of any grit with a wet towel, then pat them dry and slice’ em as thin as you can.

The reason… you don’t want any extra moisture retention. Mushrooms have a way with moisture, so you want to slice ’em as thin as you can and fry them on high heat with a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil with a teaspoonful of butter. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt, so that any water hiding in those babies leaches out and catches the heat. Sizzle….. sssss…

But wait… before you add in the mushrooms to the oil n butter, fry the de-seeded and sliced birds-eye chillies. I used 4 chillies, but you can reduce the quantity if you like it milder.

WARNING: Wash, Re-wash and re-re-wash your hands after you handle the chillies. I washed my hands twice but then ended up touching my chin, and woah! So yeah, scrub your hands well, very, very well after handling those little critters. They’re tiny, but they’re dynamite.

Fry the mushrooms on high, stirring constantly, before sprinkling on the salt and a teaspoonful of freshly milled pepper. I used a melange of peppercorns; pink, green, white and black…

Once the mushrooms are fried and browned, take ’em off the flame and keep them aside to cool. Meanwhile activate the yeast, about 10 -11gms of fresh yeast in 1/2 cup of tepid water, with a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar just to get things moving. In a separate bowl, sift 2 cups of flour and add it to the activated yeast, with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Knead the flour to a dough, then add in the mushrooms and cheese. You may need to add another 1/4 cup of flour and knead for about 10 minutes to a lovely soft dough.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl and drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil over the dough. Then cover with cling wrap and leave to prove for about 2 hours till the dough more than doubles in size.

Once the dough has risen, knock it back and turn it out onto a floured surface for a second quick knead before rolling it out into a log.

Because I wanted larger buns I portioned the log into just 7 pieces and shaped them into rounds. Covered them with muslin and left them to prove for another 45 – 50 minutes, brushing them with eggwash, dusting them with paprika and grating some extra Colby on top just before baking.Bake them in a 230° C preheated oven for 20 minutes. (Btw… I sprayed the inside of the oven a couple of times with water while the buns were baking for that crunchy crusty top I love. But that’s a matter of choice.)

Transfer the buns onto a wire rack to cool completely. Or better still, do what I did. Slice into one while it’s still warm, slather on some butter and enjoy. before dispatching the buns straight to YeastSpotting.

It has been a while.

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Spicy Minced Chicken Buns

I made my first submissions to YeastSpotting last week and it’s got me pretty fired up. Which basically means that on any given day after all my other work is done, I’m hands deep in flour. Which also means that I probably need to invest in a bread-machine. But then I don’t want to lose the thrill of kneading the dough, working it, while it clings to your fingers at first and then lets go… that’s something which will be hard to pass up.

So no bread-machine… well at least for now. At least not until I decide to open a little bakery or follow my heart and head to the hills and open my little café.

I heard raucous shouts this morning while I was fixing my mug of coffee. There’s work going on in the building complex next door, and the migrant labourers the contractor has employed all sleep in the stilt parking space on the ground floor of the building facing mine. They’ve mosquito netted their sleep area, wise in this season, where despite the repellents the critters still manage to sneak in. Anyway, today’s raucousness was the result of a rather exuberant lot of the younger men, boys really, playing football (soccer), with an old pretty beat-up and tattered ball. But that didn’t stifle their enthusiasm. They played with such abandon, shouting out at each other to pass the ball, then deftly manoeuvring it through the obstacle-course of bamboo poles, clumps of rope and pipes.

Goal! one of them yelled, as he shot the ball into what was apparently the goal, and his team converged on him, the opposing goalie looking crestfallen for a second and then joining in the cheering.

What joy. I almost forgot I had other things to do.

Which brings me to some of my favourite things and that includes, stuffed buns or bread-rolls. My favourites, the minced meat ones, the spicier the better.

Spicy Minced Chicken Buns

The dough for these is a very simple one. 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, a teaspoon of sugar, about 12gms fresh yeast, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3/4 to a cup of warm water, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Activate the yeast (with warm water and sugar), then add the flour, salt and olive oil. Knead for 12 – 15 minutes till the dough is soft and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to prove for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or till slightly more than doubled.

In the meantime get your filling ready. I filled the buns with spicy minced chicken. So for about 400gms chicken, use 2 scallions, 4 large pods of garlic, a 1″ piece of ginger (more if you like), and 2 green chillies – all minced. Sautéing them in 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, with salt to taste, a large pinch of pepper, a teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powder, a 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, paprika and garam masala, and a pinch of clove powder. Do not add any water while cooking the mince. Keep it covered and on a low flame, breaking down the meat and separating it with a fork to prevent it from clumping together. Finish with a squeeze of lime, a sprinkling of garam masala (another 1/2 teaspoon) and two tablespoons chopped fresh coriander. Cook till all the moisture evaporates and set it aside to cool.

Spicy Minced Chicken

Now return to the dough…

Once your dough has risen (1 1/2 to 2 hours), knock it back and knead lightly, then roll it out into a log and cut out 12 pieces. Knead each piece for a bit, then using your fingers stretch out the dough to make a cup for the mince and spoon in 3 teaspoonfuls of the spicy meat.

Pinch the dough together to close and work it for a bit to shape till round. Place on a cornmeal dusted baking tray. Allow to rise for about 30 – 40 minutes.

Preheat your oven at 230 degrees C. Brush the top of the buns with an eggwash, and sprinkle with seeds or herbs of your choice. I used poppy seeds and paprika for one lot and sesame seeds and ground cumin for the other… just coz they looked so pretty.

Poppy seed and Paprika

Sesame and Cumin sprinkled

And baked them for 20 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Two for One...

They were just a bit spicy (the chillies were hot and I didn’t remove the seeds), but the bread around it provided the perfect foil to the spiciness of the mince. And they turned out refreshingly light. I ate three at a go. I really mustn’t.

Off to YeastSpotting they go!