Ok, so it may be that with half of my gene pool coming from Norway it’s almost inevitable that I have a craving that periodically can only be fulfilled with fresh homemade crispbread. Fortunately, crispbread is fast and easy to make. While I know it is designed to last a long time – I’ve never found that I can keep a batch around for very long – especially when there is a hearty fall soup, some smoked salmon or gravlax, or an awesome cheese to do it justice.
From time to time you’ll see the fast food chains advertise a special promotion featuring pretzel buns. They are great with hamburgers but where they shine in particular in my opinion with bbq chicken breast.
Pretzel buns formed ready to boil
Now, you’ll seldom if ever see pretzel buns in the grocery – they just don’t keep very well. The good news though is that they are really easy to make at home – and you can’t get fresher than that!
If you’ve make bagels at home – and you should – making pretzel buns is pretty much the same process.
The key for that great and characteristic crust is to boil the raised buns in a basic water solution before baking – an easy way to go is with baking soda – but I use wood ash (lye) because the wood fired pizza oven I have keeps me in loads of wood ash, and I need it around anyway for making massa for homemade tortillas.
So, easy, simple, quick – and since they are best consumed within a day or so after baking are ideally suited to making in your own kitchen. Of course, I’m making these with home ground whole wheat flour, but if you don’t yet have your own mill commercial flour will do.
Nothing quite says summer like burgers, sausages or hotdogs on the grill or roasted over a fire. But damn, if the food isn’t becoming pricey! It seems like only a couple of years ago hot dogs were 99 cents for a dozen nice ones. Now even the cheap ones are twice that when they come on sale.
If you want to skip right to the fantastic whole wheat hot dog recipe just click on the post title now.
Hot dog buns risen and ready to go in the oven
Anyway, to be perfectly honest commercial hot dogs are only an occasional feature in our home, with homemade sausages being a more common feature – but for roasting over an open fire nothing quite beats hot dogs – so they occasionally find a place in our grocery order.
It’s not only the dog themselves that have climbed in price – the buns too are getting silly expensive – like $2.99 for eight!
Bun pan and the results
We routinely bake our own buns – generally whole wheat with the flour we grind on our homebuilt mill – which produces higher quality product at a fraction of the price. So when I saw a New England style hot dog pan on the King Arthur website for $30 bucks US I picked it up. I mean that’s less than 15 uses to more than pay it off.
The thing is built incredibly solidly. The silicon coating may eventually fail but the underlying steel is heavy enough to last for a few generations if taken care of – now that’s the type of investment I like! It also cuts prep time even more – simply form the dough into the pan and let it do it’s second rise in the pan then slide into the oven and that’s it – perfectly sized buns for hot dogs (or sausages!)
Now the instructions on the KA website call for putting a cookie sheet over the top of the pan – I’ve never bothered, the buns are a bit taller but I prefer the less dense feel.
All in all this is a great kitchen tool – if you are short cash just form buns individually, but if you can afford the investment I think you’ll be very pleased with it.
I enjoy making this bread whenever I have leftover mashed potatoes that need to be used up. BUT, I will make mashed potatoes specifically to be used in this bread when I’m going to be making toasted bacon and tomato sandwiches.
Toasted Bacon and Tomato Sandwich on Whole Wheat Potato Bread
The mashed potatoes do a couple of things. First off since they don’t contain gluten we get a somewhat denser bread. I say somewhat because it is nowhere as dense as a rye, triticale, spelt or barley loaf. The reduction in gluten is to some extent mitigated by the easily converted starches that give the yeast an extra boost. At the same time we get a moister loaf. The combination makes for a great toasting bread – and great toast is the foundation of a great bacon and tomato sandwich!
Originally potato bread was used to stretch more expensive wheat flour but today the bread merits being included in your baking rotation on its own merits alone. That said, it remains a great way to put that little bit of mashed potatoes remaining after some meals to good use in your daily bread!
Rolling whole wheat crackers directly on silicon baking sheet
The prices for a box of great crackers is pretty steep, but you don’t have to eat that cost to make a great foundation for cheese or smoked salmon – just make your own.
It is actually very easy and fast to produce your own crackers at home, in fact you’d probably be able to get them done and cooling before you’d have been able to fetch them in a trip to your local grocery store. Like any baking and cooking you also gain the advantage of being able to tailor the recipe to your taste.
This process is extra easy if you roll the crackers right out onto silicon baking sheets – then after scoring them you can slip them onto baking sheets.
So easy and yet so good – you’ll really impress yourself with these so go ahead and make some.
I think one of the most common afflictions that touch our society is not obesity – though that is certainly a concern, but rather “over-complication-itis”. OK, so maybe the medical community won’t be adding this affliction to their standard list of diagnoses but that doesn’t mean it isn’t prevalent, nor that it isn’t serious. So, how would you diagnose someone suffering from “over-complication-itis” – well it’s simple… or rather it is an individual who lacks the ability to see simplicity. More precisely, an individual who lacks the ability to examine and break down processes that lead to final products into their simple components.
Brunch – fresh whole wheat bagels with smoked salmon accompanied by asparagus
These bagels provide a case study. Bagels are awesome, but I bet if you asked most folks who buy them – even those who purchase them from shops that make them right in front of the customer if they could make them – they’d balk at the suggestion. The complexity exists only in their minds.
If you’ve been following these posts we’ve shown our favorite tried and true bread recipe, we then showed how to take the same recipe and use the dough to make some awesome buns – by forming the dough and baking it in the oven, bagels just add one step to the buns – boiling the formed dough before baking. That’s it. Really, no need for a wood fired oven, no need for a food science degree or even to convert to Judaism. Those things might help but if you make them personal prerequisites you might as well check yourself into an institution with “over-complication-itis” because you won’t be checking out all of the opportunities that exits out here in the real world.
For those of you that haven’t dialed 911, click on the headline for the simple recipe instructions.
Oh, and the solution for obesity – eat reasonable amounts of good food – like these fresh whole wheat bagels and engage in physical activity.
Shifting from producing loaves of bread with a tried and true recipe to hamburger buns (or dinner rolls for that matter) is as simple as can be. Fundamentally we are only reshaping the dough and then baking it in the oven rather than allowing the bread machine pan to define the shape and the machine to do the baking for us.
The taste of summer – a burger with all the fixings piled high on a toasted whole wheat bun
Whole wheat buns are a great combination with burgers – instead of squishing into thin disk of wheat paste they hold their shape without being too dense and add a heartiness to a burger that just isn’t there with store bought fare. Baking your own not only provides unrivaled freshness but also allows you to determine the size of the buns… Baby buns for the wee folks, mama buns or even the papa buns that hold the largest burgers.
The process is so easy that you can’t go wrong and after you’ve had these you won’t want to return to store bought fare so get some fresh whole wheat flour and get baking.
Here we are using the standard Baler-Twine bread recipe, but setting the machine on the dough cycle instead of the bread cycle. If your machine’s dough cycle stops after the first rise reset it to the dough cycle and let the machine kneed the dough again before shutting it off and removing the dough.
Some items are inherently useful and end up serving all manner of roles, duct tape is one and for those closer to farm operations baler twine is another.
The whole wheat bread recipe is just that in my household – the go-to staple that forms the basis of so many other yeast risen baked goods. Given how versatile this recipe is, and in homage to the farmers that produce so much of our food I’ve named it my “baler-twine whole wheat bread”.
Sliced “baler twine” whole wheat bread
The reason it’s become so popular in our household is that you give nothing up in comparison to commercial breads. It rises just as nicely as white bread which I am sure is one of the features which has made it so popular with everyone.
The effective leavening I am sure is attributable to a few factors, including the inclusion of eggs and vinegar, the reduction in salt and the increase in sugar – which both encourage yeast production and make up for the reduction in the relative proportion of gluten in the whole extraction flour compared to white flours.
The other factor here is without a doubt the fineness of the flour grind. As discussed previously if you want to produce fine grade baking you can’t start by using coarse flour. So make sure that whether you are using a Homestead grain mill you’ve built for yourself or a mill you’ve purchased you put the extra effort and time into ensuring the flour you are baking with is ground exceptionally fine.
Closeup of “baler twine” whole wheat bread – note the fine structure
While you can certainly use this recipe to make bread by hand I always use a bread machine. The only other item – beyond the fineness of the flour grind to take note of is the need to have the dough achieve a comparatively moist consistency at the beginning of the cycle relative to white breads since the whole grain flour takes longer to absorb the moisture.
Give this recipe a whirl and I think you’ll find that not only will you not feel the need to go back to store bought or homemade white breads but that your family and friends won’t want you to either.
Like so many seasonal or holiday baked goods hot crossed buns can be prepared any time of the year. It’s not like the bakery gremlins are going to jump out from behind the wheat barrel and confiscate “unseasonal” baking. But, all the same, there is something to be said about allowing traditions and the flow of the seasons to prompt us to mix up our culinary repertoire.
Let Easter (or now) serve as the reason to mix up your baking by preparing a batch of hot crossed buns. If you can make buns you can make hot crossed buns – the only difference is the addition of a few spices to our standard whole wheat yeast bread recipe along with a cup of raisins added just before the dough is kneaded for the second time. When the buns have cooled they get a tiny bit of icing. That’s it. Simple, easy, fast and a delicious difference. Make a batch and the bakery gremlins who make these disappear will end up being your family members.
This has been my pretty much my standard do it all whole wheat bread recipe for years. While this bread has all the health benefits of fresh 100% extraction whole wheat flour you don’t need to sell it on that basis – it tastes good.
I don’t think many folks would accuse me of being too caught up with sticking to recipes. In fact when developing and trialing ones to relay here I have to force myself to measure and record. That is due in part to my experience that most baking is fairly forgiving. The most critical element usually is ensuring the moisture level is correct.
If you are new to baking with whole grain flours be aware that they take longer to absorb liquid, and depending upon the moisture level in the grain you may need to adjust the volume of liquid in your recipe. I always look to achieve what would for white flour be considered a bit too wet (but not soupy) a dough when the dough ball is first formed by the machine. This seems to end up being just about the right amount of liquid to make a nice loaf.