Make Ahead

Em's Buns

June  7, 2011
3 Ratings
  • Makes 2-dozen buns
Author Notes

..."They're cheeky!" (TM) :-)
That's the name and slogan of my imaginary company. In my mind I even have caps and aprons with this printed on them, along with a little line drawing of a rotund bun speckled with sesame seeds. You see, when I threaten to drop out of my PhD program, which happens at least once a week, if not more (it's the only way I can keep part of my sanity and sense of autonomy) my plan for what I will do next is to start a bicycle-pulled food stand from which I will sell little stuffed buns as an afternoon snack from 2:30-5pm.
The idea for afternoon buns was inspired by the buns they have at the St. John's Hotel. I've never had their afternoon buns, but I read their description of them as "warm little buttock-like buns" and I thought it was the most hilarious and ingenious thing ever. Basically everything Fergus Henderson does is genius.
A little stuffed bun is exactly what I want as a snack in the afternoon every day. So, I decided to start working on making them. I've been working on the recipe for some months now - you know, just in case I really do decide to start my company. The idea is that the filling will be different every day, made from really good quality ingredients, based on what's in season, what seems inspiring that day etc. But, there will always be one savory and one sweet option, and if you don't want either of them, well come back tomorrow. But, I really think you want one!
I've made them with all sorts of vegetables and cheeses and fruits. Broccoli, gouda and chile flakes. Mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. Ham and cheese with mustard. Chocolate and a cherry. Jam and cream cheese. Banana and Nutella...
I wanted the dough to be the same for both savory and sweet, so after trying a whole bunch of different styles, I opted for an enriched dough that's still a bit south of being brioche rich. It's really pliable and easy to work with when it is cold after its refrigerator rise.
Here are a couple of my favorite buns that seem appropriate for this time of year. I've written the recipe so you can make half the batch savory and half sweet.
And hey, they also make fabulous picnic food - I can say this from experience! - fiveandspice —fiveandspice

Test Kitchen Notes

I made these buns over the weekend to take to various holiday festivities, and they were a big hit. The flavor combinations, especially in the savory bun, were spot-on. I loved the fatty-salty combo of sausage and green olives, and the strawberry-brie mixture was just sweet enough to toe the line between dessert and afternoon snack. I did have a problem with my buns leaking in the oven; next time, I think I'd use a little less filling and shape the dough a little thicker. Otherwise, these were wonderful! —Kate Williams

What You'll Need
  • Bun dough
  • 1 1/2 cups good quality whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons un salted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons raw cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten (save the white for the egg wash)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 cups about, all purpose flour (plus more as needed)
  • Bun filling
  • 6 ounces provolone cheese, cut into 12 small cubes
  • 6-7 ounces good quality hard salami, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped, pitted green olives
  • 6 ounces good brie (or another similar triple creme cheese)- rind removed and cut into 12 pieces (this is easier if it is cold)
  • 1 cup finely chopped strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 egg white for egg wash
  • sesame seeds for sprinkling
  • pearl sugar for sprinkling
  1. Bun dough
  2. Heat the milk to just over 100F, then in a large bowl, stir together the warm milk, melted butter, sugar, and yeast. Let this stand for about 5 minutes, until the yeast is foamy.
  3. Stir in the 2 eggs, egg yolk, and salt. Then stir in about 4-4 1/2 cups of the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. (This can all be done in the bowl of a standing mixer using a bread hook as well). At this point you should have a shaggy dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface (use the last 1/2 cup of flour) and knead, adding more flour in small amounts if needed (ooh, pun!), for about 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and smooth. If you're mixing the dough in a mixer, add a bit of the extra flour (about 1/4-1/2 cup), just enough to give you a stiff dough and mix on low with the bread hook for 10 minutes.
  5. Coat a deep bowl with a little bit of oil, put the dough into the bowl, turn the dough to lightly coat it with oil, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and stick it in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. After about 12 hours, punch down the dough, then fill and bake it as directed below.
  1. Bun filling
  2. First off, toss the strawberries with the sugar and mint and set aside.
  3. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, punch it down, and divide it in half. Put half back in the fridge. Roll the half you have out into a log, then divide this log into 12 equal pieces (I usually divide it in half, then half again, then thirds, but if I were really being detail oriented I would use a scale).
  4. One at a time, take a piece and roll it into a ball. Stretch this ball into a circle about a quarter inch thick, and pull it even thinner around the edges.
  5. In the middle of the dough circle, place one piece of provolone, a couple little pieces of salami (1/12th of the salami pieces, in fact), and a small scoop of the chopped olives. Then, take the edges of the circle and gather them up around the filling, pinching and twisting them tightly together to close up the bun. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  6. Repeat this procedure with the remaining 11 pieces that you cut filling them with the provolone, salami, olive mix. Once this dozen are on the baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
  7. Then, start the second dozen. Take the remaining dough out of the fridge and divide it into 12 pieces.
  8. Fill these buns in the same manner as the first, except put a piece of brie and a scoop of the strawberries in each. Put these buns on a second parchment lined baking sheet. When finished, cover with a clean towel and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350F. When the first dozen buns have finished rising, brush them with the egg white and sprinkle them with a pinch of sesame seeds each. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a cooling rack immediately.
  10. In the meantime, brush the second dozen buns with the egg wash and sprinkle them with a pinch of pearl sugar each. When the first batch is baked, bake the second batch.
  11. The buns are the very best still slightly warm from the oven, and are definitely best the day they are baked. But, they keep for a couple of days and rewarm nicely. (And of course, they're especially good sold out of a special food stand trailer attached to a bike parked on a street corner...I imagine.)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • deanna1001
  • drbabs
  • gingerroot
  • Beautiful, Memorable Food
    Beautiful, Memorable Food
  • nogaga

26 Reviews

deanna1001 July 8, 2011
Nice buns! I have been working with sourdough for a couple of years now and wondered if you've tried to make the dough with a starter rather than yeast? If so, let me know...if not, I may start playing with it and see what I come up with... So many ideas for fillings should keep me busy for quite a while. Thanks.
fiveandspice July 8, 2011
Thanks deanna! I have not tried to make the dough with a starter because I killed my starter a while back (it didn't survive a period of freezing, even though I was told it woul :(. ) But, if you experiment with it, let me know how it goes! It's super fun to try all sorts of different fillings. It does take a little practice to get them to seal well, as Kate pointed out in her testing notes. But, have fun with it!
drbabs June 11, 2011
i love everything about this.
fiveandspice June 11, 2011
Thanks drbabs!
gingerroot June 10, 2011
Love this! I have had the same daydream. Maybe I could be your Pacific outpost?
fiveandspice June 11, 2011
Love it! With two outposts, they can be a "nationwide" sensation! ;)
Beautiful, M. June 8, 2011
This sounds fantastic! There are Chinese and Japanese buns like these, but your fillings are much more creative and delicious sounding than those traditional versions.
fiveandspice June 11, 2011
Thank you! They are partially inspired by the Chinese and Japanese buns, but I wanted to make them more bite sized, and definitely get creative with the fillings.
nogaga June 8, 2011
Great! ;)
fiveandspice June 11, 2011
boulangere June 8, 2011
And by the way, there have been way worse ideas than your bicycle-drawn food cart. Very clever, and pretty darn cheeky.
fiveandspice June 11, 2011
Thank you!
boulangere June 8, 2011
Beautiful photos. I remember a few sanity-saving rituals from graduate school, too. Threatening to burn the place to the ground was often bandied about.
fiveandspice June 11, 2011
Ha! I haven't yet threatened to burn the place to the ground, but I may start toying with a mental image of that too. I think it will also include all of us doctoral students doing a ritual dance around the ashes...and of course nobody will be hurt (one of the best parts of imaginary scenarios).
hardlikearmour June 8, 2011
I love this idea! Maybe you should quit school.
fiveandspice June 11, 2011
As soon as I have my dough recipe completely, completely perfect (at which point it will also be proprietary, hehe) I just may... :)
boulangere June 8, 2011
OMG how clever - your idea and your buns. Last night I posted a recipe for Buffalo Girls - homage to different anatomical parts.
fiveandspice June 8, 2011
Haha! That's awesome. I have to go take a look.
lapadia June 8, 2011
Double thumbs up!
fiveandspice June 8, 2011
Thank you lapadia!
mrslarkin June 7, 2011
Hooray for Em's Buns! They sound delish.
fiveandspice June 8, 2011
Thank you mrsl! They're pretty tasty little morsels.
lorigoldsby June 7, 2011
Cheeky bugger (as my friend the Brit says....). Great idea,
fiveandspice June 8, 2011
Haha! The Brits have the best expressions. Thanks!
Midge June 7, 2011
Brilliant! I'd be a regular!
fiveandspice June 8, 2011
Aw, thanks! I'd give you your buns for free! :)