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Traditional Russian Mennonite Buns

These buns aren't just buns, they are a history lesson and a sociology study wrapped into a tasty tasty snack.  This bun recipe has been in my family for a long long time, possibly since the late 19th century.  In any case, my grandmother made them back in Molotschna, my mom makes them and so do I.  These buns are really general purpose buns, but particularly appropriate for Sunday afternoon early supper (Vaspa), or served after funerals, in a church basement, with cheese and coffee.  What makes them a bit different than what we usually see on the Fresh Loaf is that they contain a lot of fat, in this case lard, and they are shaped with a sort of "extrusion" technique.  

The lard content is an honest byproduct of the heritage of the buns. Mennonites (and of course lots of other folks) were in the past  a primarily agrarian people, and raising pigs was a big part of farm life.  Butchering and rendering produced lard, which was an important and primary source of fat.  Lard was used in day-to-day baking, long before the advent of "shortening" and other manufactured fats.  Lard has gotten a bad name in the recent past, but is now making a bit of a comeback because its healthier than previously proclaimed (by the margarine/shortening cabal).    In any case, these buns contain a fair bit of lard, in an honest, farmyardish sort of way.

The buns also contain a fair bit of sugar, which speeds the rising.  I appreciate that sugar and fast rising is anathema to some, but really its a practical way of making a buns much quicker, which is an important consideration when cooking on a busy farm or household. Besides, the buns taste great. 

The mystery ingredient is vinegar.  I really have no idea why there is vinegar in the recipe, but there is and I use it. Anyone care to hazard a guess?

The buns are shaped by extruding them between your thumb and forefinger and then being pinched off.  I haven't seen the extrusion shaping technique described (I haven't looked hard either), my Mom taught me how to do this and it works pretty well.  The pictures below and the description will hopefully inspire you to try it out. 

Here's the recipe

Mix: 

 1 cup Lard Try to get a non-hydrogentated lard, not all lards are equal. 

4 cups hot water.

Lard and Water

The hot water softens the lard.

Add:

2 teaspoons Salt

1/2 cup Sugar

1 tablespoon Vinegar

4 Cups Flour

Stir vigourously until you get a nice sponge going. Because of the hot water used in stage one, the sponge will be warm.  If its hot, then let it cool down a bit before the next step.

Buns Sponge

 Add:

1 Tablespoon instant yeast (this may be the "non-traditional" part of the recipe, but it works well)

Gradually add in:

About 4 more cups of flour

At this stage you should have a fairly moist rough dough. you may have to add more flour if its too sticky. Go by what feels right, that's my Oma's way of baking.

Buns Rough Dough

 

Turn out on a well floured surface and start kneading, adding flour as required, about 15 minutes.

Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 to 45 minutes. (There is a lot of yeast and sugar in this dough, so it doesn't take long)

The Shaping Technique

Here's the interesting part, this shaping technique takes a bit of practice, but once you get the idea you can shape buns fairly quickly.

To shape the buns, tear or cut out a section of the dough and grab with your left hand.

Make an open circle with your left thumb and forefinger, then push the dough through circle with your right hand, from underneath.

dough extruding 1

 The dough should be stretched through. 

dough extruding 2

Now pinch off the bulging dough ball with your left hand thumb and forefinger, and place the resulting ball of dough on a baking sheet.

 

Cover and let the buns rise until doubled, about 30 to 45 minutes, perhaps a bit longer. 

They should look very light and not spring back when depressed.

buns tray

Bake in a 400F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until nice and brown on top. 

 buns finished

Mmmm, these are good buns.  Slather on the butter and clover honey from the canadian praries, and it's just about the best thing you've ever had.

Bake on!

 

 

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canuck

So, since the last post (which was quite some time ago), we moved back to Canada after three years of living in Africa.  I had a really good sourdough starter going in Zambia, it was reliable and very active, and I didn't want to just dump it.   I looked around and found some pages which described how to dry starter for transport, so that's what I did.  Here are the steps:

 1) I shmeared (thats a technical term,ha) a thin layer of starter all over a piece of baking paper, which I put on a cookie sheet.  In a couple of days it was pretty dried out and started lifting off the baking paper.  I let it dry out another day and then it was really dry and coming off the baking paper in big flakes.

 2) I took all the flakes, put them in a zip-lock bag and crunched them up into something that was close to powder.  it was a little a chunky, but still fine.

3)  I packed the zip-lock into our baggage and hoped for the best.  With all the airline paranoia I was a bit worried about explaining a bag full of white powder to the customs agent.  "Well, it is organic, and I use it...to..um....bake."  Sure, what will the sniffer dogs think? Luckily, nobody looked at our bags and the starter made it to Canada without any questions being asked. 

4) After we got home, I simply mixed the dried out started with some water and some flour in a covered container and let it sit.  At first, nothing happened, but after a few days a few bubbles appeared,  I then fed the starter some more and let it sit, and it became more active.  A couple more feed and refresh cylcles and it was going good as new.

 So, now we have Zambian starter in Canada.  I've used it a couple of times and it works great, so I'm pretty happy.  I'm no yeast scientist, I wonder if there are that many different strains of yeast that something that started in Africa would be very different than a starter started in Canada, from the "kind of yeast" point of view.  Anyone care to venture a guess?

 

 

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canuck

Hello Folks, this is my first post on The Fresh Loaf, altough I have been reading and trying out recipes for a long time.

I wanted to share a very easy recipe for Sourdough Onion Rye, which is an adaption of pretty much everything I have learned from this site. It's really quite easy to make and comes out fine every time, so good luck and please give me feedback, I would love to hear about your experience.

The Starter

I use a fairly wet "batter" style sourdough starter. I keep it in the fridge and refresh it after I use it and then let it sit out for a while. Right now I am living in Zambia, this starter is therefore infested with Zambian yeast - I wonder if there is a difference? In any case, it's pretty active and works really well.

The Flour

I love reading the discussions about the various types and properties of flour, and how important a specific type of flour is for one recipe or another. In Zambia, we get two types of flour: Bread Flour and Cake Flour, that's it. I use Bread Flour and it works great. Rye flour is harder to come by, I get mine from a local bakery that imports it from South Africa. I have no idea exactly what kind of Rye it is, it looks sort of a like a medium extraction. I have learned not to worry too much, it all comes out tasting pretty good.

The Recipe

The night before baking, start the poolish.

about 1/2 cup starter

3 cups bread or all-purpose flour

1 cup Rye flour

2 cups of water.

Mix it all together, cover and let sit overnight.

The Next Morning.

Add to the poolish:

3 cups of flour as before

1 cup of Rye, as before

1 large (raw) Onion, finely chopped

(Optional) 1 Tablespoon Dried Dill

1 Tablespoon Salt

3/4 Cup water.

Mix well and let sit for twenty minutes.

This makes a pretty wet dough, one of you scientists can figure out the hydration. Because of the rye flour its quite sticky. I find the best way to mix it is to just get my hands in there and squish it all together.

After it sits, knead for 10 minutes. You will need to use quite a bit of flour as the dough is very sticky. After kneading cover and let rise until doubled, about two hours.

 Sourdough Onion Rye dough, just after kneading

After rising, dump the dough onto a well floured surface and cut in half. Stretch each half **gently** into a ball, then **gently** stretch into a loaf shape. You don't want to squish the air bubbles. I find the "envelope" method of shaping just a bit too vigorous.

Transfer the the loaves onto baking paper, cover and let rise for about an hour.

 Sourdough Onion Rye - Shaping the loaves

 

Sourdough Onion Rye - Ready for the Oven

Sourdough Onion Rye - Ready for the Oven

Meanwhile, preheat your stone and your oven to 450/220. Then transfer your loaf onto the stone, I use the back of a cookie sheet as a peel. When the loaf is in the oven use whatever steam method you prefer, I simply toss a cup of water into the bottom of the over and shut the door. Bake for about 25 minutes, turn the loaf once. I have a very small oven, so I can only bake one loaf at a time.

Take the bread out, and let it cool for as long as you can, and then enjoy! Also makes great toast!

Sourdough Onion Rye - The Finished Product

Sourdough Onion Rye - The Finished Product

Your feedback greatly appreciated

Cheers!

 

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