Nice poster, no? ;-) It was in the bathroom of a bar in Cologne I went to two weeks back. I couldn’t resist taking a photo. It was one of those evenings where just walking around outside left you covered in a fine sweaty film – the humidity must have been about 95%. So the poster certainly looked…refreshing. Haven’t tried the drink advertised though.
It is barbeque season over here and for some reasons we’ve been more enthusiastic about barbequing this year. We don’t have a balcony or our own yard, but there is a lovely shared garden downstairs with a built-into-the-wall hand-made grill that one of the neighbors apparently crafted many years back. And during the summer the picnic table comes out – another neighbor – and sometimes there are spontaneous grill parties.
And while I like a juicy burger or bratwurst, I’m generally trying to think up something more interesting to put on the grill. A couple weeks back I invited a bunch of friends over for a korean taco barbeque. Two nights later I tried out some thai meatball sliders. In each case, the standard German bread option wasn’t really a great pairing and getting fresh brioche buns is difficult here. The packaged hamburger and hot dog buns in the grocery stores leave something wanting here as well. On a whim, I decided to test out a momofuku bun recipe (thank you, David Chang!) with the thai sliders. And that was a major win.
The buns are meant to be for pork belly bites. But they work really well with any spicy meat. They’re a bit of work to make, so make sure you have a couple hours at your disposal to tend to them. They need to rise three times. But if you’re doing other stuff around the house, the active time to create them is not terrible. Make sure to make an entire recipe – it’s worth it and you can freeze them.
Based on David Chang’s recipe, but slightly modified.
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1.5 cups water, room temp.
4.25 cups bread flour (sorry – I know this is a miserable measurement – it should be by weight, but this is what Mr. Chang thought was good enough, I think you could go with even a bit more flour.)
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Rounded 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup rendered pork fat or veggie shortening at room temp
1) combine the yeast, water and sugar in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes and foam. Add the flour, salt, baking powder and soda and fat and mix (in a mixer or with your hands) for about 8 to 10 minutes, kneading as the dough comes together. I used my bread machine to do it for me and that worked perfectly. The dough gathers into a neat ball, a bit shiny.
2) Lightly oil a medium bowl, put the dough in it, cover with a dry kitchen towel. Let it rise about 1 hour 15 min.
3) Cut out 50 squares of baking paper, each about 3 inches square.
4) Punch the dough down and turn it out on your work surface. Divide the dough into 50 pieces, each about 25 grams. Don’t be lazy, use a kitchen scale. You want these things uniform in size. If you can’t get 50 pieces, go with what you can – I only got about 38.
5) Put the balls/pieces to the side somewhere to rise for 30 min.
6) Roll out each piece into an oblong oval shape about 4 inches in length. Take a chopstick, coat with a bit of grease – oil or shortening – and gently fold the oblong oval in half over the chopstick and then slide the chopstick out. You want to create a little hollow in the middle of the bun where it can easily be separated later after steaming. Place on a square of baking paper. Put each one to the side as you roll.
7) Let the buns rest again 30 minutes. They should look something like this.
8) Get your steamer ready. I have one with two layers. More convenient. Place the buns – perhaps about 10 per layer in my case – in the steamer and let steam cook for about 10 minutes. Work in batches. Remove and let cool.
After they’re all done and cool, simply bag the buns you won’t eat and freeze. They keep for months.
For the barbeque – you can take frozen buns and put directly on the bbq – they’ll quickly defrost and get nice little grill marks. But if they’re fresh you can choose to put them on the grill or not – or even resteam them for a few minutes to defrost them if you like.
Pair with a meatball or other spicy alternative, a few green onion slivers, perhaps a slice of cucumber, a little kimchi – whatever you fancy.