Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Stuffed masala bread or is it bun - smells of childhood revisited

If you frequent my space here, you have already heard that I am not much of a baker. On the occasions I successfully bake, it is totally satisfying and therapeutic for me. Nammamma never baked anything, while she is a very eager to learn and enthusiastic cook when it came to new recipes, somehow baking was not her forte and I never saw anything baked in her kitchen. That partially explains my inhibitions towards baking. While I am good with baking soda/baking powder bakes and can whip up a mean batch of muffins any time, my yeasty tales are very woeful. When I found this other girl expressing almost the same anxiety with yeast bread but had these beautiful pictures of 'oh so well baked' yeast breads, I was hooked. It gave me that last push I needed to put on some gloves and bake these beautiful masala bun. This recipe is a 'feel good' recipe for me and you can be rest assured it is 'dummy certified' since I have made it so many times and is a winner always.

If you are a frequent reader in the food blog area, you would have seen people raving about Iyengar bakery dishes, there is almost a cult like following for this genre of baked items where I come from. These humble bakeries satisfied an entire generation of kids with their wonderfully aromatic baked goodies before the Indo Chinese, grilled sandwiches made their way into every day cuisine. We were mesmerized by the smells and texture of these local bakery breads. My parents didn't believe in 'non-home cooked' food and we were discouraged from eating outside food when we were kids and the fact that we didn't get to eat much of it made it all the more mouth watering.. My introduction to Iyengar bakery breads & buns was through a family friend.

One of my father's friends used to come visit Anna, sit and chat for a couple of hours every few weeks. He was a man who had seen lot of hardships in life, had a big family of kids he was bringing up on his own without a spouse to support. While my father looked sober every time he visited and there would be a hushed conversation between nammamma and Anna with some cash taken out of the cash box, me & my little brother looked forward to his visits. He had opened a bakery for his elder son and used to get a small loaf of fresh masala bread or a couple of buns when he visited. The two of us would hang around without being conspicuous but very anxious for that warm packet to emerge out of his small, cloth bag :-). I am not proud of the fact that we were so childish to not really see the sadness of the situation but am happy my parents did what they could to help a friend. When we were a little older, nammamma would sometimes give us an ok to go to the bakery near our house and get a snack. It was always a 'Dil khush' or 'Dil pasand' for my sweet toothed little brother while I gorged on the stuffed masala bun. These were again very rare occasions and I don't remember my parents ever eating the bakery stuff at all :-).

Post wedding, eating out was not such an uncommon thing. If you are familiar with the Malleswaram area in Bengaluru, there is a bakery called Butter sponge which made some of the best stuffed buns I have had. BH & I used to stop there almost every week on our way back home to pick some up. The place has had a make over and the last time I was there, they had converted it to a chat place serving Indo chinese, Indo-American etc. He used to make different stuffings and shapes of these buns and our favorite was the potato stuffed bun and the bell pepper masala stuffed bun. When we reached home with the masala buns, we would be greeted by two very excited dogs vigorously wagging their tails as they somehow knew the smell before the vehicle even turned the corner :-).

I made a very South Indian palya with potatoes for the stuffing this time, you can easily replace it with any other choice. The bun is soft and light and is delicious to eat even when it is cold. I prefer using bread flour in this recipe over regular AP flour as the texture is so much better with the gluten in the bread flour that gives the right elasticity to the buns.
What do you need to make stuffed buns? 
Ingredients for the buns:
Makes 12 good size buns
1.5 cup whole wheat
1/2 cup bread flour
1 Tblsp active dry yeast
3 Tblsp oil + 1 Tblsp oil (divided use)
1.5 Tblsp sugar
1/4 cup warm milk
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 Tsp salt
1 Tblsp milk for brushing
kasoori methi

Ingredients for the stuffing:
3 medium sized potatoes - boiled, peeled and mashed gently
1 medium sized onion - chopped finely
1 green chili - chopped
small piece of ginger - chopped finely
4-5 curry leaves - chopped finely
3-4 twigs of cilantro
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup frozen green peas (optional)
1 Tblsp oil
1 Tsp mustard
1 Tblsp lemon juice
1/8 Tsp turmeric
How do you make stuffed buns?
Making the bun dough:
  • Sieve the bread flour and wheat flour together with salt in a wide bowl. 
  • Dissolve sugar in the warm milk and add yeast to it, give a mix with a spoon and set aside for 5 minutes or until the mixture froths.
  • Crush the kasoori methi in your palms, add it to the flour bowl.
  • Add the frothy yeast mixture, 3 Tblsp oil and bring the dough together by hand adding water. The 1/2 cup water suggested above works perfectly for the dough, however as wheat flours are different, add water slowly and feel the dough. You should get a non sticky, elastic dough at the end.
  • Knead the dough for a good 10 minutes, smear oil all over the dough, cover with a wet napkin and set it to rise in a warm place. 
  • When the dough has risen to double its original quantity (1.5-2 hours depending on the temperature), punch it down and knead well for 5 minutes. 
Making the stuffing:
  • Heat the oil, add mustard and let it sizzle.
  • Add the green chilies, chopped curry leaves, ginger and roast for 30 seconds. 
  • Add the chopped onion, salt and turmeric and let it cook until onion sweats a little and turns limp. 
  • Add the mashed potatoes, chopped cilantro and lemon juice, give it a good mix and switch off the stove. 
Making the stuffed bun:
  • Break off golf sized balls of the dough and potato stuffing. The stuffing ball is a tad bit smaller than the dough ball.
  • Take the dough ball and flatten it into a 3 inch diameter disc, put the stuffing inside and bring the ends together to close it in. Gently roll the stuffed balls, flatten it very lightly.
  • Repeat for all the dough and stuffing. 
  • Arrange the stuffed balls in a baking tray with the seam side down with atleast an inch of space on all sides between the buns.
  • Cover with a wet napkin and let it rise for another 30 minutes. 
  • Preheat the oven to 375F and bake the buns for 10-12 minutes or until you see a very light golden brown on top.
  • Take the buns out, brush them with warm milk and bake them for another 3-4 minutes until the outside looks perfectly golden.
  • Let it cool on the rack before eating them. 
  • Kneading the dough is very important and defines the texture of your final product, do not take short cuts as this step works on the gluten in the flour, rearranging and stretching strands helping the bread dough to rise properly resulting in a light & fluffy bread. Here is a gem of a video I found which describes 'bread kneading'.
  • Pay attention to the yeast, if you do not see the bubbles start to come up within a couple of minutes, odds are high that the yeast is not potent anymore. Your best bet would be to chuck it down the drain and go buy another fresh pack of yeast. 
  • Remember to cover the dough completely with a wet napkin when you let it rise, else the surface will become dry.
  • This dough is very versatile and you can add spices or flavoring agents such as red chili powder, crushed black pepper, chopped green chilies, ajwain and bake the buns without any stuffing. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

nice narration and vert tasty bread. mouth watering

Vijayalakshmi Dharmaraj said...

loved the stuffed one...
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LG said...

ahaaa..palyada bun nodi bayalli neeru namge :D . My dad is here, so will make some for him. He loves these!

Priya said...

Masala buns are one of my weakness, never failed to baked them whenever i feel like having some.

Julie said...

healthy bake& good try!!
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Kannada Cuisine said...

Iyengar Bakery, masale bun, BUtter Sponge ah! bayalli neeru bartide ri..