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Slide into the versatility of quick and easy holiday breads

Thanksgiving leftovers sliders. David Samson / Forum News Service1 / 3
Quick and easy cinnamon rolls. David Samson / Forum News Service2 / 3
50 minute hamburger buns. David Samson / Forum News Service3 / 3

FARGO — For the past three months, I've been playing with a recipe I found online for quick and easy buns, and I haven't tired of it yet. In fact, I think this may just be one of my best discoveries of 2017. In addition to being delicious, I love the speed and versatility of these buns, which can be made either sweet or savory in an under an hour.

Unlike many homemade bread recipes where the dough needs time to rise, sometimes in multiple stages, this dough needs minimal rising time thanks to two tablespoons of active dry yeast that speed the process along. The original recipe called for only 10 minutes of rising time, and I've had good results with that instruction, but even better when I've let the buns rise for 15 to 20 minutes before baking.

I've made these buns in a variety of sizes: large for hamburgers, medium for game-day sandwiches, and small for sliders, like today's Thanksgiving Leftovers Sliders, which are stacked with turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing.

I use my stand mixer with the dough hook attachment to make the dough, which further enhances the ease and speed of this recipe, but you could also mix the dough by hand. Once smooth and elastic, I divide the dough into the desired number of pieces and form each piece into a smooth ball.

Tony has an excellent chef's technique for making each ball smooth and uniform, and I've included these steps in the recipe. For a visual demonstration, King Arthur Flour has an excellent, one-minute YouTube video which you can find by Googling "how to shape dinner rolls video."

Recently, I branched out to see how this dough would perform when used to make cinnamon buns. I increased the amount of sugar in the recipe to a quarter-cup, and instead of rolling the dough into individual buns, I used a rolling pin to form a large rectangle.

For the filling, I brushed the surface with melted butter and then generously covered it with a mixture of brown sugar, ground cinnamon and vanilla extract. Chopped pecans could also be added to satisfy nut-lovers, and I would lightly toast them first for better flavor.

Once the buns had baked, I Iet them cool for five to 10 minutes, then topped them with a vanilla glaze. This step is best done when the buns are still warm, but not hot, as the warmth enables the glaze to find and settle into all the nooks and crannies.

To say that these cinnamon buns were a hit would be an understatement. They were sweet, gooey and delicious, and quickly gobbled up by my small family within minutes after coming out of the oven. They will definitely be on our Christmas brunch menu.

This recipe has everything going for it: it's quick, easy and affordable to make, versatile in its use, and absolutely delicious, whether served savory or sweet.

Quick and Easy Homemade Buns

Makes: 24 slider buns, 8 to 10 hamburger buns, or 12 sandwich buns

Ingredients

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon salt

3 to 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Optional egg wash

Beat 1 egg with 2 tablespoons water until well combined and frothy

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Prepare baking sheets by greasing with butter or cooking spray, or line with a piece of parchment paper.

Fit your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. In the mixing bowl, mix the yeast and warm water on low speed for 10 seconds, just to combine. Add the oil and sugar, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Add the egg, salt and 3 cups of flour and knead on medium speed until a soft dough forms. If the dough appears too sticky, add the remaining ½ cup of flour and continue kneading until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Use your hands to knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 to 5 minutes, adding extra flour in small amounts as needed. Do not let rise.

For hamburger buns, divide dough into 8 or 10 pieces; for sandwich buns, dividing dough into 12 pieces; for slider buns, divide dough into 24 pieces.

Form each section of dough into a ball by tucking the corners underneath and then cup your hand around the ball and roll in circular motion, on an un-floured surface, until a smooth ball is formed.

Place dough balls at least 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet; cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. For hamburger buns, gently press the top of each bun to flatten slightly before covering (not necessary for slider or sandwich buns).

For a glossy finish, brush the top of each bun with egg wash just before placing in the oven. Bake at 425 degrees for 8 to 12 minutes, until the tops are an even, golden brown. Remove buns from sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To store: Place buns in an airtight container and store at room temperature for at least 3 days, or place on a baking sheet for one hour in the freezer, and then transfer buns to a plastic zipper bag or airtight container and freeze for at least two months. Remove from freezer, place on prepared baking sheet and let thaw as oven heats to 425 degrees. Frozen rolls may need a few more minutes to bake.

Sarah's Best Cinnamon Buns

Makes: 9 to 12 medium-large buns, about 24 small buns

Ingredients

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

¼ cup sugar

1 large or extra-large egg

1 teaspoon salt

3 to 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ to 1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted (optional)

For the glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Grease a 10-inch square pan with butter or cooking spray; set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, nuts (if using) and vanilla until well combined; set aside.

Fit your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. In the mixing bowl, mix the yeast and warm water on low speed for 10 seconds, just to combine. Add the oil and sugar, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Add the egg, salt and 3 cups of flour and knead on medium speed until a soft dough forms, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too sticky, add the remaining ½ cup of flour and continue kneading until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Use your hands to knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 to 5 minutes. Lightly dust a rolling pin with flour and roll the dough into a rectangle, approximately 16 x 9 inches, keeping the surface lightly dusted with flour.

Melt the butter and use a brush to generously coat the surface of the dough, leaving about a quarter-inch border free of butter. Cover buttered dough evenly with the filling.

Starting at one end, roll the dough tightly into a log and then cut evenly into 9-12 pieces. Place each roll next to one another in the greased pan, cut-side-up. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until the filling bubbles and the tops are golden brown. If the buns appear to brown too quickly, lightly cover with aluminum foil for duration of baking time.

Remove buns from oven and let cool on a wire rack, in the pan, for 10 minutes before adding the glaze.

Prepare the glaze by mixing all of the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. To thicken, add more sugar, or more milk to thin out, until desired consistency is achieved.

Pour or spoon glaze over warm buns until evenly distributed. Serve immediately or cover pan and store at room temperature for 3 days.

To freeze: Best when frozen before baking. Place cut buns on a baking sheet and freeze for one hour. Transfer frozen rolls to a plastic zipper bag or airtight container and freeze for at least two months. Remove from freezer, place on prepared baking sheet and let thaw as oven heats to 400 degrees. Frozen rolls may need a few more minutes to bake.

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