This has been adapted from an old Betty Crocker cookbook. When I first started making bread regularly our kids were small and they loved these buns. In the intervening years I’ve learned a lot more about making bread of all kinds, so tweaking this recipe was bound to happen sooner or later. With almost all of the family here for Christmas Eve dinner it seems like the perfect opportunity to introduce an updated favorite.
The original recipe calls for making a starter a day or two before mixing together the final dough, but it uses a whole packet of yeast. Since I always have 100% hydration (equal parts water and flour) sourdough starter, my version of this recipe uses the discard from refreshment. If you don’t keep a starter you can instead mix up a pre-ferment, which is simply a small percentage of the dough recipe (minus salt) mixed 12-24 hours ahead of the final dough mix and then set aside to ripen. In my 60-65ºF kitchen, initial proofing took 5 hours. At that point I shaped buns, placing them in a greased 9″x13″ cake pan with a cover. They were then refrigerated overnight, about 10 hours. In the morning they had barely risen so I set them on the kitchen counter for almost 4 hours till they looked puffy, then baked as directed in the recipe. All those little blisters on the surface of the buns? That’s what you get after a long, cool rise.
Bigas, poolish, and sponges are all forms of pre-ferments. The object is to add depth of flavor and a little boost to the final dough. This isn’t a strictly sourdough bread though, because it contains some commercial yeast, which can be reduced or eliminated if your starter is strong. To make it without any starter, use about ¼ teaspoon of instant yeast to make a pre-ferment, scaling the recipe at about 25%. That will give you enough pre-ferment for at least 3 batches.
Make this a whole grain hybrid by replacing up to 1/4 of the total flour weight with whole wheat, rye, or spelt flours. The pre-ferment can be all white flour.
– Joan, 21 December 2020
Sourdough discard buns
- ¾ cup (190 grams) milk
- ¾ cup (170 grams) water
- 4 teaspoons (18 grams) olive oil
- ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
- 4 teaspoons (20 grams) sugar
- 1¼ teaspoons (7½ grams) salt
- 3¾ cups (490 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1¾ tablespoons (30 grams) 100% hydration sourdough starter discard
Warm the milk, water, and olive oil to lukewarm (no warmer than 100ºF), then stir in the starter discard. Stir together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Pour the liquid into the dry mixture and stir to combine. Don’t knead, but do fold and push to make sure all of the ingredients are mixed. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. Fold in quarters, rest for another 30 minutes and repeat the folding 2 more times, for a total of 4 folds. After all the folds you should see a very noticeable difference in the dough’s texture. It should be soft and supple and beginning to show signs of rising. Place in a greased container, cover and let rise till almost doubled. When the dough has risen divide into 15 equal portions (about 55-60 grams each) and shape into buns. Cover again and let rise till almost doubled, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, let them warm up for about 30 minutes before baking. They may need more time if they haven’t risen much in the fridge – mine took an additional 4 hours. Brush tops with a mixture of egg white and water beaten together.
Preheat oven to 425ºF. Bake buns for 10-12 minutes, reduce heat to 350ºF and continue baking another 10 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Cool 15-20 minutes and serve warm.