Whole wheat buns

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Featuring my new Daniel Wellington watch! Which I do admit, looks rather incongruous in this picture. But I’ve been lusting after one of these babies for the longest time, so to receive this in the mail really was the highlight of the week. Now before I get on to one of the shortest and easiest recipes known to man, I feel like bringing up a book which I think everyone should read– The Story of the Human Body by this brilliant chap named Daniel L. Lieberman.

Although I am a Christian, I strongly admire the way Lieberman notes and discusses how evolution has played a gargantuan role in the making of our physicality, in our attitudes and cultures as well. What I appreciate about his writing, despite my own religious beliefs, is its systematic yet personal approach. I know I’m deviating from baking and whatnot here, but I truly found the last few chapters (particularly ‘The Hidden Dangers of Novelty and Comfort’) relevant to our attitudes towards food and diet, something most of us think very little of. You see, we have grown to lust after comfort, prized indulgence to the point that we have practically eliminated the usefulness of challenge and gruff. What do I mean? I mean we have shoes, kitchens and… delicious, processed foods right at our fingertips. That sounds like a bit of an oxymoron; how can ‘delicious’ and ‘processed’ be in the same sentence? I would agree, but I’m speaking on behalf of most of the population who favour store-bought goodies, which, sadly, are usually highly processed and jam-packed with unnecessary chemicals. The thing is, it is exactly these sugary, fatty foods which our ancestors craved back when there was no such thing as convenience stores and people like Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. There’s no harm having all this once in a while, but I’m a much stronger advocate of real food. As in, I would much rather buy ingredients to bake a lovely batch of brownies or cookies rather than spend my arse off at the grocery store. People so commonly walk down those glistening aisles, enticed by the pleasure of convenience (look! 4 mini bags of sugar puffs for $2?!) and then, like giggly robots, keep on giving the cash, trapped in an endless cycle of artificiality.

Now I’m not saying that buying junk is bad, nor does doing so make you a bad person. Hey, we’re people of a modern world right? We hurry here and there, always pressed for time, and who has hours at a go to indulge in some good old-fashioned kitchen time? Pass on the tim-tams? Ok, but wait. All this is fine as an occasional treat, but I believe more of us should make an effort to buy quality food and indulge in quality pleasure, to make up for all the lost quality in, perhaps, other aspects of our lives, and to feel good about the whole process. It saddens me to see parents buy mountains of junk, junk and more junk for their children. The thing is, they have been conditioned to enjoy the flavour of processed foods. We have become so used to these treats that the pleasure has been replaced by normalcy, and, unfortunately, excess. In the book, we glamourise comfort– we love soft beds but they are indeed bad for our backs, we love shoes when really they have caused harmful interaction between our genes and the environment, so things like flat feet or weaker Achilles heels have cropped up. And with food, we have prized the artificial so much that we forget its long-term effects. Perhaps in the future, if we go with the flow, we might become more immune to these debilitating consequences, but is not the ruggedness of physical activity and healthy, real food better than the typical sedentary, 21st century, filled with fake fad diets those horrid ‘fat-free’ labels (which, by the way, actually make one even fatter since these products are full of sugar and other chemicals to make up for the lost fat, therefore wreaking havoc on your blood sugar levels)? There is nothing wrong with having brownies baked with real chocolate, to have home-baked brioche doused in eggy batter and fried for a glorious Saturday morning french toast-themed perk-up. There is nothing better than the real stuff. The real deal. That must be said now, in a world which profits from the opposite.

Alright. I’ve done lots of ‘easy’ posts before, especially the strictly breakfast-themed ones, but this is by far the easiest. Talk about shortcuts. I started out wanting to make Semlor, the Swedish dessert comprising crisp little buns filled with almond paste and choked with whipped cream. However, along the way, I discovered that the base recipe, which I adapted from a few previous personal trials, made for the perfect whole wheat buns. They are incredibly versatile and work with any sort of topping– my favourite must be the ‘fake semla’, which you can see above, toasty and crisp, topped with whipped cream and icing sugar, as well as these little babes below. Bressert, anyone?

top: butter and marmalade bottom: almond butter, maple syrup, cinnamon and sea salt flakes
top: butter and homemade marmalade
bottom: almond butter, maple syrup, cinnamon and sea salt flakes

They are on the denser side. I think I shall experiment more with the addition of brown sugar the next time round. Slightly sweet, very robust, and go wonderfully crisp and crusty with the heat from your toaster.

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Whole wheat buns (makes 5-6)

120g white all-purpose flour, 60g whole wheat flour

5g insteant yeast

40g unsalted, melted butter

120ml (half cup) milk of choice (I used whole), at room temperature

1.5 tbsp white sugar

pinch salt

1 egg, beaten, for the egg wash

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and milk.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Be careful to have the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl, because salt is hygroscopic and induces osmotic stress on the yeast, thereby killing the poor guys.

Add half the flour mix to the wet and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Add the rest of the flour, but be careful here as you might not need all of it. It should be soft and workable, not too sticky (definitely more robust than your typical brioche or cinnamon roll dough) or moist. Roll into a ball and leave in the same bowl to rise for an hour.

If you’re making the ‘fake semla’, then here you may wish to whip up some cream (best ratio is 200ml of cream and 1 tbsp powdered sugar). Preheat the oven to 225C. After the hour, take chunks of dough and roll into balls. Mine were around 70g each. Put the balls onto a greased baking pan. Cover them and let rise for another hour. You can do this step overnight, just make sure to remove the dough at least a half hour before baking in the morning. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash.

Bake the buns in the preheated oven for 8-11 minutes. Mine took 9 exactly, The tops will be golden-brown, shiny and crusty. Once cool, which doesn’t take long at all, you may freeze these for later consumption. Before eating, slice one lengthwise, pop in the toaster, and have a toast-themed morning. I think these go especially well with butter, honey and cinnamon. Cinnamon and whole wheat anything is a yes, please.

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