Breakfast buns after baking. One cinnamon sugar for the 7 year old.

Overnight No-Kneed Breakfast Rolls

There’s a local bakery chain in Boston called Flour. One of my favorite items is their breakfast sandwiches. Going out for breakfast, however, is a challenge when you don’t live close to said bakery and you have two young children.

I’ve long sought to replicate the experience at home. Fortunately, my recent experiences with pizza dough have made it much easier to reproduce these treats. I’ll go through the fillings in a subsequent post, but the rolls are dead simple to make. You’ll need a pizza peel (or the back of a baking sheet), parchment paper, and a baking stone in your oven. If you don’t have a baking stone, you can probably get away with just cook these on a baking sheet, but you may have to cook them a bit longer.

This recipe makes 4 rolls, but feel free to scale up or down as needed.

The night before you intend to eat these, mix the following ingredients in a bowl (choose one big enough to allow room for more than doubling):

  • 280g bread flour (I like Caputo 00, but you can use whatever is convenient; even AP will do in a pinch)
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 196g room temperature water

Mix the dry ingredients together then add in the water. With a spoon, stir the mixture until all the flour is absorbed, but you don’t have to kneed the dough. The gluten will develop on its own. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight.

Preparing for tomorrow's breakfast with @asciirun

The next morning, place a piece of parchment paper on a pizza peel (the back of an overturned baking sheet will do if you don’t have one). Brush the surface with a thin coating of olive oil. Preheat your oven to 375 °F, turning on convection if you have it. If you have a baking stone or baking steel (I use the latter), make sure you give your oven adequate time to warm up (at least 30 minutes).

Turn out the dough onto a floured countertop and divide into four equal portions. The dough will be wet, so leave some extra flour around to dust the dough as needed. Fold each piece down while rotating it in your hands so the dough forms a ball with the folds connecting at the bottom. You should be able to accomplish this with about four quarter-turns of the dough. The idea is you want the out surface of the dough to be stretched to help the dough ball keep its shape.

As you finish each roll, place it on the parchment paper. When you are done, brush each lightly with olive oil. For a sweet version (my son loves these), you can then take some of these rolls and toss them gently in a bowl with cinnamon sugar (e.g. 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 4 teaspoons sugar, mixed well) before returning to the parchment.

Breakfast buns before...

Use the peel to shuttle the parchment paper onto the baking stone/steel and cook for 15 minutes. The internal temperature should be above 200° F. Let the rolls cool on a baking rack, ideally for around 30 minutes, though I’ve been known to be impatient.

Cut the rolls in half horizontally and make a sandwich of your choosing (e.g. egg, tomato, bacon). The cinnamon sugar version is great with cream cheese.

Brisket in the tank. Trying Baldwin's #sousvide approach with 176° F x 24h, but with a BBQ rub.

Brisket sous vide

It’s important to remember that sous vide is not a panacea. As with any cooking method, the results may differ from what you expect. You might think that sous vide would take out much of the variability, since the temperature and cooking time can be so precisely control, but variability in what you are cooking, and what you expect, can lead to (sometimes unwanted) surprises. After my successful run at cooking ribs sous vide, I tried the same with beef brisket. Brisket is supposedly one of the ideal cuts for sous vide, as the long cooking times possible with sous vide can break down the tough fibers of this cut.

I’m not really a big beef brisket eater. In fact, I can’t really recall the last time i had it. For this approach, I tried Douglas Baldwin’s approach of cooking at 176° F for 24 hours. The results were a dry, uninspiring meat that was reasonable doused in barbecue sauce, but nothing particularly impressive. To be fair to Baldwin, I didn’t follow his recommendation to brine the meat, but rather used a barbecue rub and torched the meat post-tank to give some character to the exterior.

I did freeze half the brisket prior to cooking though, so I may try this again soon…


Back underwater

I discovered the sous vide approach some time ago. The idea is simple: take vacuum packed pieces of food and place them in a temperature controlled water bath to ensure even cooking. It sounds almost foolproof, but in fact can be somewhat finicky. It’s key to find not only the right temperature, but the right cooking time. My first attempts at sous vide filet mignon were cooked at 130° F for 8 hours. The steaks appeared to be an even medium rare but, because of the extended cooking duration, had become mushy. Shortening the duration to 1 hour and adding a finishing sear led to some of the best steaks I have ever had.

I have tried a few other food sous vide, including eggs and salmon, but didn’t particularly like the results. So, aside from the occasional steak, my Sous Vide Magic went mostly unused.

When rain threatened to sabotage my Fourth of July barbecue ribs, I turned to the sous vide approach again, using this approach: a rack of Saint Louis ribs prepared with rub after removing the membrane and excess fat, cut into 3 sections, bagged, then cooked at 138 °F for 24 hours. I finished them off with a few minutes under the broiler. With one section, I the brushed the ribs in Kansas City barbecue sauce and gave it another quick broil.

The results were fantastic, and far superior to my attempt the week prior on the charcoal grill (likely because I had given the ribs inadequate time to tenderize fully). They were certainly much easier to prepare. The only thing missing was a bit of smokiness. I might try a bit of liquid smoke or smoked salt with the next attempt.


Caramel oatmeal

I am still working on perfecting this technique, but the basic idea is this: why not combine the heartiness of oatmeal with the smooth, rich flavor of caramel. Boil some water and measure out 1 cup in a glass measuring cup and set aside. Add 3 tablespoons of sugar to a a small saucepan and turn the heat to medium high. After a few minutes, the sugar will melt and turn into. A clear liquid. Turn down the heat to medium and stir gently. When the liquid turns a rich amber, carefully pour in the water and stir, making sure no solid sugar remains on the bottom of the saucepan.

Now crank up the heat to high, so the water is really boiling. Add a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of rolled oats (not the nasty instant or “quick” oats, please). Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and stop when the oats have reached a consistency a bit wetter than you’d like, since they thicken as they cool. Transfer to a bowl and enjoy.

3 tablespoons may seem like a lot of sugar, but I’ve found the caramelization process reduces the sweetness considerably.


Steeling my resolve

I tend to collect obsessions as I get older. Many of them involve cooking. One that has evolved over the years is pizza making. I started making my own pizza dough over 5 years ago, but I have slowly refined the recipe to settle on one that is fairly reliable.

Making pizza at home is great because not only can you tailor it to your personal tastes (I find many pizzerias too greasy), but you can guarantee that the pizza will be fresh.

My general approach is to make the dough one to two days in advance and let it’s flavor mature in the refrigerator for a couple days before using it. I add a simple sauce, Maplebrook Farm mozzarella, and a few toppings.

For the past several years I cooked the pizza on a stone in my maxed out oven, giving it at least an hour to warm up. This has worked very well, and improved even further once I added convection. The pizza cooks in about 6 minutes, and the results are great, though the crust has never been as crispy as I would like.

Recently, I discovered the Baking Steel, a quarter inch thick, 15 pound behemoth that replaces the stone. The idea is that steel transfers heat to the dough better than stone. To my surprise it worked rather well. I’m still experimenting, but it definitely added a crispness that I was missing before. Next up is trying the elusive Neapolitan style, which has never worked well for me in the past.