Poppy seed Pastry Buns
Can I just start off saying that I come from a family where our grandma used to be the queen of all things baked, bulochki/pastries and roulades in particular? Her bulochki (aka pastries) were so soft, so fragrant, so delicious and for years I tried to make mine similar to the way hers came out and never succeeded. Mine were soft and delicious when they just came out of the oven, but would harden or go stale very quickly.
Other times, in an attempt to make my pastries softer and stay fresh longer, I would increase the amount of liquid in the recipe, which would result pastries that looked like a melted candle, all liquidy and almost runny, while good on taste, not so much on presentation. I don’t quit easily, in fact I don’t know one recipe where I quit before reaching the desired goal.
Over the years I have gained a lot of knowledge about the yeast dough, how it works, what it likes and what it dislikes. I think this recipe will conclude my search for the perfect dough, perfect technique and perfect pastries. I am really excited to share it with you, as I like knowing that I helped someone find that perfect poppy seed bun recipe and saved you from the same trouble that I had finding it.
Here’s some general theoretical knowledge about yeast dough, that I have collected over the years.
Secrets to success with Yeast Dough
Knead until the gluten is well developed.
- What is gluten, you ask? Gluten is what gives the elastic texture to baked goods. This happens when the water and flour bind into a strong system that holds like glue. Dough with no gluten tears into chunks if you were trying to rip a piece away. Dough with well-developed gluten pulls similarly to glue.
- To find out if the gluten is well-developed flatten walnut size ball of dough into a disk, then stretch between two hands into a “window” through which you’re able to see. The dough should stretch into a thin film-like window and not break. This indicates that the gluten is well developed. This test is called the “windowpane test”. When kneading with a mixer, at this stage the dough stops sticking to the bowl.
Why is gluten development important?
- Gluten is what will eventually hold the dough structure around the air bubbles as they expand. The strands of gluten will easily stretch and easily accommodate for the air. If the gluten is not developed and you proof the dough and then shape it, most likely it will result in a very misshapen product that ‘runs’ instead of holding its shaped and deflates very easily.
- If you braid a challah, it will most likely tear at each twist, as there is not enough gluten development for the dough to properly stretch with the rise, and if you were to make a roulade, then it will most likely be flat’ish instead of holding the round shape.
What is “Strong flour”?
- When the word “strong” is used to describe flour, it usually means that it is high in gluten content. The higher the gluten content, the more moisture the dough can hold. That’s how in ciabatta bread dough you can have a high ratio of water to flour and still get bread with huge bubbles that don’t collapse as you take it out of the oven.
Fat in yeast dough
Fat is what makes the bread soft and pastry-like. Fat is also what inhibits the formation of gluten. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it comes to shortbread cookies. Why do you think it’s called “shortbread”? That’s right, because the gluten strands had no chance to form and therfor are short. Knowing when to add the fat will determine the texture of the baked goods.
If the fat is added after the gluten is fully developed, the pre-formed gluten networks will allow the dough to keep its shape when being formed and baked, while butter will keep the pastry fluffy and soft.
Adding the fat before the water and flour have had the chance to bind together into a strong network, will prevent gluten development as each flour particle would be covered in fat, therefore inhibiting or not allowing any gluten development.
Shortbread actually refers to the strands of gluten being ‘short’ (as we all know, the cookies have a very high ratio of butter to flour, therefore not allowing any gluten development at all), which results in crumbly and ‘sandy’ texture of the cookies.
So now we know that fat can inhibit the development of gluten. There is one more thing though – depending on how much fat we add, we can get soft pastry, without it becoming a shortbread. “Amount’ is the keyword here.
Understanding this little bit of information about the yeast dough, gives you an upper hand when it comes to breads, pastries and such.
So let’s get to the recipe itself.
Poppy Seed Pastries
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp active dry yeast (use Platinum Superior Baking Yeast for amazing results)
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk for glazing
- 3 .5 cups flour
- 1/4 cups butter, room temperature
Poppy Seed filling
- 1 cup dried poppy seeds (taste to ensure they're not bitter, which would indicate that they're stale)
- 1 qt. milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
How to make the Pastry Bun Dough
Heat milk until lukewarm, add yeast and stir until dissolved. Let rise for15 minutes or until doubled in size. This ensures the yeast isn't expired and is still active.
Meanwhile, in a bowl of an electric mixer combine egg, egg yolk salt, and sugar. Sift the flour in and add the risen milk/yeast mixture. With a hook attachment combine flour and the milk mixture, then continue to knead on slower speeds until the dough completely stops sticking to the bowl. It should look very smooth and gluey. You should be able to stretch a piece of dough so thin that you can see through it, without the dough tearing (a technique called "windowpane test"). The kneading should take about 15 minutes.
Next, add room temperature butter and knead until butter is fully incorporated and no traces of it are left on the bowl, about 5 minutes.
Shape the dough into a ball. Place in a well-greased bowl and oil the outside of the dough. Then, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a draft-free place (fridge, top of cabinets, inside of the oven with the light on), allowing the dough double in size, about 1.5 -2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
How to make the Poppy Seed Filling
In a medium saucepan combine the poppy seeds, milk and allow to come to a simmer and continue to cook for about 30 minutes. You can let it sit covered off the heat, for another 30 minutes.
- Drain through a fine mesh sieve.
Process the cooked poppy seeds in a grinder, food processor, or a powerful blender (like Vitamix) stopping and scraping it down the sides every minute or so.
Add the sugar, vanilla extract and mix.
How to make and shape pastries
Once the dough is doubled in size, punch it down. Remove from the bowl to a well-oiled surface and shape the dough into a log.
With a rolling pin, roll out the log to about 30 in x 12 in.
Spread the poppy seed filling along the length of the dough, leaving about 2 inches at the other end.
Roll it 'jelly-roll' fashion away from yourself and pinch the ends so it does not come apart.
With a sharp knife and a quick motion, cut the roulade about every 3 inches and transfer to a baking sheet, keeping the poppy seed buns about 3 inches apart.
How to shape a "heart" pastry bun: With a knife cut in the middle of each rolled piece, leaving the two pieces attached by about 1/2 inch of dough. Take the two ends, separate them and lay them inside part out facing up, side by side, making it look like a heart.
- Transfer to a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Continue with the rest of the dough, placing each piece about 3 inches apart.
Cover with a clean kitchen or paper towel and place someplace warm (top of cabinets of fridge etc.) allowing the pastries double in size, about 40 minutes.
20 minutes into the proofing, preheat oven to 350F.
Whisk the egg yolk and 1 tbsp water, then brush pastries with egg yolk mixture right before placing them in the oven.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack.
Serving Suggestion: Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Best eaten right away, but will keep fresh for at least 6 hours.
Proofing tip: If your oven turns to a low temperature of 100F, you can place it in the oven and leave the door ajar. Otherwise, just put it on top of the fridge or cabinets where the temperature is higher.
**The poppy seed filling will look pretty dry. This way the filling doesn't leak out when baking.
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