First up, I know that ‘stuffed chicken buns’ sounds a bit rude, or at best like a weird term of endearment that would probably earn the person who used it a frosty look, if not a ding round the earhole. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with recipe titles. I also feel guilty for not including all the main ingredients in a recipe title – for example, these buns are made with sourdough, and the filling also contains rocket, sweetcorn and pesto, but I just couldn’t put all that in there. ‘Sourdough Buns Filled With Chicken, Rocket, Pesto and Sweetcorn and Topped With Sesame Seeds’ does sound less rude, and it’s more accurate, but it’s missing a certain something. Brevity, for one thing.
Whatever you want to call it, this is a lovely recipe, and I found it on Averil’s blog – Averil’s are a lot nicer than mine, but you have to start somewhere! I converted the recipe to sourdough rather than using fresh yeast, and I changed the filling of the buns from a spicy chicken mince to a mix of some leftovers I had in the fridge. I will admit that my filling was a little dry once baked; that’s something to iron out in version two. I did make one of the buns with feta, tomato and coriander and, while it was less perfect in terms of shape (I was a bit careless when I was shaping it, and it got a bit leaky…), it was better for flavour and less dry.
I have frozen most of the buns, hopefully they’ll defrost well and can be used as last minute lunches on those occasions when I’ve forgotten to buy anything useful and my fridge is full of ingredients that I have earmarked for some project or other, yet empty of any ingredients that I can use for an ordinary meal. It happens more often than you might think. Sometimes I forget, when planning a special recipe, that I will still have to eat other (some might say lesser) food both before and afterwards.
Here’s my very slightly modified recipe for the buns – I used it to make eight:
- 1/2 cup sourdough starter
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup wholewheat bread flour
- 1 tsp golden granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 3 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil
For the filling (I used this to fill seven of the buns, with the last one getting different leftovers):
- 150g shredded chicken
- 25g rocket
- 1 – 2 tbsp pesto
- 50g sweetcorn
- 1 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil
- 1 – 2 tbsp water
- one beaten egg
- sea salt
- sesame seeds, poppy seeds or your favourite bread topping
Another time, I’d half the recipe for the bread, but only slightly reduce the amount of filling and really pack it in there. I often forget that living on my own sometimes means that I need to reduce the quantities in recipes. Not everything is suitable for work sharing.
One of the things that drew me to the recipe was the scope for experimenting, and I’m looking forward to making these with different ingredients. Some of the ideas in my head while I was planning them included humus and carrot, spinach, olive and chickpea and char siu pork, though in the end that classic recipe ‘Leftovers’ won out. Leftovers from other times where I forgot that there was only me to feed, perhaps…
Method for the bread dough:
- Mix all the ingredients in a stand mixer with dough hook attached, for eight minutes or until soft, smooth and elastic. Alternatively you can combine them by hand and knead until elastic, which may take a little longer. If it seems a bit stiff you can add a little water, or if it’s a little too sticky add a little flour. You know the drill.
- Remove the dough from the bowl. Wash the bowl if necessary and then coat with oil, to stop the dough from sticking. Replace the dough, cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to rise for at least two hours. Sourdough would benefit for longer but, given that this was weeknight bread, I stuck with the two hours. It had almost doubled in size at this time – ideally, you’d like it to have more than doubled.
While the dough is rising, make your filling:
- To make the same filling as I did, combine the chicken and rocket in a food processor and cut them together until finely chopped.
- Stir in the sweetcorn, oil, pesto and water.
- In readiness for the next stage, line two baking sheets with tinfoil, lightly grease them and sprinkle with flour or cornflour. I have had too many sad moments in the kitchen with things sticking to a baking sheet to ignore this step. It is important. Trying to steam parchment off the bottom of a loaf is a frustrating experience, take my word for it, and don’t even get me started on biting into scraps tinfoil when you were expecting a lovely, non-metallic pretzel.
When the dough has risen:
- Roll the dough out into a long cylinder, and break into eight pieces – or as many as you like. I think mini buns would be absolutely adorable and a great buffet item. Mini buns is a better term of endearment than stuffed chicken buns, too.
- Pick up the first piece and firmly roll between your hands into ball, then flatten out into the palm of your hand
- Add about a tablespoon of the filling to the middle, and press down. If you think you can fit more in, go for it – my regret is not adding quite enough. You do have to walk the line between ‘enough’ and ‘too much’ quite carefully – if you over-fill them you won’t be able to seal them, or the dough will be stretched too thin and may burst. Balance, my friends, is as important in stuffed buns as in life. Yes indeed.
- Lift a flap of dough from the top and bottom over the filling, and pinch together firmly. The dough should be stretchy enough to do this easily, and sticky enough to hold together. You can place the bun on the counter to do this if it’s easier.
- Now do the same with the sides of the dough, making a cross shape with a pinched-together centre.
- Pat the dough together to seal the filling in completely – again, this should be easy, this is an amenable bread dough. There’s a phrase you don’t hear every day.
- Gently but firmly roll the dough into a bun shape, and place on your prepared baking tray. Here are some step by step photos of the whole process:
- Repeat until you’ve run out of dough, filling, baking sheet or inclination.
- Oil a sheet of clingfilm for each baking tray, and wrap the buns. Leave in a warm place for at least an hour – if you have time, I’d say two hours would have worked better, if not longer. My dough didn’t rise appreciably in this time and was a little dense in the finished product.
For the last twenty minutes of rising time, get the oven on to heat to 230C. Before baking, brush the rolls with a beaten egg then sprinkle with sea salt (smoked, for preference) and sesame seeds. Turn the oven down to 200C, and put the baking trays in for twenty minutes, rotating after ten to give an even bake. If you’re making smaller or larger rolls, the time will have to be adjusted, of course.
I’ve submitted these to Yeastspotting. If you’ve never visited, go for it – Susan takes submissions of bready blog posts, and writes her own awesome blog. There is so much bread inspiration over there that I can only look at it in short bursts or my head will explode.