Homemade Hamburger Buns In Time For Dinner

Okay, so you’re probably thinking:  Why would anyone want to make homemade hamburger buns?

Well, for one thing, they are awesome!  They taste better than store-bought, they are “homemade,” and best of all, they come together in less than an hour.  Plus, these babies aren’t about to get soggy and fall apart when topped with the juiciest of burgers.

I love making homemade bread for the family.  Trouble is, most of the time I don’t think about it far enough in advance to get the job done in time for dinner.  This wonderful little recipe is perfect for those days when I’ve got just over an hour to pull dinner together, and everyone thinks I spent hours in the kitchen.

Quick & Easy Hamburger Buns

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2 Tbsp. Active Dry Yeast

1 Cup plus 2 Tbsp. Warm Water (110 to 115 degrees)

1/3 Cup Vegetable or Peanut Oil

1/4 Cup Sugar

1 tsp. Salt

3 to 3 1/2 Cups Flour

1 Tbsp. Melted Butter

  1. In large mixing bowl, make a sponge with the yeast, warm water, sugar and 1 cup of flour.  Combine and let sit for 15 minutes.
  2. Add oil, salt and 1 more cup flour.  With dough hooks mix on low until combined.
  3. Slowly add remaining flour until a soft dough forms.
  4. Knead with mixer for 4 -5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  5. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and divide into 8 pieces.  Shape into balls.  If you want identical size buns, weigh the dough before dividing.
  6. Place balls 3 inches apart on parchment lined insulated baking sheet.  Cover and let rise 30 minutes.
  7. Brush tops with melted butter.  Bake at 425 for 8 – 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Besides being super tasty, these buns are more substantial than store-bought buns.  Where Hubby is able to eat two burgers on store-bought buns, he was only able to eat one and a half with my buns and then complained he was over-full when he did.

One change I think I’ll try next time I make these is to use 1/3 cup melted butter in place of the oil.  I have no idea if it will affect the recipe, but I’d rather use butter than oil whenever I can. Also, I wonder if I can shape them into hot dog buns?  What an awesome bun this would be for Coney dogs!

I seriously doubt I would spend hours in the kitchen to make hamburger buns for burgers on the grill, but an hour? Why not?  Anytime I can replace something store-bought with homemade I’m thrilled, that’s why for this recipe I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Making Krofna – A Serbian Tradition Carried On

As Hubby and I get older, our priorities, what we deem important, and our desires are changing.  Perhaps it’s the fear of our own mortality, but even more so at this point, the mortality of our parents.  For Hubby, the mortality of his parents is hinged closely to the fading of his heritage.

He came to the US when he was a young boy and quickly assimilated into American ways and customs.  His parents however clung to their heritage and never quite assimilated.  They picked and chose the American customs and traditions they liked, and dismissed all others as not as good as the “Serbian” way. This selective assimilation has been a hindrance in many ways, but most prominently in preventing them from forming any type of bond with Zeb, Grace, or myself.  We tried for years to include them in the American traditions that Hubby and I carried on from my background once we were married, but they made it clear they were not interested in participating in anything “American” unless they could somehow try to out-do it in a “Serbian” way.

The best example of this would be in birthday celebrations.  According to Hubby, his parents never had a birthday party for him.  There was one small party when he was very little and still living in Serbia, but since coming to the US, they hadn’t had a party, bought him gifts, or even made him a cake.

The first year we dated, when Hubby’s birthday came around, I made a huge deal about it.  I made a romantic dinner for the two or us, made him his favorite cake, had presents for him, and even got us tickets to a sporting event to attend on his birthday.  Every year since we met, I have made sure that his birthday has had a celebration.

After we got married, it was only natural I invite my parents, my brother’s family as well as Hubby’s parents over to share in the celebration. This is how my family celebrated birthdays — with family.  From the first time his parents came over for their son’s birthday though, it caused problems.  My mother-in-law is tremendously competitive and after coming to our home to celebrate her son’s birthday, she immediately had to invite us over to her house to have a birthday celebration for her son “the Serbian way.”  Those were her exact words, “the Serbian way.”

Well, this didn’t sit well with Hubby, because to him “the Serbian way” meant no celebration at all.  Suddenly after 25 years of never so much as a Happy Birthday, it was imperative his parents somehow prove to everyone what great parents they were by having a “Serbian” birthday party.  And don’t think that they didn’t understand about birthday parties, gifts, and cakes because many of their friends in the Serbian community they were a part of had parties and celebrations every year.  In fact, his parents had even thrown surprise parties for some of their friends, but never for their son.

This instance is only one example of many that pushed Hubby to the opposite end of the spectrum when it came to carrying on “Serbian” traditions.  Although we did participate in Serbian traditions that his parents continued to carry on year after year, he made it clear to me that most, if not all, of these would die with his parents.

As my in-laws got older, Hubby mellowed and began bringing up some of the traditions he really did enjoy that his parents were getting too old to carry on.  I offered to carry these traditions on, in fact researched many of them in-depth on the internet, but his parents were resistant. Hubby was open to the idea of me taking over the traditions and “Serbian” ways, but understood how hard it was for his parents to let go of running things.  So when they were no longer able to host holidays or parties alone, we ‘lent a hand’ as much as we could.

For a few years this worked out, but when it became clear that all the work would have to be done by us and his parents were only “hosts” in name, they decided it was better to let the traditions die rather than allow us to take them over.  They were less than supportive of any efforts we made to carry on the traditions that were part of their heritage.  We invited them for Serbian Easter, Serbian Christmas, and Krsna Slava (our family Holy day) but they refused to come. They shut the door on all of it.

Hubby insists he’s fine with it, but I have my doubts.  He puts up a good front, but with his parents in their 80’s and with the limited time he has left with them, I know he realizes that the traditions of his heritage will die with them if they haven’t already.  This presents a challenge to me.  How can I somehow, even if only in small ways, help Hubby hold onto his heritage which when you think about it is actually holding onto the memory of his parents?  We are defined by what people remember about us when we are gone, be it the traditions we pass on, the memories we instill, the love we’ve shared that causes hearts to break when we die, or even something so small as food we made that became a reflection of home.

For the past couple of years I have been trying to duplicate some of the foods that were part of Hubby’s heritage, not everything, just those that he really loves and will miss when his parent’s are no longer here to share with him. Some are traditional Serbian dishes that are only served on certain holidays or occasions, but others are foods that his mother just made because she knew her son liked them.

This morning after I made my first batch of yeast doughnuts I began thinking about a doughnut-type bread that Hubby’s mother has been making for many years — krofna.  This is a bread traditionally served before Lent begins, but Hubby’s mother makes it several times throughout the year.  The traditional recipe is more of a sweet roll, but my mother-in-law prepares it less sweet and stuffs it with cheese.  When I tasted the dough of the yeast doughnuts this morning, I was surprised how similar the texture and taste was to my mother-in-laws.  So, you know what I did this afternoon?  Yep, I tweaked my recipe for yeast doughnuts and made Hubby a batch of krofna.

Krofna – Cheese Stuffed Doughnuts

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3/4 Cups Milk

2 Tbsp. Sugar

2 tsp. Salt

2 1/4 tsp. Active Dry Yeast

1/4 Cup Warm Water

4 Cups Flour

1/3 Cup Melted Butter

2 Eggs

Shredded Cheese – mozzarella, cheddar, or whatever you like

Oil for Deep Frying

  • Heat milk to near boiling.  Combine hot milk, sugar, and salt in medium Set aside for 5 minutes.
  • Add 2 cups flour to milk mixture and beat until blended.
  • In small bowl dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add to milk mixture along with eggs and melted butter.
  • Mix in the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough forms.  Knead with dough hooks in mixer for 3-4 minutes.
  • Place dough in oiled bowl and allowed to double in size (about 40 minutes).
  • Separate dough into 8 to 12 sections.  Roll each section into a ball and then flatten with a rolling-pin on lightly floured surface.  Place approximately 1/4 to 1/3 cup shredded cheese in the center of dough.  Pull sides up and seal the cheese inside, forming a circle.  Let rest 15 – 20 minutes.
  • Heat 1 inch of oil to 375 in frying pan.  Fry krofna until golden brown on both sizes.  Drain on paper towel.

The minute the first krofna came out of the frying pan, Hubby was there with a fork and knife to cut into it.  It was perfect.

Family politics are tricky no matter what, but throw ethnic traditions and customs into the mix and things quickly complicate beyond reason.  I would never claim to be a good daughter-in-law or even come close to it, but I am a good wife.  This recipe for krofna will ensure that at least while I’m alive, Hubby will be able to enjoy this bread that has been something he has loved for many years from his mother.  I am not trying to replace her, just provide Hubby with a tangible reminder of the good memories they shared.

I probably won’t make these again for quite some time, as Hubby’s mother does still make these on occasion for him. The recipe will be in my cookbook for when I need it which is good enough for now, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Doughnuts for Breakfast

Doughnuts have been on my baking to do list for years, but I have never found the time I thought was involved in making them to attempt this project.  This morning, being tired of all the regular breakfast fare, I opted to finally give them a try.

Whenever I think of preparing a bread recipe that requires yeast, I envision something that will take the better part of a day to complete.  Never-ending kneading, hours of waiting for the dough to rise, and intricate instructions that need to be followed diligently. The doughnuts I made today had none of those characteristics.  This kneading was done by a mixer, the instructions were quick and simple, and the doughnuts took less than 2 hours to prepare from beginning to setting on the table.

Yeast Doughnuts

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3/4 Cups Milk

1/2 Cup Sugar

1/4 tsp. Salt

2 1/4 tsp. Active Dry Yeast

1/4 Cup Warm Water

4 Cups Flour

1/3 Cup Melted Butter

2 Eggs

Oil for Deep Frying

  • Heat milk to near boiling.  Combine hot milk, sugar, and salt in medium Set aside for 5 minutes.
  • Add 2 cups flour to milk mixture and beat until blended.
  • In small bowl dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add to milk mixture along with eggs and melted butter.
  • Mix in the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough forms.  Knead with dough hooks in mixer for 3-4 minutes.
  • Place dough in oiled bowl and allowed to double in size (about 40 minutes).
  • Roll dough out to 1/2 inch thickness on lightly floured surface.  Cut into circles and let rise for additional 30 minutes.
  • Heat 1 inch of oil to 375 in frying pan.  Fry donuts until golden brown on both sizes.  Drain on paper towel.
  • Glaze while warm.
  • I made two types of glaze for these donuts.  The first was the traditional confectioners’ sugar glaze made with 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar mixed with 3 tbsp. milk.  The second was a chocolate confectioners’ sugar glaze made with 1 cup of sugar, 2 tbsp. cocoa, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 3 tbsp. milk.

This recipe came together with ample time to serve for breakfast before everyone went off running to do their own things.  They were not as sweet as the doughnuts bought from bakeries and had more substance to them, but were not what I would call heavy.

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I can’t wait to try making these again and filling them with fruit or jam and possibly making a Boston creme version as well.  With this new recipe on the books, I have another option for breakfast, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Peter, Peter, Pita Eater! – Fried Pita Bread

For all the cooking I do, bread is not one that I have ever done much experimenting with.  At least not yeast breads. Quick breads have always been something I consider more of a muffin-type baking item than bread, just because there isn’t any yeast.  Throwing all the ingredients in a bowl and mixing them, then pouring it into a pan is too much like muffins or cake to be classified along with something as intimidating and daunting as the kneading, proofing, yeast breads.

That being said, I do own a bread maker and do use it quite a bit.  In fact, in the 22+ years I’ve been married, I have gone through three of them.  Wore them out, burned them up, or whatever the case, I am on my third bread maker yet don’t consider myself a bread baker by any means.

When I use my bread maker it is to make dough.  Once the dough is done, I dump it on the “lightly floured” surface, form it into whatever shape I’m shooting for (be it a loaf or a roll), and bake it.  Most of the time I’m not even patient enough to wait for the final “rise” of the dough before baking.  Nope, I just form it and toss it in the oven.  For the most part this has worked well enough, but I have decided it is time to conquer my fear of bread — real bread.

Deciding to face my intimidation of bread baking is one thing, jumping in with both feet is another.  I couldn’t do it.  I had to start with something small, something fool-proof (no pun on the proof intended), something that I couldn’t fail at or at least had minimal chance of failure.  I’d have to get my confidence up before attempting anything like French bread or what I really want to make — Sour Dough. Thus, I decided on Pita Bread.

The family absolutely loves pita bread.  Hubby buys it at least every other week and when he does, he typically brings home three or four packages which last about a week.  It’s cheap enough, but if I could make it without all the preservatives and additives that are found in the commercial products, it would be a great addition to my recipe repertoire.

There are, as with every other recipe it seems, a ton of recipes out there on the Internet.  I went through several of them and found them all to be pretty much the same.  Next I read comments on the couple that I decided I might want to try.  Then, finally, I watched a couple of videos.  Can never be too prepared.  Once I finished all that, I was ready to begin.  I’d learned quite a few things I did not know about making bread, which because we are working with a blank slate here, is easy to understand.  I’d never heard the term “sponge” used when making bread, had no idea what it was, nor why it was done, but I do now, and am definitely better for it.  In fact, I think just knowing that might make it possible for me to make some changes to the recipe I used today and come up with a new pita bread taste.  But, let’s not get ahead of myself.

Fried Pita Bread

  • Servings: 6 - 8 Piece Bread
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 tsp. Active Yeast
  • 1 Cup Warm Water (between 90 and 100 degrees)
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 3/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1 3/4 Cup Flour
  • 1 tsp. Olive Oil

Directions

  1. The first step to making pita bread is to make a sponge.  Place yeast in bowl of mixer and add the warm water. Whisk together until combined.  Add 1 cup of flour.  Whisk again until smooth.  Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.  The point of this is to make sure that your yeast is active.  If after 20 minutes there are bubbles in the “sponge” then you are good to go.
  2. Next, add the 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil and salt to mixing bowl.  Stir to combine.  Add one cup of flour and mix at a low-speed, using dough hook attachment, until dough is soft.  Add more flour a little at a time until the dough comes away from the side of the bowl.  Then, continue kneading dough in mixer for 5 to 6 minutes until dough is springy and soft.
  3. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and form into a ball.  Grease inside of glass bowl with 1 tsp olive oil.  Turn dough around in bowl to coat with oil, cover bowl with foil.
  4. To proof this dough, place a pan of boiling water in oven preheated to 110 to 120 degrees. Turn oven off .  Place bowl in oven, shut door and allow to rise for 2 hours.
  5. On lightly floured surface, pat dough into a flat shape about 1″ thick.  Cut into 6 – 8 equal pieces.  Form each piece into a ball with a smooth top, pulling dough from the sides and tucking the ends underneath the bottom. Cover balls with plastic wrap sprayed with olive oil and let rest 30 minutes.
  6. Lightly flour work surface and top of each ball.  Gently press each ball flat, forming a round bread about 1/4″ thick. Let rest 5 minutes.  By the time you finish all the balls, you should be ready to move on to the next step.
  7. Brush a non-stick or cast-iron skillet with olive oil and place over medium-high heat.  Place flattened dough into hot skillet one at a time.  Cook until bread begins to puff up and bottom has brown spots, about 2-3 minutes.  Flip and cook 2 minutes more.  Flip again and cook 30 seconds more.

Cooking Note

This recipe will make between 6 and 8 pieces of bread. I actually weigh the dough as I go and separate it into 7 – 3 ounce balls, give or take a little, and it works out great. 

What my family really liked about this recipe was how salty it was.  Most of the recipes I found online called for only 1 tsp. of salt, the additional salt gave this pita bread a great flavor.  I made 8 small pita breads today and 6 of them are already gone.  I hid the other two because I am curious to see how they hold up overnight.  Will they become rubbery, tough, soggy, hard, or possibly even seem greasy from being fried in oil? Granted I could easily make this as we need it, but it would be great if I could have some on the counter for snacking for a few days without having to worry about it going bad.

Before today, I had never even used the dough hooks on my mixer.  It’s hard to believe I’ve gone 46 years and never used these, but it’s true.  The pita bread was perfect.  It puffed up real nice, the flavor was superior to store-bought pita bread, and it was easy.  A great way to ease myself into the world of yeast breads, starting with a success story, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.