At the risk of sounding like a big geek, these are buns that would make a Hobbit proud. They’re fragrant with garlic and dotted with crispy chunks of bacon. They’re marvelous slathered with a slab of cold butter, or toasted with thin slices of your favorite cheese. They’re a great companion to a steaming bowl of soup.
That said, baking bread is one of my favorite things to do on the weekend.
It’s calming. It makes the house smell good. It generally makes anyone who eats it very happy. And it’s really easy to do. You just need a couple of hours when you’ll be at home. I love these buns in particular, because they bring together two of my favorite things: bread and bacon.
When I talk to my non-baker friends about baking bread, I usually get, “How do you find the time? Doesn’t it take hours to make?” Sure it does.
But honestly, I bake while I’m doing other things. Because bread baking is one part actual cooking (well, maybe two), and nine parts waiting.
This is a really long post because I’ve included step-by-step photo instructions for those not too familiar with the process. There isn’t much to making these. The most time-consuming part is forming the rolls. Here’s the basic technique:
- Make the dough and wait for it rise.
- Fry the bacon and knead it into the dough.
- Let the dough rise a second time.
- Form the rolls and wait for them rise.
- Bake and inhale.
Bacon bun ingredients
When you add the water to the yeast, it should be lukewarm, but not hot. If it’s too hot, it’ll kill your yeast and the dough won’t rise. Also, I don’t add any salt to the dough, as it will be plenty salty when the bacon is added.
About all that bacon fat
How much bacon fat you wind up with depends on how fatty your bacon was to start with (not to state the obvious). Now, you can drain the bacon and just use a teaspoon of fat for flavor. Or you can toss it all in to your dough when the time comes. (This is what I do, because I don’t make these buns often, so they’re more of a treat.) Or any combination of the two. It’s totally up to you.
Crispy Bacon Buns
1 Tbls. yeast
1 tsp. sugar
3 cups lukewarm water
5 1/2 cups flour
6 rashers of thick-cut bacon
1 Tbls. garlic powder
1 Tbls. dried parsley flakes
1 Tbls. cold water
Step 1: Make the dough and get it rising
Put the yeast in a large bowl.
Add the sugar and the lukewarm water. Whisk it up to combine and set it aside on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes. The lukewarm water wakes the yeast up, and the sugar gives it a little something to eat.
After about 5 minutes, your yeast should start to “bloom” and look like this. Wait for this step, because it’s what lets you know that your yeast is alive and kicking. If your yeast is dead (which means your dough won’t rise), you want to know now, before you toss in all your ingredients.
You’ll know it’s blooming because you’ll see a creamy head rising to the surface. If you’re ridiculously patient, you can park yourself over the bowl and watch it happen. It’s kind of cool to see once. (OK, maybe twice. Or three times.)
Add the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine well.
Your goal is to make the dough fairly uniform (i.e. no huge lumps of flour or big puddles of water). When it’s ready for its first rise, the dough will be fairly raggy and wet, like this:
Soak three or four paper towels with hot water, wring them out slightly, and cover up your bowl. The heat from the towels will give the dough a little boost as it starts rising. You can also use a clean dishtowel, etc. The goal is to keep the dough covered, moist, and just the tiniest bit warm.
Set the dough aside for about an hour, or until it at least doubles in size.
After a half an hour, I peeked at mine, and it looked like this:
The dough is starting to get creamier and bubble nicely.
Step 2: Fry the bacon
While your dough is rising, fry the bacon. (I admit in advance that some of the pics below are superfluous. I just really like looking at pictures of bacon.)
Start with 6 rashers of thick-cut bacon. You can use regular bacon instead, if that’s what you have. I like the thick-cut because bacon shrinks as it cooks, and with the thick cut, you still wind up with pretty meaty chunks.
Dice up the bacon into medium-smallish pieces.
Put the diced bacon in a large, ungreased nonstick pan over medium-high heat.
Fry it, stirring occasionally.
You want the bacon to crisp, but not blacken or burn.
When it’s done, all the solid fat that’s left should be crispy. (You don’t want pieces of gummy fat in your finished buns.)
When the bacon’s crispy, take it off the heat. Add the garlic powder and dried parsley.
Stir it around with a wooden spoon to mix well. Set it aside on the counter until your dough has finished rising. As it sits, the flavors of the garlic and parsley will infuse into the warm bacon fat.
Step 3: Add the bacon to the dough and let it rise a second time
This is the part where you get your hands dirty. After about an hour, your dough should look like this:
The dough should be dappled throughout with tiny air bubbles.
Punch the dough down with your spoon and stir it to knead it a little. I do this with my spoon and wait to get my hands gooey once I add the bacon.
Give the bacon in your frying pan a stir. Drain off any fat you don’t want (if you don’t want to include any, fish out the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and pat them down with a few paper towels). Like I said, I use all the rendered fat. (Hey, these are a treat.)
Add the bacon to the bread dough.
Knead the dough with your hands to evenly distribute the bacon fat and the crispy bits.
Your finished dough should look about like this:
Cover it up again with a warm, wet cloth. Set aside for another hour, until it about doubles in size.
I peeked again after about a half an hour, and it looked like this:
Step 4: Form your rolls and let them rise
After about an hour, your bacon-laced dough should have at least doubled in size. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside. Your dough should look about like this:
Put about 1 cup of flour in a pile in the corner of a board. Grab a handful and sprinkle it across the board.
With your spoon, punch the dough down, and fold it over a few times to get the air out of it.
Grab a blob of dough out of the bowl that’s about the size of a small lemon. Drop it onto your board and sprinkle a little flour on it.
Knead it, folding it over on itself and pressing it down with the heel of your hand.
Sprinkle the dough ball lightly with flour as you work it. It will become less sticky and much more elastic.
Gradually work the dough into a ball. Dust off any excess flour and put it on your prepared pan. Do this with the rest of the dough until both your pans are full. You should wind up with 28-30 rolls.
Let the shaped rolls rise, uncovered, for another hour, until they’ve about doubled in size. About 15 minutes or so before your hour is up, turn your oven on and preheat it to 400 degrees.
Your rolls should look about like this when they’re ready to bake:
Step 5: Glaze and bake the buns
If you like, you can put an egg wash on the tops to make them glossy and soft. If you’d prefer a crunchier, more rustic roll, leave them unglazed.
In a smallish bowl, whisk together an egg with a tablespoon of cold water.
Very gently (as in, super duper gently), brush the egg wash onto the tops of your rolls. Use your fingertips or a pastry brush. You don’t want to deflate the rolls by pressing too hard on them.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. They’re done when they’re golden brown on top and they make a hollow noise when you pick one up and tap on its bottom.
Cool them completely on a wire rack.
Your rolls will look more rustic if you don’t put the egg wash on them before baking:
Or more finished, like this, if you do add the egg wash:
Thank goodness my cholesterol is good. I like mine with lots of butter.