Saturday morning breadmaking is a routine for the Designer Diner at this point: Grind the wheat, thaw the broth, sift the ingredients and throw it all in the mixer. However, it's a really big recipe. It's actually hard to eat the two large loaves before a week passes and it's time to bake fresh.
To keep any from going to waste (we really hate food waste) we've started freezing the raw dough for later... and getting our weekend creativity on. These Greek inspired lamb feta buns were the result of this weekend's fun. We used half the bread recipe for our standard loaf, and the remaining dough we used to experiment. The feta and oregano really pack in the flavor and the soft bread is reminiscent of German bierocks. They will be great for lunches this week at work... it we have any left that is.
Take your bread dough and set it out so that it can begin to rise. I use a silicone pastry mat because it helps keep my counters clean. At that keeps my husband happy. Just form it into a rough ball and cover it with a towel to keep it from drying out.
You will also want to lightly grease a muffin pan: either one 12 or 2 sixes.
Don't worry about preheating the oven yet... that comes after sealing up your buns.
Go ahead and get all of your ingredients together... I chopped my onion into a easy medium dice. and the garlic I did the same. I wanted small bursts of flavor as you bit into the filling.
A key element to any stuffed bread is to make sure there is not too much moisture in the filling. After draining and chopping the olives, I placed them on a triple thick layer of paper towels.
I twist them up and squeeze the moisture out. It's amazing, this small amount of olive completely soaks 3 paper towels. Once dry you can add them to a medium sized mixing bowl.
Weigh out your feta cheese and then break it into chunks. You don't want crumbs (although you'll get some). Feta does not really melt, it softens. This will leave you with busts of feta goodness as your buns are consumed.
Add the feta to the mixing bowl with the olives.
In a heavy pot or large iron skillet, add the oil and fry your onions until they are translucent.
Add the lamb and garlic and fry the meat until it is browned. Be sure to break the ground lamb up into small pieces so the filling will fit nicely into the buns.
Add the black pepper, chili flakes, marjoram and oregano.
Again it's time to do moisture control. I fry the meat until it is what I call 'dry'. Not sure if that's a thing or not, but basically I'm evaporating off all the water from the mean and onion mixture. Now the oil will not evaporate so don't expect it to really be dry. However the steam reduces and there is noticeably less liquid.
Place the lamb mixture into a fine sieve or strainer that is positioned over a bowl to collect the oil and remaining liquid. Use your spoon or spatula to press the meat against the sides of the sieve to get out as much moisture as possible.
Leave it to cool slightly.
While the filling is cooling, uncover your resting bread dough. It should have begun to rise. How much is not really important in my book. I'm not big on the whole 'double rise' bread thing. I just want to make sure the yeast is active and working.
Use a rolling pin to roll your dough out into a rough rectangle. Mine is about 12 by 18. You will feel all the bubbles of air press out as you work the dough out into it's shape. Be sure to use some flower on your mat so that the bread does not stick firmly to the pastry mat.
Next cut your dough into 12 squares. I use my plastic pastry scraper seen in the picture, but before Amazon brought me my scraper I just uses a plastic knife.
Once the dough is ready, dump the still warm lamb mixture in the bowl with the olives and feta cheese. Stir just until they are combined.
Take your dough squares and fit them into an empty greased muffin cup. My bread recipe has a decent amount of gluten in it, so if it pulled in too much when you cut your squares don't worry. Just use your rolling pin to make them a bit larger.
You want the dough firmly set against the bottom of the cup, and the valley's between the dough corners to be at least equal to the height of the side of the muffin cup.
Fill each dough lined muffin tin up with 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of the lamb filling. I use my spoon to pack in as much as I can. No one likes a bun that is short on filling.
Once you've got enough lamb, use water to moisten the exposed edges of the dough. This will help it stick to each other as we seal up the bun.
Seal the tops of the buns together. I fold the corners of the dough squares together into x's... but however you do it really does not matter. As they rise and cook, most of any shape you put on will disappear.
The good news is that even ugly sealing jobs don't matter. What does matter is that it is FIRMLY sealed. You don't want these delectable meat puffs popping open while cooking. You have to eat all of them that separate as soon as they come out of the oven.
No really, you do. It's a thing... I promise.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees if you have not yet.
Let the buns sit for about 20-30 minutes. We're not looking for a doubling in size or anything, but they should look a bit 'poofy' In the picture to the left. The bun on the bottom left corner was the first one I sealed... and I took the picture as soon as I had finished sealing them all. You can see the difference between it and the one on the upper left (my last)
Place the buns in your preheated oven and bake for 20-30 minutes. I set a timer at 20 minutes and take them out when they are at my desired doneness. This dough does not get a hard crust, so I can let the tops develop a nice brown patina.
Take the pan from the oven and pop out one bun to make sure it's browned enough on the bottom. If it's not (depends on your pan type, I use metal) put the buns back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes and cover with foil to prevent them from over browning.
Once done, remove from the muffin pan immediately and cool on a wire rack. Be sure to cut one open and be impressed with yourself. Oh... and eat at least 2 yourself. I promise... it's a thing.
Once cooled the buns can easily be warmed up in a 350 degree oven in about 10 minutes. You can also stick them in the fridge in a sealed container for about a week for reheating later.