Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hot Pockets Indian Style--Chicken Masala Buns

Shauna's home again and that calls for yet another elaborate meal! This time I try a different mutton curry, an old version of potatoes and chicken buns. I haven't made these buns in ages. Primarily because they take a devilishly long time to come together. But everyone loves them so I will knead, roll and bake. 

I had first eaten these stuffed buns in Bombay many years ago and loved them. an improbable like as I'm not a chicken fan. But the masala chicken filling was incredibly tasty. And so I became a bread and chicken convert. The kids loved Hot Pockets through their school years and grew very fond of these buns. Since that first bite I have set out to make many versions for that chicken. Sometimes it is a spicy Goan chicken. Other times I try an onion and garam masala infused curry. Today I make chicken with dhansak masala. Dhansak is a Parsi meat and lentil curry that's a meal on its own. It starts with dal or lentils cooked with an assortment of vegetables, to which cooked meat or chicken is added. I love the distinct flavor of the special dhansak masala which comes prepackaged. It's available at most Indian grocery stores. If you cannot find the masala, feel free to use garam masala.

Fair warning to all. These buns take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours. In their defense I can only say, the wait is worth it!

Chicken Masala Buns
Makes 20-24

1 package  or 2 1/4 teaspoons Yeast
A pinch of Sugar
3 tablespoons Warm Water
1 cup Milk
5 tablespoons Butter, cut into 5 slices
1 Egg
3 tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
3 1/2 cups Flour
1 teaspoon Olive oil
1/4 cup Milk for glazing buns

Chicken Filling
1 pound Chicken Thighs and Legs
3 tablespoons Canola oil
2 large Onions
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1 teaspoon Ginger paste
2 large Tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Chile powder (your call)
1 heaped tablespoon Dhansak masala
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Start with the buns. Mix yeast, a pinch of sugar and warm water. Cover bowl and let yeast ferment for 5 minutes. The water should be warm 105 degrees. If the water is too hot the yeast will not rise. If it's not warm enough, the yeast will not ferment.  

Heat milk till warm and small bubbles appear at the edges. Do not boil. Remove from heat.

Add sugar and butter to milk and stir so the butter melts.

Once the butter melts add egg and stir vigorously to incorporate the egg into milk.

Add in salt.

Put the yeast mixture and milk into the bowl of a stand mixer. 

Using a dough hook stir liquids to mix.

Add flour 1/2 cup at a time, keeping the mixer on low speed. If the dough looks sticky add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time till it looks smooth. Once you have added all the flour let the dough hook do its job, letting the mixer do the kneading for 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the dough and place it in a large glass bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the dough. Turn the dough so the entire ball is coated with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and keep in a warm place for 1- 1/2 hours for the dough to rise. It should double in size with visible pockets of air.

While the dough rises, start on the chicken. Skin, trim and rinse chicken pieces.

Peel and finely chop onions.

Cut tomatoes into small chunks.

Heat canola oil and fry onions till golden brown.

Add garlic and ginger pastes as well as tomatoes and sauté for 5 minutes.

Chicken pieces go in next. Sauté well.

Sprinkle turmeric, chile powder, dhansak masala and salt over chicken. Stir well to mix.

Add enough water to cover chicken, bring to a boil, lower flame to medium heat and cook chicken for 20 minutes. 

Removes chicken from gravy and debone into bite sized pieces. Add the deboned chicken back into the gravy. 

Place saucepan on low heat and simmer till gravy has thickened. 

Keep aside to cool. 

Once the dough has doubled take it out of the container and place on a lightly floured surface. 

Divide the dough into 24 portions.

Take one portion and flatten the ball. Using your fingers press the dough out into a 4 inch circle.

Place a heaping tablespoon of chicken filling in the center of the circle.

Gather the circle starting from one end and pinch the edges together to close at the top.

Place the bun pinched side down on a parchment or silicone lined sheet pan.

Do the same with the remaining balls. You can fit 12 buns on one tray. You will need 2 trays.

Cover the buns with a cloth towel or napkin and place in a warm place for 1 hour to rise. If the room is excessively warm, this rise could take anywhere between 1/2 - 3/4  hour.

If you have left over dough as I do, fashion them into rolls. Roll dough into a long rope. Tie the rope into a knot, tucking the outer edges under and pinch the ends together. Place on sheetpan pinched side down. Let rolls proof along with buns.

Heat the oven to 425F.

Brush buns and extra rolls with milk.

Bake each batch for 15 minutes.

Cool slightly and serve.

The buns are eaten as they emerge from the oven resulting in many a burnt tongue and mouth. A mound of spicy chicken encased in thin shell of bread delights us all. A big pile not be resisted. And the pile soon diminishes. These are the prequel to dinner!!!! But any thoughts of dinner being on the back burner are firmly squashed! 

And the extra rolls, airy and fluffy, are polished off with pats of butter melting into crevices. My bonus for all the hard work. The joy of munching on a piping hot Parker house roll, just out of the oven, slathered with butter, is my sinful indulgence!