Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Club Fare-- Buchteln or Jam-Filled Bread Rolls

The golden age of early twentieth century Austria has come alive in the book I read, The Lady In Gold by Anne-Marie O'Connor. A work of non-fiction that reads like a thriller, it is an echo of the decadent, colorful life of Gustav Klimt and his famous portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. It is a book I cannot put down, reason one being the fascinating story and heartbreak that bleeds onto every page. Reason two being our meeting is round the corner and I do want to finish the book! Reason three, the most important, is recalling this exquisite work of art I have viewed at the Neue Galerie last year. The portrait shimmering in the afternoon light, encapsulates the painted mosaic of gold and glitter opulently. I stand mesmerized, trying to visualize a different era, a different studio, an artist's mindset and I come away none the wiser, but nevertheless pleased. Having always seen this artwork in print, the real thing takes my breath away.

I offer to bring a snack to my book club meeting. This club meets four times a year, almost always reading books with an oblique reference to art. Staying with the Austrian theme, I plan to make an Austrian confection. Sadly, Viennese pastries are not easy to replicate. While trolling for ideas, I find this recipe on Serious Eats. Buchteln are big, golden, jam-filled rolls.  Not having tried it before,I am a wee bit skeptical. After all, it calls for yeast laden proofing and the interminable wait before you can work the dough. But the thought of sinking my teeth into a hot bun, oozing jam, is enough to convince me of the recipe's merits. 

I warm some water, add yeast and sugar and wait for the bubbles. I am rewarded soon enough. The other ingredients fall into place. Though the recipe tells you to mix the dough by hand, I cheat with my KitchenAid. It is so much faster and less strenuous!!! The pleasure of kneading dough is one I enjoy, especially with a dough this pliable. Proofing is a snap on my front porch. The dough rises in a jiffy. I inhale deeply that yeasty aroma of risen dough. some people like floral scents, but give me this warm yeasty aroma anytime. The recipe calls for eight rolls, but those would be too big for what I have in mind. I cut the dough into eighteen-twenty small balls. Pressing them out with my fingers, I make a small launch pad for jam.  A dollop goes in the center and I pinch the dough together. Another rise on the sun-baked porch before they go into a hot oven. And I wait for the proof of my pudding. 

Adapted from Sydney Oland's recipe on
Makes 18-20 

2 envelopes Active Dry Yeast
1/2 cup warm Water
5 tablespoons Butter plus 2 tablespoons for buttering the baking sheet
2+2 tablespoons Sugar
A large pinch Salt
1/2 cup Milk
2+1 Eggs
3+1 cups of Flour
Additional flour for kneading
3/4 cup Apricot Jam or Preserves

Add yeast and sugar to the bowl of warm water and stir to combine. Cover and let yeast froth and bubble for 10 minutes.

Melt 5 tablespoons butter.

Add milk to melted butter. 

Break 2 eggs in a bowl and beat well.

Once the yeast has proofed, add it to the butter mixture.

Pour in beaten eggs and stir with a spatula to combine. 

Measure 3 cups flour into the bowl of a stand mixer. 

Add in 2 tablespoons sugar and the salt. Whisk to mix.

With the mixer running, add the yeast liquid to flour.

The remaining 1cup of flour should be added cautiously till the dough comes away from the bowl.

Dust the counter with flour and place dough on it. Knead well for 5-7 minutes until dough is soft, smooth and pliable. You may add flour as needed. The dough should not stick to the surface.

Return dough back to the mixer bowl or use a new bowl. Cover with a dish towel and put in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or till dough has doubled in size.

Generously butter a 18x12 inch sheetpan or baking sheet.

Remove the dough from the bowl and onto a flour-dusted counter. Knead a couple of times and then pat into a small rectangle. 

Cut the dough into 18-20 small portions with a knife or pastry scraper.

Pat one portion out to a 1x3 rectangle. Or  2x2 square. Or a 2 inch circle. It really doesn't matter as you will see in the next step. The dough is just a receptacle for the filling.

Drop a teaspoon of apricot jam in the center of the portion. 

Gather dough from one end and start pinching it together so the top is completely sealed. 

Place the filled dough seam side down on the butter baking sheet.

Finish the rest of the dough in the same fashion, placing the portions 1/2 inch apart.

When you are done, cover rolls with a dish towel and once again place the baking sheet in a warm place for 30 minutes. The rolls will push up against each other as the rise.

Heat oven to 350F.

Break 1 egg and whisk well.

Brush rolls with egg wash and put in the oven.

Bake rolls for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving them.

Eat rolls warm or at room temperature.

Baking bread is an all day affair. Laborious but oh so rewarding. Much like the research for the book I have read. I am enthralled by the adventures of the Bloch-Bauer family. Saddened by the fate of the Jews in Europe. And fortunate to have seen the portrait in question, firsthand. Klimt's scintillating painting is certainly worth it's weight in gold. I write this chewing on a mouthful of bread and jam. One 'buch' deserves another buchteln.