Saturday, June 12, 2010

Betty Freakin' Crocker

One thing I have been making the past few years is Mennonite meat buns or fleisch piroshki.  They are buns with a little ground beef mixture inside. My ethnicity is Mennonite (and yes, it is more than a religion or faith) and I grew up with meat buns and regular buns or swiebach. Both my grandmas used to make them, and then my mom became the purveyor of the Mennonite.

In the olden days it was alot of work. I remember my Grandma N. getting up very early and getting started on her buns.  She would mix up the dough which involved kneading and punching for what seemed like hours. The Tupperware bowls of dough would be wrapped up in about 4 blankets to keep the dough warm enough to rise.  The meat was cooked and then put through the manual meat grinder -- the kind that attached to the kitchen table.

I was so not made to be my grandma.

As you can well imagine, I don't get up early to make my meat buns.  I don't knead. I don't swaddle the dough or grind any meat.  I have a Kitchenaid mixer, a microwave and a Magic Bullet to do the heavy lifting in this project. 

Clean up is a challenge, I grant you. Especially the way I do things.  But I make these so we have another lunch option for the kids, who love them.  Husband who partakes in the nightly lunch-making ritual is so grateful for the meat bun stash he often enthusiastically clean up after me.

Our church is having a pot luck tomorrow.  Last night, I called the woman who is organizing to see what hadn't been volunteered.  It seemed there was a dirth of breadstuffs so I said "I'll bake some buns tomorrow".

Husband looked askance at me after I got off the phone "You were joking, right?"

I had a plan. I was overdue to make meat buns and sweibach is made in my family using the same bread recipe. So, I ventured, I'll just do an extra batch and make buns for church.

So Saturday afternoon operation Mennonite was underway.  I had enough of all the ingredients to make a triple batch.  I thought I might just need do double, but it's good to be prepared.

I warmed up the milk in the microwave, exactly 2 3/4 cups. One thing about making buns, because of the yeast, it is a little unforgiving.  But I've done this enough and made pretty much every mistake, that I confidently, if not cockily,  measured in the sugar and salt before plopping in the entire 3/4 cup of shortening in one block.   I am so ahead of the game because usually I forget to take the shortening out of the fridge before hand and it's not soft. But today, it's at room temperature. So I skipped a key step of breaking the shortening into bits. 

I turned on the Kitchenaid, a little too high, as it turns out. That big block of shortening was basically a paddle which splayed the milk all over the counter, the floor and me. 

I was less concerned about the mess than I was about losing an unknown quanity of milk.  The proportions could easily be all wrong.  Husband and I approximated the spillage and I hoped I could make up for the margin of error with flour.

Mistake two, which I don't realize until it was well too late, was mistakenly putting on the cookie dough attachment instead of the dough hook.  I don't know whether the cookie dough attachment would knead the dough appropriately.  I didn't get that far.  The dough squished up the attachment and into the top casing and caused grease to start leaking out. I initially thought the contaminant was contained and I used way too many dinner napkins (easy at hand) to clean up the mess. I was ready to resume the mission when I saw grey swirls of grease in the dough.

Down the sink.

Meanwhile, Husband was gamely cooking up the meat for the buns.

We have had a few issues with Sydney eating the meat buns because first I tried to use some whole wheat flour. Rejection.  Then I had the audacity of using ground turkey instead of ground beef. Thumbs down. Finally the only sin was "they don't taste like Oma's".  After consulting with my mother, the culprit seemed to be the consistency of the meat. Oma still grinds her meat, so I used the Magic Bullet to replictate the meat grinder.

I told Husband about the magic of the Magic Bullet in this application.  I mentioned I did it in small batches. I neglected to say "do it only for a few seconds". And Husband and I define "small batches" quite differently. 

The result was ground beef mousse.  I wasn't sure how our panel of judges was going to treat this development. 

We talked about aborting the mission entirely at this point.  I mean really, the signs were all there.  But nothing would be worse than having to clean up a huge mess and have nothing to show for it.

So Husband somehow salvaged the meat and I washed the Kitchenaid business and got to work on attempt number two.

It was all going pretty well. I put the bowl of dough in the microwave on the lowest setting for 15 minutes. I let it sit another 15 minutes to rise. And I pulled the bowl of dough out of the microwave. 

Fully cooked. And not having risen.  It was about the size and consistency of a basketball. (We know the consistency because Husband and I ate way too much of this undercooked gigantor bowl shaped bun).

The  garborator was the only one benefitting from this endeavor.  We decided we'd buy buns for church and that I would make my third and final attempt solely for meat buns for the kids' lunches.

I am happy to report on my third try the dough behaved, I blobbed in the shortening appropriately, I used the right attachments and figured out that when the microwave says PL10 it means "power level 10" not "power level 10%" as our last microwave did.

A little more elbow grease and the buns were formed:
And ready for lunches:
Now, about the clean up:


PCNA said...

You are so funny ... and perseverant! Your buns are stunning....

Anonymous said...

Love fleisch piroshki.
I came into a family where they are a staple but never got a recipe. Can you post the full recipe? I always wondered why the meat texture was not the same as fried ground beef, I don't have a food grinder but do have a food processor.

thanks so much!