One of the most memorable highlights of my life as a young co-worker was the Sunday buns. One could already smell the sweet aroma walking on our way back from service. Students and co-workers alike looked forward to the brunch, to the golden buns.
Then one day Ani, my house mother asked me to make the buns: it was a huge responsibility. What if they don’t turn out right? What if I burn them? I felt especially frustrated because when Ani gave me the recipe, she gave exact measurements for everything, except for the last ingredient: the flour. I kept asking: How much do I need exactly? However she couldn’t tell me. I have fond memories of myself and one of my fellow co-workers rolling the buns into shape: competing who could make them the most perfect. You had to roll them until they formed a perfect spiral at the bottom. Now some days we added too much flour, which made the task of rolling extremely difficult and also resulted in dry, dense buns. Other times the dough was too sticky: this was the better problem to have as we could always add a little more flour. It took many weeks of practice until we started to get the hang of it.
Over the last twenty years, I have made these buns many times. I also passed on the recipe to many co-workers, and home makers. But I still can’t tell them exactly, how much flour they need.
What I came to realize is that bun baking is just like curative education: there is no exact recipe. The amount of flour you need depends on the season, the weather, and many other factors. You need to be able to adjust accordingly. It is the same when working with our students: we need a little bit of freedom to adjust depending on the conditions.
The recipe makes about 20 buns
- 1/2 cup of lukewarm water
- 1 tsp dry yeast
- 1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons)
- 2 cups of milk
- 1/4 cups of honey
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 cups of flour
- 1 beaten egg for the top
- poppy seed or sesame seeds (optional) for the top
- vegetable oil
Place the warm water with the yeast in a large bowl and let it dissolve. Melt the butter in a medium sized pot, then add the milk and warm it till finger warm. Add this to the yeast mixture.
Add the honey and salt. Add flour and knead until dough is no longer sticky, but also not too dry.
Cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour. Preheat oven to 400 F.
Grease 3 large cookie sheets with oil. Roll the buns and place them on the cookie sheets. Brush the top of the buns with an egg and sprinkle them with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. Bake buns until golden on top and sound hollow on the bottom – about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on oven.