Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Nettle Pesto Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Nettles don't seem like the friendliest of vegetables, especially when you're stumbling into one in the forest and small, burning welts rise across your skin. (Though I do have one masochistic friend who seeks them out in order to punch them with her bare fist.)

I found this behavior odd until I read in this article from Vegetarian Living that nettle stings can help to wake up the mind via neurotransmitters, and also provide relief from stiff joints. Luckily for my friend, nettles aren't nearly as evil as poison oak, since the unpleasant sensation that they cause only lasts about 10 minutes, you know immediately if you've touched them, and when you cook them, their spines deactivate, making them edible.

Since I'm generally a big wimp, I stayed far away from the so-called stingers for years before my curiosity finally got the better of me. I picked up a package of the scary greens from Knoll Farms via my co-op, and beat the nettles into submission, using a pair of tongs to drown them in boiling water. I then froze them in an ice water bath, and finally wrung the little buggers dry.

Once cooked, nettles lose their sting entirely. They taste like spinach, only more so - rich with iron and with a deeper, woodsy flavor. Blanched and blended into a pesto of sliced almonds, lemon zest, garlic, olive oil and parmesan, they make a mild, green-hued backdrop to the other ingredients.

I've been thinking a lot about tomatoes lately; mostly how I miss them, how long it will be until they're in season again, and how canned tomatoes don't really do the trick. Packing sun-dried tomatoes in oil does a good job of preserving their flavor, so I added some to the pasta for a splash of color and whisper-of-summer flavor.

I loosen the pesto with a bit of hot water, then toss it with fresh pasta, which in addition to cooking in just over a minute, manages to make any meal feel special. Then I add the slivered sun-dried tomatoes, crumbled ricotta salata, oil-cured olives and toasted sliced almonds. The whole dish tastes fresh and bright, with lots of sweet, happy flavors bouncing about and babbling about spring. It's one of those dishes that feels light and satisfying at the same time.

Look for nettles at farmer's markets in the winter and spring, or forage for them (carefully) in forests. Though if you can't find nettles, or prefer a green that doesn't fight back, broccoli rabe makes a fine substitute.

Do use tongs when handling the raw nettles. And don't actually garnish the plates with raw nettle leaves, unless your guests are into that kind of sting.

Pesto is the best-o:

One year ago:
Winter Vegetable Noodle Curry
Two years ago:
Butterscotch Pudding (I just made this again last night - we still love it as much as ever)
Three years ago:
Citrus Cornmeal Poundcake

Nettle Pesto Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Ricotta Salata

Be sure to only handle raw nettles with tongs or rubber gloves so as not to get their tiny, welt-raising spines stuck in your skin. (Once the nettles are cooked, touching or eating them is completely safe.) This recipe makes enough pesto for 2-3 rounds of pasta, each serving 3-4. Alternately, extra pesto is great on sandwiches, with eggs, swirled into a bean-based soup, or on pizza. It will stay green in a jar in the fridge for at least a week. If you lack fresh pasta, use 6 ounces of dry pasta, adjusting the cooking time (and the other ingredients if needed).

Makes 3-4 main-course-sized servings

Nettle Pesto:
3-4 ounces (4-5 cups, packed) young stinging nettles
6 tablespoons sliced almonds (plus 4 tablespoons for topping the pasta), lightly toasted and cooled
2 medium cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
zest of 1 small lemon
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Pasta and such:
1/2 cup of pesto (from above) 
8 ounces fresh pasta (such as linguine)
8 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, squeezed of excess oil and slivered
8 oil-cured olives, smashed, pitted and chopped fairly fine
1/2 cup crumbled ricotta salata (about 2 ounces)
4 tablespoons sliced almonds, lightly toasted (from above)

Make the pesto:
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath and set it aside. Rinse the nettles, touching them only with tongs or gloved hands, then plunge them into the boiling water until they wilt and turn bright green, about 30 seconds. Drain the nettles, then dump them into the ice bath. When they have cooled, drain them again and squeeze out the excess water (their spines will not be stingy anymore, so you can use your bare hands).

Place the blanched and drained nettles in a food processor with the 6 tablespoons of almonds, garlic, lemon zest, parmesan and salt. Blend until smooth-ish, then slowly pour in the olive oil with the motor running until you have a homogenous, green paste. You will have about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups. Store the pesto in the fridge until needed; it will stay green for about a week.

Make the pasta:
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add 1/4 cup of the hot water to the 1/2 cup of pesto and stir to combine (this will warm and loosen the pesto, helping it coat the pasta). Have the other ingredients ready to go.

Boil the fresh pasta for 1-2 minutes (or as the package instructs). Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water (in case you need to moisten the pasta some more), then drain the pasta and place it in a large bowl. Toss with the pesto, tomatoes, olives, cheese and almonds (reserving some for garnish if you like), moistening it with more pasta water if the pasta seems dry. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

(Gluten-Free) Chocolate Almond Olive Oil Cake

The first job I had in San Francisco was at a gluten-free wholesale bakery where work days consisted of mixing, baking, and packaging hundreds of really good fudgy brownies. My favorite task was cutting up "brownie favors," irregular pieces that got weighed into bakery bags. It was way too easy to continually stuff my face full of brownies pop a scrap in my mouth every so often, which I could rationalize because the brownies contained brown rice flour, palm oil, ground flax and organic eggs. (And besides, as we say in the baking biz, "Broken cookies have no calories.")

One day we got an angry letter from a vegan claiming to have been bamboozled into eating eggs by our misleading label, which proclaimed the bars "gluten- and dairy-free."

Since dairy is defined as "food made from or containing milk," eggs are not technically dairy. (I checked)

This did not endear me to vegans.

So lest there be any confusion, this cake contains no dairy, but it does get its luscious texture from whipped egg whites. The recipe hails from Alice Medrich's latest collection of amazingness Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts. Ms. Medrich has a well-deserved reputation for being an awesome baker with solid recipes who isn't afraid to try new techniques. She is a culinary pioneer from whom I find continual inspiration.

Olive oil replaces the butter in this cake, giving it rich undertones of something mysterious. Since olive oil is liquid at room temperature, the cake stays tender when cool, with a crispy, rippled top. The flavors develop more fully after a day or two, and they really pop when dotted with more olive oil and a few crunchy flakes of sea salt. I like a dollop of plain whipped cream, too.  

I made one small change in the recipe, trading wheat flour for sticky rice flour to make the cake gluten-free, and two small tweaks to the method. I lowered the oven temperature from 375º to 325º, as the first cake I made turned out overdone on the outside, but under-baked in the middle. The lower temperature bakes the cake more evenly, and prevents the sensitive chocolate and oil from over-heating. I also whisk the almond-flour mixture right into the melted chocolate mixture rather than folding it in with the whipped egg whites, as this seems easier.

This cake turns out moist, tender and rich, but not so densely truffle-like as some cakes of its ilk. The ground almonds add body, and its judicious sweetness is balanced by deep chocolate and fragrant olive oil. It appreciates a tot of good whiskey or a cup of coffee.

Since I have several lactose-intolerant friends, I'm quite happy to have this cake in my arsenal for continually stuffing my face the occasional dinner party. (Thanks, Alice Medrich!) Serve it up to guests, or make if for your sweetie for the upcoming holiday. You won't get complaints from any non-vegans.

Olive oil love:

(Gluten-Free) Chocolate Almond Olive Oil Cake

Adapted from Alice Medrich's Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts

This cake makes a great do-ahead dessert as it is even better on the second or third day, when the flavors have had a chance to develop. To keep the batter happy, warm your eggs to room temperature before making the cake; this will keep the batter fluid and easy to fold. You can do this quickly by placing the whole eggs in a bowl of warm tap water and letting them sit for 5-10 minutes. If gluten isn't an issue, feel free to use all-purpose wheat flour in place of the rice; or you could probably use a gluten-free all-purpose blend. Do use good chocolate and olive oil that you like the taste of - I used Scharffen Berger's bittersweet chocolate and a locally produced, extra-virgin olive oil. I only had a 9" springform pan, so that is what I used here; an 8" pan will make a taller cake.

Makes one 8 or 9" cake, 12 small but rich servings

scant 1/2 cup (2 ounces) natural or blanched whole almonds, or 1/2 cup (2 ounces) almond meal
2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) sweet rice flour (such as Mochiko)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate with 70-72% cacao mass, roughly chopped (1 1/4 cups)
1/2 cup (3 1/4 ounces) flavorful olive oil, plus extra for serving
1/8 teaspoon salt  
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
3/4 cup (6 ounces) sugar, divided use
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
flaky salt for serving
unsweetened whipped cream, for serving

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325º. Grease an 8 or 9" round springform pan with a bit of olive oil.

If using whole almonds, grind them with the flour in a food processor or clean coffee grinder until powdery. Sift out any chunks and set aside.

Place the chocolate, oil and salt in a large, metal bowl. Place the bowl in a skillet filled with 2" of barely simmering water, and stir frequently until the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl from the skillet and whisk in 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the almond mixture (or the almond meal and flour) until combined. Whisk in the egg yolks. If the mixture gets cold, it may start to "seize" or look grainy. In this case, place the bowl back into the warm water and stir until it loosens up again.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until foamy, then gradually pour in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, whipping the whites until they hold soft peaks (i.e., when you pull the whisk out and hold it upside down, the peaks of white flop over).

Without delay, use a rubber spatula to stir 1/3 of the whipped whites into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the remaining whites until the batter is just combined and no streaks remain.

Immediately scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, 40-45 minutes. Let the cake cool completely, then remove the sides of the pan and sprinkle with a bit of flaky salt. Use a large chef's knife wiped clean after each cut to slice the cake into thin wedges.

Serve each slice with a dollop of cream and drizzle of super good olive oil. The cake will keep, covered and at room temperature, for up to three days.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Breakfast Bars with Apricots, Prunes and Almonds

When I was laid up with a nasty cold three Decembers ago, I spent several days doing little other than reading though Deb's archives. This year, I was thrilled to get my mitts on The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, which my dad sent me on my mid-December birthday (thanks, Dad!). Since I am almost always sick on my birthday*, I spent the next three days in bed, reading the book from cover to cover.

You clearly like food, and blogs, so you almost certainly know that with Deb's superb writing and photographs, this was entirely possible. You probably did the same thing and ended up with a severe craving for that chicken roasted over marble potatoes, too.

Now that I'm well, I've been cooking my way through the breakfast section – first the gingerbread dutch baby, then the baked ranchero eggs. The sweet potato blintzes are as amazing as they look, and they're fun to make, too. I knew these breakfast bars would be perfect for my health-conscious cousin, a new mom who needs lots of easy and energy-efficient snacks.

Since my cousin is allergic to the dates called for in the original recipe, I experimented with different dried fruit. Since both plums and apricots get on famously with almonds, they were a natural choice, and I like that they both contain a bit of tartness. These fruits turned out chewier than the dates in the baked bars, since they contain fewer moisture-retaining sugars, so I plumped them in a bit of warm orange juice, which fixed them right up.

I also made them gluten-free since it was so easy. I traded the wheat flour for oat flour, the wheat germ for ground flaxseed to help stick things together, and I upped the almond butter to further help them adhere, and because I loved its presence so that I wanted even more of it.

The bars are parsimoniously flavored with a whisper of cinnamon and orange zest and a drop of almond extract. These, combined with honey and olive oil, give the bars a distinctly Mediterranean flair that allows the other ingredients to shine. As Deb aptly puts it, they still taste like a treat.

It's a good thing they are so healthy, because I've developed a sort of psychological dependence on them. I so appreciate having them on hand for those moments in the day when I suddenly find myself hungry enough to gnaw off my own hand and, blind with hunger, reach for the first thing I see. It's a happy coincidence when that thing is a container full of these nourishing bars.

It goes without saying that these make an ideal snack for a hike, a camping trip, or an early morning at work. And it's hard to resist packaging them up to give to friends and family.

If you do, I guarantee you will not be the only one smitten with these heavenly bars.

*You can listen to my thoughts on this topic in a song I wrote (and performed with my band) here.

Desserts for breakfast:
Gluten-Free Banana Buckwheat Pancakes
Cardamom Pear Oven Pancake
Breakfast Bars with Tart Cherries, Chocolate and Pecans

Almond, Prune and Apricot Breakfast Bars

Since there is such a small amount of flour here, you could probably substitute a gluten-free all-purpose blend if you preferred. And you could swap out the apricots and prunes for just about any dried fruit that is soft and moist - I think figs would be nice, too. If you or your bar-eaters are very sensitive to gluten, be sure to seek out gluten-free oats and oat flour. A good, flavorful honey will make these extra-delicious (I use an amazing blackberry honey that we get in bulk at our co-op). All ounce measurements are by weight.

Makes twelve 2x3" bars (an 8x8" pan)

scant 1/2 teaspoon zest from 1/4 of a large orange
2-3 tablespoons orange juice from half a large orange
1/2 cup (3 1/4 ounces) dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup (3 1/4 ounces) prunes, chopped

2/3 cup (2 3/4 ounces) sliced almonds, plus a few extra for the top
1 1/2 cups (5 ounces) quick (baby) oats
2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) flax seed, ground in a coffee or spice grinder
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) oat flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3 ounces) almond butter
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) olive oil
1/4 cup (2 3/4 ounces) honey
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325º. Line the bottom and sides of an 8x8" square baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. 

Zest the 1/4 of orange into a medium bowl and set aside. Place the chopped apricots and prunes in another medium bowl and set aside. Juice half of the orange into a small saucepan and bring to a bare simmer over a medium flame, swirling occasionally. Pour the hot juice over the dried fruit and let sit to absorb, tossing once or twice, while you get on with the recipe. 

Spread the almonds on a small baking sheet and toast in the oven until fragrant, 4-5 minutes. In a large bowl, stir together the toasted almonds, oats, ground flax, oat flour, salt and cinnamon.

To the bowl with the orange zest, add the almond butter, olive oil, honey and almond extract and whisk to combine. 

Add the almond butter mixture and the dried fruit mixture to the oat mixture and stir until well combined.

Scrape the mixture into the lined baking pan and use moistened fingers to press it firmly and evenly into the pan. Press a few extra sliced almonds into the top if you like. Bake the bars until the top is golden, 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely, then use the parchment paper "handles" to remove the bar to a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef's knife to cut the bar into 12 rectangles. 

The bars keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Quinoa, Beet and Chickpea Burgers


One of the oddest foods I've ever seen was a frozen vegan product designed to look and taste like salmon, complete with a headless-fish shape and scaly "skin." It contained a laundry list of hard to pronounce ingredients, and made me realize that just because something was vegan truly didn't mean that it was healthy.

Being the type of person who gets more excited over side dishes than traditional main courses (case in point: I ordered pasta with a side of mashed potatoes at a nice restaurant when I was 10, to my family's chagrin), I can't imagine missing fish enough to eat the aforementioned Franken-soy product, or fowl enough to indulge in Tofurky. Similarly, I think that veggie burgers should stop trying to taste like beef, and that if you miss them that much, perhaps your body is begging you to indulge in a real (grass-fed, organic) burger for a good reason. 

I see burgers more as a vehicle for melted cheese, tangy mustard, gooey avocado, and a crusty, chewy bun. (And I will fight you for that pickle.)

If you are currently or have ever been vegetarian, I don't need to tell you that many veggie burgers are godawful. Unless you find one out at a good vegetarian restaurant, you are usually facing a pasty, brown hocky puck of a thing, sometimes deep fried to compensate for insipid flavor and flaccid texture. Putting the bready thing into a bun often seems redundant.

I based this formula loosely on a recipe from The Kitchn that was in turn inspired by a well-loved burger from Ohio's Northstar Cafe. I used quinoa in place of the brown rice, and chickpeas instead of the black beans, just because I liked the idea of those ingredients all hanging out together with sauteed beets. A small amount of egg and quick oats gently bind the burgers as they sear in the pan, and they get a bright flavor boost from lemon zest and juice and fresh parsley. They're moist and delicate enough that sandwiching one between a Honey Oat Beer Bun doesn't seem terribly like a big starch fest (not that I would mind one of those, clearly). 

Though they benefit from a generous slathering of mustard, mayo, avocado, red onion and sprouts, they would also work well served as croquettes with a dollop of minted yogurt, or cooked into felafel-sized patties and nestled in a warm pita pocket with lemon tahini dressing and shredded romaine.

You do need to cook chickpeas, quinoa, and the vegetables separately, but these components can all be made ahead (and you can use canned beans in a pinch). The burger mixture itself keeps well in the fridge, affording you burgers for days.

My favorite thing about these burgers is that although they look like rare beef, they actually taste like vegetables.

Happy meals:

Quinoa, Beet and Chickpea Burgers

Adapted loosely from The Kitchn

If you don't have 8 hours to soak your beans, you can cover them in boiling water and let them sit for 1-2 hours, or just cook them from dried; they will take a bit longer to cook. I like to cook my own beans, as directed below, but you can certainly use canned or jarred ones if your prefer. The half cup of dried beans that I cooked yielded 1 1/4 cups of cooked beans, but you can throw the whole can in, which should contain about 1 1/2 cups. In that case, you won't need the bay leaf. 

As I mention above, the quinoa, chickpeas and vegetables can all be cooked a day or two ahead of time. The burger mixture keeps well for several days in the fridge for on-demand burgers. Serve these with Honey Oat Beer Buns.

Update 11/13/13: A few commenters have reported that their burgers aren't holding together well. Until I can get to the bottom of this, I would recommend weighing your beets - they should be 10 ounces in all. If you've weighed your beets and the mixture still won't stick, try adding an extra egg and/or more quick oats. 

Makes 6 full-sized burgers, or 12ish sliders (mini-burgers)

The burger mixture:
1/2 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked 8 hours or overnight (or one 14 ounce can of cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup raw quinoa (white or multi)
3 medium-sized red beets (about 10 ounces)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2-4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
zest from 1/2 a medium lemon
juice of 1 medium lemon
1 large egg
1/2 cup quick (baby) oats

For serving:
several tablespoons of light olive oil, for frying the burgers
6 buns (such as Honey Oat Beer Buns), halved and toasted
mustard, mayonnaise, avocado, thinly sliced red onion, sprouts

Cook the beans:
Drain the soaked chickpeas and place them in a medium saucepan with the bay leaf. Cover with 3 inches of water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are almost tender. At this point, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the pot. Continue cooking until the beans are very tender. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour total, depending on the size and age of the beans. Add water to the pan as needed. When the beans are done, let them cool in their water until needed. If you like, you can slip the loose skins off the beans, though this isn't necessary.

Cook the quinoa:
Place the quinoa in a very fine mesh strainer, place the strainer in a bowl or measuring cup, and fill with water to cover the quinoa. Let soak 5-10 minutes, swishing occasionally, to rinse off the bitter coating. The water will turn a beige-yellow. Drain the quinoa well, discard the soaking water, and place the quinoa in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, immediately reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot, and let the quinoa steam until tender and all the water is absorbed, 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, until ready to use. 

Cook the veg:
Peel the beets with a potato peeler, then grate them on the large holes of a box grater. The beets will spray, so wear an apron and have your work area clear of things you don't want covered in tiny red specks. Heat the oil in a wide saute pan (that has a lid that you will use later) over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, the grated beets, and a big pinch of salt. Give it a stir, then cover the pan and let the mixture cook, stirring occasionally, until the beet is tender, 5 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and deglaze by adding the vinegar and stirring up any good stuff that is stuck to the bottom of the pan. 

Make the burgers:
In a large bowl, combine the cooked chickpeas, quinoa and beet mixture and mash with a potato masher to break up the beans slightly - the mixture should still be fairly chunky. Stir in the parsley, lemon zest and juice, egg, oats, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until combined.

Cook the burgers:
Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions (a large spring-loaded scoop works well) and shape into 1" thick rounds. Coat the bottom of a wide skillet with oil and heat over a medium flame until the oil shimmers. Carefully add the burger patties. Cook until the first side is golden, 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook on the second side until it is golden and the burger is cooked through, 2-3 minutes, reducing the heat if the burger is browning too quickly.

Serve the burgers on toasted buns slathered in any toppings you like.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Honey Oat Beer Buns

I never feel more like a "real" baker than when I'm shaping bread dough. And there's no better time to bake bread than a chilly winter day spent at home. 

Indeed, bread baking is a quintessentially bojon activity as it requires a bit of time and patience doing nothing while you silently curse the dough for not rising faster take a deep breath and enjoy living in the present moment. You're on the bread's schedule, and if it's cold and slow-moving, you can't do much to hurry it up, save for sticking it in an oven armed with a pilot light, and reading food porn while you sip a hot toddy in your jammies.

Last year I got it into my head to make a triple barley bread, which would contain barley flour, barley flakes, and fermented barley juice (a.k.a. beer!). I tinkered with different ratios, but the bread kept turning out on the dense/crumbly side. One day I found myself out of both barley flakes and flour, so I made "single barley bread," with oats and whole wheat bread flour in their place. This loaf turned out springy and light, heads and tails above the others, due, presumably, to more gluten in the whole wheat flour, and softer oats which cut at the glutens less than the sturdier barley flakes. I haven't looked back.

I wanted a good whole-grain bun on which to put burgers or dip into soups, so I added an egg and a touch more honey to my standard recipe, and turned them into these buns.

I made small ones first, 2 ounces of dough each – dinner roll size. After diving into a warm bun slathered in butter Jay said, "The only problem with your buns is that they're too small."

Well, there's a first time for everything.

To keep him happy, I made some bigger buns which I flattened slightly so that they'd make good sandwiches. We've been slicing them in half and enjoying them slathered with cream cheese and lox for breakfast, topped with melted cheese and smoked turkey for lunch, and surrounding Chickpea, Beet and Quinoa Burgers for dinner.

The buns are slightly sweet, with a deep, malty flavor from the beer. Oats and whole wheat flour give them a bit of heft and chew, while butter and egg keep them soft and a little bit rich.

If you have yet to brave yeasted bread, this would be a forgiving recipe to start with. I knead it by hand every time, though you can throw it in a stand mixer armed with the dough hook if you want to keep your hands free.

So slip on your jammies, mix up a hot toddy, and get to work. Bojon, my friends.

Beery baking:


Honey Oat Beer Buns

If you lack rapid-rise (also called "instant") yeast, substitute active dry, stirring it into the warm beer/oat mixture and letting it sit for about 15 minutes before proceeding with the recipe. All ounce measurements here are by weight. I use Anchor Steam (lager) or Summer Ale (wheat beer) when I make these. Use a darker stout or porter for deeper color and flavor if you like, but stay away from anything hoppy, such as IPA. Turn larger buns into sandwiches, or top with Quinoa, Beet and Chickpea Burgers. Smaller buns make great sliders or dinner rolls.

Rolling buns takes a bit of practice, but it's fun once you get the hang of it; here is a good video to get you started.

Makes 10 large (burger-sized) or 20 small (slider/dinner roll-sized) buns

The dough:
12 ounces beer (I prefer a lager or wheat beer, such as Anchor Steam or Anchor Summer Ale)
3/4 cup (2 1/2 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup (3 ounces) mild honey
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter

1 large egg
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) whole wheat bread flour
1 package (1/4 ounce) rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt (or 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt)
about 2 cups white bread flour, plus more for kneading

For finishing:
1 large egg
1/2 cup oats

In a medium saucepan, heat the beer to a simmer. Watch it closely, as it will foam up and overflow the pot if it gets too hot. Meanwhile, place the oats, honey and butter in a large, heat-proof bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). Pour the hot beer over the oat mixture and let it sit until just warm to the touch (100-100ºF), about 30 minutes, stirring the mixture occasionally.

If using a stand mixer: fit it with the dough hook and use that to incorporate the ingredients and knead the dough as follows. If kneading by hand: proceed with a wooden spoon, and then your hands for kneading.

Beat in the egg, then the whole wheat flour, yeast and salt, stirring until smooth. Begin adding the white flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until smooth after each addition, until the mixture is too thick to stir with a spoon.

Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, sprinkle a bit more flour over the top, and invert the bowl over the dough. Let the dough sit and autolyse for 20 minutes. This lets the dough absorb some moisture and makes it easier to knead.

Uncover the dough, and knead it vigorously (or in the mixer on medium-low speed) for 10-12 minutes, using as little flour as possible on your hands and the work surface to prevent the dough from sticking. When you've finished, the dough will feel springy and look smoother than when you began. (It will not be completely smooth or withstand a windowpane test due to the whole grains).

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl or container that is at least 3 times the volume of the dough. Turn the dough to coat it with oil, then cover the container snugly and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled or tripled in bulk, 1-2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Place the 1/2 cup oats in a shallow bowl.

When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 10 or 20 equal pieces. I like to use a scale to weigh the buns into 4 or 2 ounce balls, respectively; 4 ounce balls will make burger-sized buns, whereas 2 ounce balls will make slider or dinner roll sized buns.

Tuck the edges of a dough ball under itself, then place it seam side-down on an un-floured part of the counter and roll it counter-clockwise to seal the seam and pull the outer layer of dough taut (see video link in headnote). You may need to use two hands to turn the dough for larger balls. When you've rolled a bun, dip its bottom in the oats, then place it on the lined baking sheet. If making sandwich buns, use a lightly floured palm to flatten the bun slightly.

Repeat with the remaining dough, placing the balls 2-3 inches apart on the baking sheet. You may need a second baking sheet, though it's ok if the buns touch a bit when they expand. Slide the whole sheet pan into a large, clean garbage bag, inflate the bag a bit, and twist it closed, securing it with a clip or twist tie. Let the buns rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375ºF.

When the buns have risen, remove them from the bag. Beat the remaining egg in a medium bowl with 1 tablespoon of water until foamy. Brush the top of each bun with the egg wash, and sprinkle to tops with more oats.

Bake the buns until they are deeply bronzed on top, about 15 minutes for small buns and 20 minutes for larger buns, rotating the pan halfway through for even baking. An instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a bun should register 200-210ºF when they are cooked through.

Let the buns cool until warm. Eat warm, or let cool completely.

The buns will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for a few days, or double-bagged in the freezer for a month or two. Defrost and toast the buns before serving.