Friday, December 31, 2010

Lithuanian Bacon Buns

Like I was saying yesterday, these Magical Buns of Delight (snicker, chuckle, giggle) make Christmas ten thousand times better than it already is. That means Christmas 2010 was wonderful multiplied by googooplex infinity. It was pretty damn good. And I'm happy to say that my Lithuanian Bacon Buns are back from their long hibernation.

(This recipe is adapted from the heirloom cookbook Popular Lithuanian Recipes by Josephine Dauzvardis.)

Lithuanian Bacon Buns

2 lbs bacon, thick cut, try to get bacon with as much meat as you can find
2 large onions, finely diced
2 cups milk (my favorite non-dairy alternative is Unsweetened Original Almond Milk by Blue Diamond)
1/2 lb butter (I did not try a non-dairy alternative to butter as butter is supposedly ok for us casein sensitive types)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 pkg. granular yeast
6 large eggs
6 cups all-purpose flour (the gluten-free flour alternative I used was Pamela's Gluten-Free Bread Mix and Flour Blend, it ROCKED)

Preparation Method:

Begin early in the morning. Allow yourself at least seven hours from start to finish.

Say hello to your morning by slicing the bacon into very small pieces. Tip: Place the bacon in the freezer for about an hour prior to working with it. Really cold bacon is so much easier to chop.

Now chop into even smaller pieces.

Dice the onions into really small pieces as well.

Place all the bacon and onions into a large frying pan with tall sides.

Mix together.

Cover with water. The bacon and onions will be swimming graciously in the pan now.

Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and turn heat to low. Simmer for about two hours. Now that the bacon and onions are on the stove to simmer, it is time to begin preparing the dough.

Heat 2 cups milk and 1/2 pound butter on the stove on med-low heat. Melt butter completely. Add 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp salt.

Remove 1/2 cup of this liquid into a separate bowl and stir the yeast into it. This was the trickiest part for me. I couldn't seem to get my yeast to activate. Coming from someone who hasn't baked with yeast in a century, I was clueless about the fine temperament of this stuff. Thank God I ran into my neighbor at the grocery store earlier that morning and she shared all the yeasty secrets with me. Too cold and it won't activate. Too hot and you'll kill the yeast. The answer is liquid that is between 110 - 115 degrees Fahrenheit. The yeast will dissolve easily and get all frothy after about five minutes. Perfect.

While waiting for the yeast to activate, beat all six eggs slightly.

Add the eggs to the remaining milk mixture.

Now add the dissolved yeast mixture into the milk and egg mixture.

Grab the all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour blend in my case).

Stir in the sifted flour cup by cup. It would make good sense to do this in one of those fancy KitchenAid stand mixers. I don't have one. So I mixed by hand.

Or should I say forearm, bicep and elbow joint.

By the sixth cup of flour, this stuff was getting tough. My forearms were burning.

So I decided the proper thing to do was to take a little break with the Puppy Chow - chocolate and peanut butter coated rice Chex. You see, if I make a small entry point with the tin foil it means I wasn't eating the whole bowl all by myself. I only had a couple. Later in the day when asked where all the Puppy Chow went I'll clearly be able to say, "I don't know my dear, wherever could it have gone?"

Back from break, continue beating the dough until it is firm and holds its shape all on its own. Let me tell you, this takes some serious beating. Like fifteen minutes by hand. This is a good opportunity to get all of your frustrations out. I do have memory of a bit of cursing coming from my mouth during that fifteen minutes of dough beating intensity. And sweating. Quite a bit of sweating on that Christmas Eve morn. Thank goodness the family was out to breakfast. It was starting to get ugly.

And then perfection. A hunk of dough that sits in a little round ball at the base of my bowl. Ahhh, so worth it.

Place a wet towel over the bowl and let rise in a warm place (82 degrees) until the dough is double in bulk - about two hours.

Once the dough is all set to rise, come back to the bacon. Remove lid and continue simmering on low until all the water has evaporated. This should take another couple of hours.

Once the dough has risen, remove towel...

and punch it down. This is possibly the funnest part of the day in my opinion.

Rewet the towel and place it over the bowl of dough. Let rise again. Approximately another two hours, maybe less.

Once the contents of the frying pan are well browned and the onion has disintegrated, place everything from the pan into a bowl and allow to chill in the refrigerator. This is approximately four or five hours from when it first began simmering.

When the dough is double in bulk again...

cut it into four sections.

Roll each section onto a lightly floured surface. The rolled dough should be a little less than a half an inch thick. Sidenote: My dough was incredibly sticky. This could be due to the gluten-free flour I was using, I'm not sure. To make it workable I folded quite a bit more flour into the dough at this point. That said, the moister the dough the tastier the bun. Get the dough to a place where you can work with it, but be advised not to make it too dry.

Cut circles with a cookie cutter or rim of a glass - approximately four inches in diameter.

Grab the cooled bacon out of the refrigerator.

Place a teaspoon of bacon into the center of each dough cutout. Don't exclude the bacon grease here. It truly is a very important part of all of this. As the bun begins to bake in the oven, the grease will permeate the surrounding dough and infuse a huge burst of flavor to the bun.

Fold the sides of the dough circle over bacon pressing the edges together to enclose the bacon completely.

Place lapped side down on a cookie sheet. Let rise again until double in size. Or not. Mine rose nicely in the oven without this extra rising step.

Bake in 375 degree (Fahrenheit) oven for 15 - 20 minutes. Optional step - when rolls are slightly tan, brush each roll with mixture of egg yolk and 2 tsps water. Return to oven and bake until golden brown about 10 minutes.

Gluten-Free sidenote: My rolls were finished baking after just 15 minutes. You'll know they are done when they are perfectly tan and the bacon grease is frying the bottoms to a crisp.

Serve rolls hot. And eat them cold in the morning for breakfast. If you have any left, that is.

Late in the day I was getting fatigued so I decided to try something I have never done before. A bacon bun rollup. Similar to a cinnamon roll, only with bacon inside. Such a lovely surprise!

Place the bacon in a thin layer over one of the quarter sections of rolled out dough. Begin rolling it up.

Keep rolling. Pinch ends of dough into the roll to seal it completely.

Please the bacon-full log in a pan with high sides. There will be grease.

Bake in the same 375 degree oven as the bacon buns for 15 - 20 minutes, possibly longer. It is done when the crust is perfectly brown and the grease is sizzling in the bottom of the pan.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do! 

Gero apetito!

To get you in the mood for this all day bacon fest...

The Lithuanian National Anthem

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Magical Buns Of Delight

It's Lithuanian Week here in The Little White Kitchen! 

Christmastime around these parts only means three things... Krupnikas, Kugalis, and Bacon Buns. To heck with the ham, green beans, and carrots at Christmas dinner. All I need is Bacon Buns. I can't find the words to describe these magical little buns of delight. So I won't try. All I know is that once you try them, you'll be hooked.

I've been a devotee of this culinary treasure from my heritage since I was a wee girl.

Every Christmas and Easter my father carefully crafted the bacon buns. He would start in the early morning working the dough. The simple pairing of bacon and onions boiling on the stove all day filled the house with a heavenly aroma enjoyed only by the truest of bacon lovers. Punching down the dough was always my job. It certainly was one of the more satisfying parts of the all-day process. And in the late afternoon, as the sun was getting low in the winter sky, we would roll the dough out on the heavy wooden cutting board and cut large circles with the rim of an old beer glass. Placing the perfect amount of bacon mixture onto the center of the bun, I would then wrap it up like a tiny Christmas present just waiting with anticipation to be opened.

So you see, when I want to get in touch with my Lithuanian roots, this is where I turn. 

No one is saying that these old Lithuanian favorites are any good for you - remember the multiple liters of Everclear and pounds of honey in the Krupnikas? And now with the Bacon Buns we've got pounds of bacon grease to go along with all that sugar and alcohol. But I must say, there is a certain satisfaction in eating comfort food that cannot be measured in calories or cholesterol. Since I only make these once a year as a Christmas Eve tradition I will show no restraint when considering the health stats on these things. Bring. It. On. It's worth every bite.

An important aside about my gluten-free bacon buns:

With tears and mourning, I gave up my Christmas Eve bacon bun tradition the year our family went gluten-free. With my dismal success in the gluten-free baking department I decided it wasn't worth the effort to spend all day slaving over something that was going to taste like cardboard with bacon packed inside.

This year was different however. I had suffered enough. I was not willing to go another year without bacon buns. I couldn't stand it any longer. I consulted friends. I triple checked the back side of packages. I trial tested three versions of my dough on the eve of Christmas Eve. 

And I succeeded! Surprisingly enough, my family ate gluten-free bacon buns that would give wheatful bacon buns a run for their money any day. These little treasures were so good that they barely had time to make it to the dinner table, most of them disappeared right out of the oven. Whomever wasn't in the kitchen when the buns were ready sadly missed their opportunity to partake in the best thing to come out of my oven all year!

And with that, I will bring you my bacon bun recipe tomorrow. Same time, same place. Be there or be square. 

And don't worry all you hardcore bacon bun fans, I'll be bringing the wheatful and the wheat-free recipes for your enjoyment.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And Finally... My Most Favorite Christmas Tune

I know, I've been sharing a whole lot of favorite Christmas tunes with you lately. And as of tonight, the Christmas music will be over and done with for a very long time. In my house that's ten long months, until November 1st when we turn the Christmas music back on again.

Today we've been listening to the "Classic Holiday Radio" station on the Inter-Webs all day long and have heard some mighty good songs. A handful of my favorites, in fact.

But this song, ohhhhhh, this song. It is the best of the best. It is not your average Christmas tune. 

I was cleaning the kitchen for the sixth time today and Brenda Lee's Papa Noel came on. I turned it up. Way up! 

It got me dancing around The Little White Kitchen, swirling the plastic wrap around the Kugelis, two stepping while scouring the pan that held the holiday ham, and skipping the leftover candied apples all the way to the icebox. 

Try it for yourself if you've got a bit of a kitchen to clean tonight. Or if you're reading this on the day after Christmas and you still have a whole lot to clean, don't fret. Turn on Brenda Lee and it'll pick you up and send you soaring!

It's so good you won't need to hear another Christmas song for another 364 days. (Or 300 days if you live in my house.)

Brenda Lee - Papa Noel

I'll admit that this video is a little distracting to the total and complete awesomeness of the song. If you want to see an amazing video that fits perfectly with the song go watch this other video on YouTube here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kristmas Krupnikas

Yes, that is Everclear. 

Yes, that is 2250 ml of Everclear on my kitchen counter. 

Yes, that is two and a quarter liters of the hard stuff. 

There is a big fat warning on the front label that states "overconsumption may endanger your health".

The guy at the liquor store told me not to take shots of it because it will burn my esophagus. Dude, do I really look like the kind of gal who is interested in taking shots of 190 Proof grain alcohol? I can hardly take a shot of a Buttery Nipple. Puh-leeze. I prefer to slowly nurse my Buttery Nipple. 

To make up for the terrible cookie baking experiment the night before, I decided to host a Krupnikas making party to help ring in the season. You see, Krupnikas is a traditional Lithuanian spiced honey liqueur that my father always served after dinner on Christmas Eve. 

In recent years, he began crafting his own Krupnikas and had gifted us with a few bottles here and there. 

We slowly began sharing it with friends over the same recent years at poker parties and the like. This stuff is not for everyone. It'll grow hair on your chest, friends. Clearly there are plenty of men in our lives who don't mind the extra hair.

And so began a small cult following of the pungent sweet stuff. And before I knew it, these Krupnikas aficionados began asking to craft their own. So there we were, a week before Christmas, brewing our own spiced honey liqueur.

We laughed about the drink causing the women to make funny faces upon every tiny sip.

We dreamed up t-shirts with Krupnikas slogans for next year's party. 

We even found a few memorabilia items pre-designed at Cafe Press.

And we started the kitchen on fire.

Not the whole kitchen, thank goodness. The oven had been called upon to heat dinner. Really that's not too much to ask of an oven. Unless, of course, you're an oven that had butter cookie dough spewed all over it the night before. In which case all of that excess fat and sugar lit up like the Fourth of July on a cool dark night.

Someone calmly said, "Is that a fire in your oven?" To which I replied, "FIRE. FIRE. SALT. SALT. Where's the SALT? Get the SALT." And then proceeded to dump half the container over the open flames rising from the basin of my oven. And then the fire concern was over and done with for just a moment.

Until we got to the final step in the Krupnikas instructions. Remove from heat, as far away as possible (to prevent flare-up or explosion of alcohol). Holy heavens, my heart was beating 100 miles a minute as I poured that 190 Proof grain alcohol in the hot spice mixture. Luckily, there were no more fires or explosions to speak of in The Little White Kitchen that night.

In case you're up for some good adventure this holiday season, here's a Krupnikas recipe for you!

(This recipe is adapted from the heirloom cookbook Popular Lithuanian Recipes by Josephine Dauzvardis.)


1 TBS caraway seeds
10 cloves
10 whole allspice
2 sticks cinnamon
1 stick vanilla
4 thin slices ginger
10 cardamom pods
1/2 nutmeg
3 strips orange rind
3 strips lemon rind
pinch of saffron
4 cups water
2 lbs clover honey
1 quart grain alcohol

Side note: If you have any questions about Everclear being gluten-free check out this post at No Gluten No Problem. This cleared a few things up for me on the "grain alcohol" concern.

Preparation Method:

Crack cardamom pods, nutmeg, and cinnamon with mortar and pestle. Or pound on them with a rolling pin. Either way.

Place caraway seeds, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, cardamom pods and nutmeg in heavy stock pot. Roast dry spices over medium heat until fragrant.

Add 2 cups water and remaining ingredients EXCEPT the honey and alcohol.

Mark your wooden spoon with the water line. This is where you will boil the water down to.

Add remaining 2 cups of water. Cover and boil over medium heat. Check on the water level regularly. When it gets to the mark on your spoon, it is ready to be strained.

In a separate pot, boil the honey. A foam will collect at the top. Skim this off.

Now pour the spiced liquid into the honey. Stir to combine. Allow it to cool just a bit.

Here's the heart racing part of the recipe and perhaps the most fun. Remove the heavy pot as far away from the heat source as possible. You can expect explosions, fires and other panic inducing scenarios if you don't heed this advice. Slowly pour in the alcohol. Stir to combine.

Replace the pot on the stovetop on very low heat. Simply heat the mixture for 15 minutes. But be careful not to simmer or boil.

Remove from heat. Cool. Pour into glass bottles.

Allow to sit overnight. In the morning you will see a thick sediment collected at the bottom. Filter this sediment out with a coffee filter and paper towel before you allow the bottle to age. The sediment is very fine.

Age a minimum of two weeks in a cool, dark place. I hear the best Krupnikas is aged two years.

When ready to partake in the nectar of the Gods, be sure to filter one more time with a coffee filter and paper towel. By filtering twice you will achieve a very clear spirit.

Here's a toast to a joyous holiday filled with love, family, friends, laughter, dancing in the kitchen and sweet honey liqueur!

An old favorite.

Stevie Wonder - Someday at Christmas

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas Cookie Rant

My husband's Christmas Party for work was this weekend. 

I wanted to bring homemade gluten-free cookies. I could have made something I've made before, say Betty Crocker's Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies from the box. But no, that's not my style. Give me an hour in the kitchen and I will try to whip up a recipe that I adapted out of thin air, cross my fingers and hope for the best.

I prepped all the ingredients. Got the children settled into a project. I even consulted over the phone with my phenomenal allergy-friendly baking friend.

I was ready to make some cookies. And dang good ones at that.

Three sticks of butter. I like, I like. I used real butter instead of fake butter because I wanted them to turn out really good.

Self-concocted gluten-free flour mix. Perhaps this was the start of my troubles. These flours can be touchy.

Here you see that I'm using all of the butter instead of measuring the exact amount the recipe calls for. I was distracted by tying shoelaces or folding paper snowflakes or something like that. Quite possibly this was the demise of the whole project. Too much butter. I know you think it's not possible. But just wait and see what happens next.

But before we move on to the negative, let's take a moment to dwell in what is true and good. Butter and sugar whipped together to make a sweet fluffy cream. In fact this was pure heaven. It was the only redeeming aspect of this flustered baking experience.

They looked good going in. In fact, I was quite proud of myself.

I went upstairs to apply a little make-up to my face.

I must have gotten carried away because 12 minutes later I ran downstairs to smoke pouring out of the oven door.

Shooooot! Seriously? What happened to my perfectly rounded gorgeous little cookies?

Trying to see the bright side of this increasingly dismal story I thought they might taste decent and we could enjoy the cookies as some kind of "cookie brittle".

But there was no happy ending. They tasted awful. This picture above is of my "cookie brittle" in the trash can.

Why? Why? Why does this always happen to me when I try to bake gluten-free. I swear, baked goods have it out for me.

Clearly I'm trying to channel the old days when baking something tasty wasn't really all that difficult.

Flour. Butter. Sugar. Voila! Something tasty. Something magnificent. Something that honored the sweet tooth.

But no. Not so with gluten-free. It's dang near rocket science trying to make a yummy baked good. There are days when I'm sick and tired of it. Christmas Party Cookie Day was one of them.

So an hour late to the party we swung by Whole Foods to pick up a pre-made gluten-free cookie for the party. This was all I could find in my frantic sweep of the store.

Nothing against you KinniToos. After all, you are my favorite fake oreo and I was happy to eat more than half of you before the night was over. 

But I just want baking to be easy sometimes. Like the old days.

Later that night after we returned home from the party I heard another of my favorite Christmas tunes. The emotion in this rendition takes me away to another place. It's raw and filled with passion. All is well in the world when I hear this song. 

The Fray - O Holy Night

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