Holiday baking? Take a savory break: Pizza Buns

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Cake, cookies, fruitcake, chocolate, sweet sweet SWEET!

Let’s face it, the holidays are totally about sugar. If you’re not building a candy-laden gingerbread house or baking fancy iced cookies for a cookie exchange, you’re probably making chocolate truffles and buttercrunch to go in the goodie bags you’ll hand out to friends and neighbors.

Maybe you love every second of it, starting with the October fruitcakes, and finishing up with those Santa cookies you make with the kids on Christmas Eve day.

Or maybe, after cramming all the holiday baking into one carb-filled weekend marathon, you never want to look a cup of sugar in the eye again.

Are you there – just about ready to go over that super-sweet edge? This cheesy recipe’s for you.

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Well, I tout this often enough, but here it is again: Pizza Dough Flavor. It just can’t be beat for adding that certain je ne sais quoi to pizza crust, or any kind of savory, Italian-type rolls or bread.

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First, let’s get the sausage ready. This is 1 1/2 pounds of what our local store calls “Italian rope sausage.” I’ve chosen, sweet, rather than hot, to please the largest number of tasters.

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Squeeze the sausage out of its casing, and fry in a bit of oil. Can you use bulk sausage? Of course. Can you use any kind of sausage you want? Or any kind of meat?

Or no meat at all, veggies instead? Or no veggies, just cheese?

Be my guest.

And that will always be my answer, when you want to substitute your favorite “add-ins” for what’s in the recipe as written. Don’t like nuts in your cookies? Leave ’em out. Can’t stand almond extract? Your cake won’t flop if you substitute vanilla.

Exception to this rule: I can’t in good faith tell you that you can substitute applesauce or tofu for eggs in your brownies, and obtain the same result. Nor can you leave the salt out of your yeast bread, and expect it to follow the timeframe in the recipe – let alone taste what it’s intended to taste like.

How about substituting whole wheat for all-purpose flour? Often a good choice, especially when you choose white whole wheat, and use it in cookies or muffins or quick bread or bars. Start by substituting whole wheat for half the AP flour in your recipe, and if you like the results, move up from there.

How about substituting 100% whole wheat flour in a 100% all-purpose flour sandwich bread recipe? It’s no longer a white sandwich bread recipe. Maybe it’ll work; maybe not. You’re better off following a recipe written for whole wheat bread.

Finally, for those of you trying to bake gluten-free, we’re putting the final touches on the most fabulous mixes, ingredients, and recipes you’ll ever find. Stay tuned; we’ll be launching our gluten-free baking initiative this winter.

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OK, back to the sausage. Fry till brown, drain, and set aside.

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Whisk together 1/2 cup milk, 2/3 cup hot tap water, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. You should get a mixture that’s lukewarm; anything up to about 100°F or so is fine.

Why is that mixture looking so yellow, you ask? I was using a very yellow olive oil.Or maybe it was melted butter; I don’t quite remember. Either one is fine.

What’s that thermometer I’m using? Why, it’s my handy-dandy Thermapen, best digital thermometer ever. In case you’re in the market for a digital thermometer.

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In a separate, larger bowl, whisk together the following:

1 1/4 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons Pizza Dough Flavor, optional but good
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons potato flour or 1/4 cup instant potato flakes
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

If you DON’T use the Pizza Dough Flavor, increase the salt to 1 1/2 teaspoons.

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Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients…

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…and stir to combine.

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Mix and knead the mixture – by hand, using a stand mixer, or in a bread machine – to make a smooth, soft dough. Notice it’s a bit sticky; that’s just fine.

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Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or a large (8-cup) measuring cup, cover it, and allow it to rise till doubled, 60 to 90 minutes.

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While the dough is rising, get your sauce ready. You’ll want 1 cup of your favorite spaghetti or marinara sauce. My old favorite is Ragu Traditional, though Barilla, with all its tempting flavors, is making a bid to replace it. Add 1/2 teaspoon Pizza Seasoning, if you like; and 2 teaspoons sugar, to tame the sauce’s acidity.

Remember what I said above – if you don’t want to add sugar to your sauce, don’t feel obliged to do so!

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Nice rise!Yeast (well, SAF yeast, at least) is SO reliable. There’s just no holding it back.

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Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.

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Roll the dough into a 12″ x 18″ rectangle.

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Spread evenly with 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella, pizza cheese blend, or the shredded cheese of your choice, gently pressing it into the dough.

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Scatter the sausage atop the cheese, gently pressing it down.

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Starting with a short end, roll the dough into a log.

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Stuff any sausage that’s fallen out back in, seal the ends, and pat/smooth the log till it’s about 12” long.

If you cut a few slits in the top and bake it just like this, it’ll be a stromboli. I haven’t tried this, so don’t know how long to bake; but I’d guess about 45 minutes at 350°F.

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You’re going to cut the log into 12 slices. It helps to mark the slices first…

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…like this.

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Transfer the log to a suitable cutting surface before slicing.

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You don’t want to cut on your silicone mat.

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Space the rounds on two parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheets, six to a sheet.

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They may look a bit messy; that’s perfectly OK.

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Flatten each to about 1/2” thick.

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There are ready to be covered with greased plastic wrap, and left to rise.

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Allow the buns to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, till they’re somewhat puffy. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

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They won’t get wildly puffy; but you should be able to see that the dough around the filling has expanded a bit.

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Bake the buns for 15 minutes.

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Remove the buns from the oven. They’ll feel set, but they won’t be brown.

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This tablespoon cookie scoop is the perfect size for scooping sauce onto the buns.

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Dollop a generous tablespoon of sauce onto each bun…

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…and brush it to the edges.

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Sprinkle each bun with about 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded cheese.

For shopping purposes, you’ll need a total of 4 cups (16 ounces) shredded cheese: 1 cup for the filling, 3 cups for the topping.

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Heap it on!

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Now the buns will go back into the oven…

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…to bake until their edges are golden brown, and the cheese is melted, about 15 to 20 minutes.

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Don’t throw away that browned cheese that’s fallen onto the parchment – it’s a tasty treat!

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Ready to enjoy.

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Bread, sausage, tomato, and cheese – four humble ingredients, one outstanding example of comfort food.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Pizza Buns.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Carolyn

    Made these today (half recipe because there’s no one to share with) for Pizza Week. Always good!! (Just hope I’m not up too often looking for the Alka Seltzer!) Baked them in the Bun and Mini Pie Pan. Perfection!!

    Reply
  2. Carolyn

    Made these today (half recipe because there’s no one to share with) for Pizza Week. Always good!! Just hope I’m not up too often looking for the Alka Seltzer.

    Reply
  3. Kate

    I was out of time but needing a family friendly meal that my 5 year old could help make so, I went to our local grocer that makes an awesome pizza dough and sauce. I made one roll with whole wheat dough chicken, green onion, spinach, mushrooms and pineapple (house favorites and what was in the fridge) and then topped with sauce and minced garlic and chopped basil then covered with cheese, the other I made with sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms and topped the same. They were a huge hit! They were also very impressive looking! I will definitely repeat this recipe again, and do it all from scratch when I have some more time. Thank you for another family fave!

    Reply
  4. jamisonwells

    Well, so i found this recipe around new years and I was looking for an excuse to try it out. What do you know the other night I had some extra time and made the dough, had to let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. Then with other things going on I ended up leaving the dough out for about twice the recommended time (well okay like three to four hours) and what do you know they turned out wonderful, the pizza dough was even more fluffy and light than what your pictures made them out to be. The family just got done devouring everything so, thank you very much for this outstanding idea and recipe.

    Another “go to” recipe for those busy days… 🙂 PJH

    Reply

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