Smoking. The good kind.

I’ve had a lot of questions about smoking lately. As in smoking meats and fish. What a lot of people don’t think about is that you can actually smoke different vegetables, fruits, and even liquids. It’s by far one of my favorite ways to cook foods. From the more traditional meats, such as a pork butt (shoulder) and ribs, to more…untraditional meats, such as smoked bear roast or a beef chuck shoulder, all are great recipients of smoking. I’ve even smoked steaks a couple times before grilling them.

There are several different variations and techniques you can use but to make it more simple, I’ll categorize them into Hot smoking and Cold smoking. (RIBSSSSS to the left!) Hot smoking is a much shorter cooking time and is usually used for food that you intend to eat without much more preparation done to it, such as Canadian bacon or salami for sandwiches. Hot smoking can usually last anywhere from an hour to 12 hours, depending on the meat. Cold smokes are generally used for meats that you want a deep smoke flavor to it but don’t want to lose any fats or juices in the meat before you cook it. For instance, if you cold smoke pork belly (bacon), fat starts rendering off the meat at about 90 degrees so you don’t want the temperature up too much higher than that. Many books will define cold smoking at a temperature below 90-100 degrees but if you keep the temperature below 110, it wouldn’t hurt the food too much. I try and maintain 100 degrees if I don’t have time to wait around for a couple days or I go as low as 55 degrees for 2 or 3 days if I do have the time. The time table for cold smoking is significantly higher, as I mentioned. If you were to smoke pork belly with the hot method, it would probably take about 3 hours but with a cold smoke you’re looking at closer to 8 or 9 hours. Just remember that with cold smoking, you still have to cook your meats.

Hot smoking has several different methods to it. (I typed hot smoking into google and this is what it came up with. James Franco smoking. You’re welcome) Anyway, when you’re dealing with fish or meats, you usually want to do a brine first. This is a step that is pretty crucial to most meats but really is quite easy. All you do is soak your meat in some kind of liquid flavored with salt, sugar, and your choice of herbs or spices for anywhere between 4 hours to 24 hours. Brining meats helps keep your meat juicy while cooking through a process called osmosis, meaning anything placed into a hypotonic, saline solution gains water by switching liquids inside the meat without any salt with liquids outside the meat with a bunch of salt until the liquids are equal. These water molecules that are carrying the salt get trapped in between muscle fibers along with the sugar and whatever other spices you put in there. If you keep your meat in a brine for too long, it’ll actually lose moisture, though. Meats such as fish are usually good in a brine for 4-8 hours but big, bone-in turkeys need to stay in a brine overnight, up to 24 hours. No longer than that, though. Your turkey will actually be way too salty if you do it for too long. When you’re brining big meats, I like to use buckets filled with brine and ice. Also, try to use kosher or pickling salt instead of regular table salt. Table salt has iodine in it which can lend a funky taste. You can stick it in a cool garage or somewhere else in your house that’s out of the way but not too hot since your fridge probably won’t fit a giant 5 gallon bucket.

The next step you need to do is to wash off your meat out of the brine, pat dry, let it sit on the counter to come up closer to room temperature, and rub the meat with a spice mix of your choice. If you’re dealing with salmon, try brown sugar, salt, and pepper. It’s delicious. Also, you need to choose a wood to smoke with and you need to decide if you’re using wood chips, chunks, or a small log. Using a small log in your smoker will actually give you a small, but noticeable, difference in taste since it burns different than smaller chunks or wood chips. Look for golf ball sized chunks of wood when smoking since it won’t degrade too fast if you’re using an actual smoker. If you use wood chips, they burn up pretty fast. This forces you to open your smoker to check if you need to add more, lowering the internal temperature inside. It’s not a bad choice, just less convenient. If you’re using a sizable chunk of wood, you might want to soak it in water for a half hour before, also. Put the wood in the compartment above the heating element and wait for it to come up to temperature, around 225 degrees. When choosing wood, any type will do but keep in mind how strong of a smokey flavor you want on your meat. Woods like hickory and mesquite lend a very strong flavor to meats, which is very suitable to beef chuck roasts but not so much to mild fish like halibut. More mild woods are plum, cherry, or apple. My favorite mild wood is cherry and my favorite stronger flavored wood is alder wood, which is indigenous to South East Alaska where I’ve smoked huge amounts of salmon. It’s not as strong as mesquite but it’s a nice happy medium.

Now add your meat straight onto the rack. If you’re smoking delicate meats, make a tray that will fit your meat out of aluminum foil and poke small holes in the bottom for the juices to drain. Cook until your meat reaches the desired cooking temperatures. Pork should be cooked to at least 145 degrees, as should salmon, but going higher is definitely going to happen if you’re going to smoke for hours. If you’re cooking ribs or anything that’s not too delicate, make sure your wrap your meat in aluminum foil and seal it tightly a couple hours before it’s done. This will help break down any other fibers in the meat. A half hour before it’s done, pull it out of the foil and baste it with BBQ sauce. Put it back on the heat to finish cooking. If you’re cooking bear at a slow pace, cook it to at least 155 F, if not more. Some people do it to 170 but I think that dries it out way too much. Also, if your meat you’re using is really oily from being gamey (i.e. bear meat(Pictured Left), elk, deer, different pheasants), turn on your smoker and let it get to the temperature you want. Don’t add your wood until you think enough juice has come out. This will ensure your end product doesn’t have an enormously unpleasant taste to it. Some people cook it for hours before they add the smoke or if you’re doing strip jerky, cook a whole roast a couple hours in the smoker before cutting it up and drying it out.

If you want a really nice crust on your food, such as Smoked Prime Rib Roast, smoke it until it comes to a temperature about 30 degrees below the final temperature you’re shooting for and crank up your oven to 400-425 degrees. When you put your food in, turn the oven off and just let it sit in there. Between 10-15 minutes is usually good. Now let your meat rest on the counter top for about 15 minutes to a half hour. This is important for the meat to stop rising in temperature and for the juices to evenly distribute again (Pictured Left, this is what it should look like). 125 degrees is considered rare, 135-145 is about medium and anything above that, just cut it into rib-eye steaks to cook on the grill or pick another meat to cook like this. Also, while you’re doing all of this, you can add onions, carrots, potatoes, or any other starchy vegetable you’d like to accompany your meal. You can even add onions straight to the wood while smoking. The blackened onions have a pretty distinguishable taste to it.

You can also regulate your temperature in your smoker if your using a direct heating element like charcoal to heat your wood using water. Put a small pan of water on the tray over the wood. This helps keep hot spots distributed and keeps the temperature of the smoker more consistent. You really have to make sure the temperature isn’t way overboard, though. The water can make it too moist, lessening the caramelization on the surface of your meat, otherwise known as your bark (Pictured Left). Bark is the mahogany, almost blackened color of meats that have been smoked a really long time. If you’re using a regulated smoker and you’re confident it’s actually at the temperature it says, this isn’t necessary. I keep an oven thermometer in any smoker I’m using. A good way to keep your meat from drying out is to spray it down with some kind of liquid when you’re checking the wood. The liquid you cold smoke is a perfect liquid to use, which I explain later. It can be vinegar, beer, wine, or just plain water. Some people say to spray your meat every hour to make sure it doesn’t burn but remember that every time you open the door to the smoker, you lose heat. I do it every three to four hours when I’m checking the wood unless it’s delicate meat that isn’t cooking that long.

Cold smoking is basically the same exact process except for checking when it’s done or not. You still have to cook the meat you’ve smoked in this process some way. It’s basically where you let wood chips smolder to produce smoke without any kind of central heating element to keep temperatures up in your smoker. A good way to keep the temperature down is to put a small pan of ice in the smoker. It’ll help maintain a cooler temperature. This process also lends itself to smoking BBQ sauces and other liquids. I’ve smoked beer and used that liquid to baste other meats before. Since the temperature isn’t actually at boiling or steaming point, your water won’t evaporate and the residues from the smoke will actually end up in the water or sauces. I’ve had people ask me why I don’t just use liquid smoke since it’s essentially the same thing. I find it way too strong and the taste isn’t very pleasant to me (plus there was an incident with a broken bottle of liquid smoke and the recurring headache I had for a couple days afterwards). A good friend of mine explained how to cold smoke sockeye salmon in Hoonah, Alaska once with a tasting of the results. He smoked his at 70 degrees for 2 days and actually cured his salmon for 24 hours before smoking the fish with alder wood. Curing is just salts, sugars, and different nitrates covered onto a meat to preserve it. You’d want to rub the cure on and refrigerate it for up to 36 hours. I go less than that since I think it gets too salty at that point. The chemical in curing makes most meats incredibly red or pink (my friend’s salmon looked exactly like the salmon to the left), which is what corned beef is but is also linked to a couple of pretty distinguishable diseases if you eat too much of it. You can buy curing salts in most grocery stores. After you cure the meat, you have to dry it out for another 12 to 24 hours until sticky and dry feeling in a fridge. You can also cold smoke cheeses, nuts, deli meats, and anything in between.

When you’re looking to buy a smoker, check the prices and decide what you need. The cheapest end will run you 30 bucks but are tiny and won’t last long. The nicer ones with gauges and ball valves for control over how much smoke escapes will probably run you 600 bucks. There are even nicer ones that run upwards of a couple thousand. If you’re a handy man, you can always build your own. This is what I’ve done in the past for people and plan to do again. All you need are 5 different components to start with. You need some kind of enclosure, which can be anything from an old steel cabinet to a 55 gallon drum. You can use pretty much anything as long as it’s food-safe and can hold up to higher temperatures. I’ve even seen someone make one out of a beer keg. You also need some food grade racks to hold your food with some kind of drip tray to catch all the liquid that comes off your meat. These can be simple stainless steel racks or pan grates with a stainless steel pan beneath them. You need an oven thermometer. This can be a cheap one that you just put on a rack next to the meat but it’s nice to have a nicer gauge thermometer that drills into the barrel side. The last thing you need is something that holds your coals and wood. I just use a cast-iron pan that I already had but you could definitely make a metal box for this. The other thing you probably need but isn’t necessarily needed is an electric heating element. This will keep the temperature in the smoker at a consistent heat without having to fuss with your wood and coals so much. This could be a simple electric hot plate (the kind poor college students use in their dorms) or it could be a little more advanced with a heating rod right below your wood box. Both are incredibly cheap. You could probably get all of it made nicely for cheaper than 100 bucks. The manufactured ones are incredibly nice to work with, though. If you have the money to blow on a nice smoker, it’s definitely a nice thing to have. These usually have nifty vents that help you control how hot the smoker is. You can also use your grill you already have as a makeshift smoker by wrapping your wood in foil and poking a bunch of holes in it. Light one or two of the burners and put the wood close to the fire but not close enough to catch it on fire. Put a pan of water above the flame on the grids and put your meat on. Through the cooking process, keep an eye on the water and have a back up package of wood. Either way, pretty simple.

There is an entire science I’m convinced among Pit Master communities that is dedicated to this craft. I could probably write several books on this subject. If you dive deeper into smoking, you’ll get into chemical burning of woods and what spices make better barks for certain meats but I won’t confuse you with that right now. I suggest that you start out simple. Try smoking in your grill you already have at home. Follow the directions I’ve set and if you feel comfortable with that, move up to more advanced meats and techniques. If someone has a different specific question, feel free to ask in the comments below. Happy smoking! (meats that is). By the way, the picture to the left is just down the road from where I’m at in the arctic. Most of the snow is gone now and is replaced by lakes and rivers.

The Knife Post

There are probably only 2 things I actually collect, knives and cookbooks. Anybody that knows me is very aware that I’m a knife fanatic, first and foremost.This post can be used as a buying guide, an instructional/maintenance guide, or just advice from what I’ve found works best for me in working with knives. I’ve recently started buying up knives through scouring the internet in my down time in the Arctic so here’s an inclusive look at knives, how to handle them, and anything else you’d like to know.

To start, here’s an introduction on a knife. First, there’s the butt, the handle, and the rivets or pins. The butt is the end of the handle and can have a metal strapping holding the handle material in place or can be the same material as the handle. The handle is actually the most important part of the knife when you’re considering buying a knife. It can make or break a knife when considered into longevity, feel, bacteria resistance, etc. Most prominent chefs will tell you that metal is general about the same in nice knives but the handles are all different makes, shapes and material.

Inside the handle is the tang. This is the metal part of the blade that extends into the handle, efficiently holding it in place. There are several different kinds of tang consisting of a full tang, 3/4 tang, attached blade (non-existent tang), hidden tangs, etc. Most chefs would never spend a decent amount of money on anything less than 3/4 tang and a lot of people prefer hidden tangs encased in it’s handle.(Pictured left) It makes for a stable blade and assures the owner that rust or corrosion won’t splinter the rivets from the handle material. Also, the tang could narrow towards the butt, giving a more balanced knife or be full tang throughout. The tang and the handle are held in place by rivets or pins going directly through the metal and handle material. Generally, pins or bolts are a much higher quality than just a plain cutler rivet. They usually have a female and male part. One goes the length of the handle and the other screws in or is squeezed in securely. The material is usually brass, nickel silver, or stainless but other material is also used.

There’s the bolster, mainly to provide weight and balance. It’s the thick metal between the handle material and the actual blade. It’s also there to provide slippage and blisters but most cooks I know hold a knife past the bolster on the spine, effectively developing a thick callous on the first knuckle of the pointer finger. A knifes bolster is also a sign of if the knife was forged or stamped. Stamped is relatively inferior to forged (though not always) since it’s “stamped” from a giant sheet of metal. A handle is thrown on after it’s stamped out and is made for the masses in a factory. A forged knife is a solid, thick piece of metal ground down and tempered.(Pictured above, notice the full tang, the 3 rivets, and the thick metal bolster above the pakkawood handle.) The bolster shows you the general thickness that the metal started at. Though a bolster can also be made out of different woods and shaped metals in higher-grade material that’s not practical to shave from a metal block. They’re then attached to the handle and blade. These are also good, too. There’s 4 types of handle materials in a chef knife. Wood is where most knife enthusiasts lean towards because it protects against bacteria and can be softer on the hands. It’s definitely not the most long lasting handle, though. It’ll give you a decade or two. The other three are composite, stag, and metal. Stag is the least effective in the kitchen but is beautiful. Composite and metal will definitely outlive wood, is much more durable, and is resistant to corrosion but can be tough if you hold your knife for long periods at a time. The handle can be made out of different kinds of woods and plastics. Make sure it’s a waterproof handle that can resist varying temperatures. Just do your research on what handle type fits your hand the best.

Next, the blade is made out of the heel, the edge, the tip, and the point. The heel is for chopping hard items, the edge is used for the majority of chopping and slicing, the tip is for soft herbs or onions, and the point is for piercing and should be used sparingly since it’s the most delicate part of the knife. The blade can be made out of several different metals with their faults and weaknesses. Blades made from carbon steel (meaning less than 1% of carbon content in the metal) can retain an extremely sharp edge but rusts much easier if not sufficiently cared for, generally making it a much higher maintenance knife. Some of the higher grade carbon knives can even be stamped out of old lumber band saws but is a labor intensive process. You also have to develop a nice patina (reaction of carbon between acids and proteins alike, a natural protection from corrosion, Pictured left) in a carbon steel knife before it’s protected from corrosion and rust. The patina is only useful on a carbon or high carbon, as high carbon stainless steel doesn’t need protection from corrosion or the added color. A different metal they can use is stainless steel but is brittle. Not ideal for a kitchen and incredibly cheap. High carbon stainless steel is ideal for most cooks. High carbon just means that there’s more than 1% carbon in the steel, making the metal much more stable. This will run at a higher cost, depending on the producer. I suggest this metal for the beginner. There’s also metals that are more exotic, such as a powdered metallurgy. They combine very high carbon counts along with other elements that would never mix naturally. They can be extremely expensive, upwards in the thousands. You can probably find a good knife for 200-300 bucks in a powdered metal, though. The last one I’ll talk about is ceramic. It’s a process that combines advanced ceramic techniques with the best features of cutlery. Some purists use these knives for the fact that metals can oxidize on certain foods, leaving a very faint metallic taste and because it’s one of the hardest edges in the world, right below diamonds. The problem with them is that they can chip off into food if not used properly and if the knife chips, there’s no saving it. Just stick to metal.

There are also different ways to form the knife. Two of them I’ve already mentioned, stamping and forging. They both have there merits and faults. There’s also damascus, which is a pretty high grade process (Pictured above). The original process has actually been lost and attempts to reverse engineer middle-eastern damascus swords haven’t been achieved yet. It’s generally classified as a very hard base metal core wrapped with several other layers of softer metals, giving it pliability. It’s generally said that the higher the damascus layer count, the better the give on the metal. It’s been described as super forgiving yet incredibly hard. The look of a damascus knife is gorgeous, though the layered look is purely aesthetic. You could technically buff the layers out so it looked like a solid metal but there’s definitely a market for pretty knives so win-win for most companies. Many companies also claim damascus in their knives even though it’s only double layered steel so just stick to a reputable seller so you don’t get screwed. Stamped knives also have there upsides and can be higher quality. In fact, some Globals are stamped, but still ground down quite a bit. This helps with how light they can be. It’s very nice to have a knife that’s not going to fatigue your hand while chopping vegetables for hours at work.

The pricing on a good quality knife can definitely vary, depending on where you buy it and who made it. For instance, a good no-name hand-crafted knife can probably run you around $150 and be just as good as one of the top of the line Shun’s or Wusthof’s. I’d say if you’re a beginner, go out to a name brand distributor like Sur La Table to check all the different types of knifes out. These stores usually have large varieties of case model knives that you can try out on softer vegetables right there in the store. It’s a great way to get a feel for what you really want in a knife. Do you want a heavier knife that’ll do most of the cutting for you but can easily wear your wrist out? Or would you prefer a light, nimble knife that fits in your hand but takes more pressure to cut things with? I’m not going to say specific brands that I prefer because generally, they all do the job. What knife brand works best for me may not be best for somebody else. Check out the usual factory knifes, such as Global, Mac, Tojiro, Shun (Picture left), Miyabi, Wusthof, Henckel, or Mercer. Then when you get comfortable with them, you’ll know what works best for you. Maybe you could venture into hand made knives later on.

Now, there’s probably only about 3 to 4 knives you’ll probably ever use. That usually consists of a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated/bread knife. If you do a lot of raw meat butchering, a smaller 4”-5” utility knife would also be ideal for more precise cuts. The knives I use the most are the Mercer 9” chef’s knife, 5 1/2” Global utility knife, and my Victorinox 10” meat slicer. The last one is because I cut up so much carved meats so it would probably be my Kai 9” scalloped edge serrated knife after that. Go for just the chef’s knife if you are on a budget at first, though. That’s the “go to” knife for pretty much anything you need in the kitchen. Starter knife kits are usually a good deal and they come with the 3 most popular knives that are used in a kitchen. The picture on the left is of the Global 3-piece starter kit. It was the first knives I bought and they’ve definitely faired well for me. It’ll run about $180, well worth the money.

Knife accessories can be a good thing, too. Buying a knife bag if you plan on traveling with your set it probably smart. I wouldn’t spend more than $50-$60 bucks on them, though. Get a steel or honing rod so you can quickly get the sharp edge you want on your knife back. The brand of honing rod doesn’t necessarily matter, it’s your preference, but don’t look for diamond rods or oval shaped rods. Diamond rods are studded with industrial shaved diamond that strips metal from your knife every single time you use it, just like a stone. An oval shaped rod makes it hard for a lot of people to get the angle they need to hone their knife. I enjoy the 10 1/2” MAC black ceramic honing rod that costs $55 but I use it excessively so it’s a good investment for me. You can pick one up for around $30 bucks and feel confident it’ll last you years and years. Sheaths or covers I think are valuable while storing them. These protect your blade from getting dinged up when in a bag or a cupboard. It’ll run you 3 or 4 bucks a piece so they’re not expensive. Granted a lot of people just wrap their knives in clean kitchen rags to save money.

A sharpening stone is also essential. When you can’t quite get the sharpness back to your knife from honing it, you need to put it to a sharpening stone. I use strictly water to lube my sharpening stones instead of mineral or oil bases. They need to be soaked in water a few minutes before use. The only difference between these bases is what you first use on the stone, water or oil. It’s not a good idea to switch between water and oil on a stone because oil stays in the stone permanently and you can never use it for water again. There are also different grits to a stone. Grits are how fine of material the stone is made out of and drastically change. A 150 grit stone is for getting really dull knives their edge back. A 1000 grit stone is about medium, making the edge on the knife much more smooth and consistent. Grits upwards of 4000-6000 are basically polishing your edge even more, not necessarily needed in a kitchen. Buy a combination stone which has 2 different grits. I use a 300-1000 grit stone for pretty dulled knives and primarily use a 1000-3000 grit stone for quick touch-ups on my better knives that keep an edge. About 1000-1500 grit is perfect for general kitchen use unless you make A LOT of sushi or delicate work like that. I sharpen my most used knives once or twice every 2 months but that’s constant, everyday use. Most people should only stone their knives 2-3 times a years so it can be hard to spend money on something you’re not using that often. Another option is to get it professionally sharpened at a knife shop or in a major restaurant supply chain. It’s a good option, running one or two bucks an inch once a year is considerably cheaper than buying a $40-$80 stone, which is what it’ll cost for a decent one. In Salt Lake City, Sur La Table does a yearly sale for half off their sharpening service so it’s nice to wait for that.

This link is a fantastic tutorial on how to hone or stone a knife. It’s done by the legendary knife maker Bob Kramer, which is really cool that he took the time to make tutorial videos. Listen to what Bob has to say 🙂

I have a few knives for sale so feel free to ask if you’re looking for one. Also, if you need advice or just want a really good knife that could last a long time, let me know and I’ll tell you what other things I can share. If you want help shopping for a knife, I’d love to tag along, too. I love any kind of kitchen shopping as much as girls love shoe shopping so feel free to ask!

Update on me: I’m coming home in a week! It’ll be an adventure getting home since I’m traveling throughout the night. I’m hoping I get into Seattle with an ample enough layover to eat at Anthony’s Fish Bar. I haven’t had the chance to eat there in the last couple times I’ve been through SeaTac so we’ll see. Also, I’m very excited to start work at my summer job in the mountains of Alaska. I’ll be working a lot of hours but my boss is letting me take 2-3 day sabbaticals so I can see the Arctic Ocean and fish on the Yukon River. My friends from working in Prudhoe Bay will be around the same areas during the summer, too. It’ll be fun to see them again. I’ve also found possible employment for the 2015 summer season already, right by Mount Mckinley or on the Yukon River in Alaska. I could also take my Executive Chef exam and take my butcher course when I get back from Antarctica in February if I can find a good job. Options, options. We shall see!

KAISER!!!! Rolls.

I haven’t posted anything in about a week and a half, mostly due to the fact that I wanted to do a food post next but kept forgetting to take pictures or document each step that is usually in my head. Alas, I finally got around to it.

Incase anyone that reads this doesn’t know me from South East Alaska, they probably don’t know the story of KC’s Pulled Pork Sandwiches! It was an overcast day on the water, a bit rough, apparently. Devin Stratton and Mitch Onkes were out on the water making funny videos while checking on the fishing guests. They made a video about getting out of the storm while going precariously fast through relatively high waves to get to KC’s Pulled Pork Sandwiches. It was a hilarious video that many of the staff quoted every single Wednesday that year when I made pulled pork for dinner. Not that my pulled pork is particularly good in general (which it is), it’s usually the bun that makes it spectacular.

In this case in the wilderness of Alaska, my Kaiser Rolls came from a pre-made dough that has been frozen. Making dozens of rolls was taxing enough, let alone making the dough. This is the actual recipe of how to make these fluffy rolls. They’re not necessarily hard but they do take some time. The result is always fantastic.

The ingredients you source can be important. Make sure you use yeast that hasn’t been sitting in a bag in your fridge door for too long. Also, make sure you that you use BREAD flour in this recipe. All purpose flour has a lot less protein in it and has a mixture of a hard wheat and soft wheat grain. Compared to mostly hard wheat in bread flour, it makes the entire recipe yield different equivalent measurings of ingredients. Protein is essential in developing gluten, which is the protein that helps yeast grow and stretch. If you need a great example of this, make a small batch of biscuits. In half of them, use bread flour and the other half, AP flour. Keep all the other ingredients the same and post your results in the comments below. Now, onto the recipe.

5 Cups WARM Water, 120 to 125 degrees
2 1/2 Tbsp. Yeast
1/2 Cup Sugar
3/4 Cup WARM Melted Butter
4 Eggs, preferably room temperature but cold will do fine
2 Tbsp. Table Salt
13 1/2 Cups Bread Flour
2 Cups Corn Meal, for dusting pans
2 Eggs with 2 tbsp. Water, mixed for egg wash

Warm your water up in some way. I just use hot tap water. The cold vessel you put it in usually cools it down to where it needs to be. Add your yeast into the water, then your sugar on top of it (Left Picture). Mix around and let the yeast activate thoroughly, between 5 to 10 minutes. If you feel like a mad scientist with bubbling, strange smells coming from the yeast, it’s probably ready (Right Picture).

Mix together the salt and flour. Add the eggs and pour in the butter. Whisk together the eggs a bit so they’re not whole and annoying, whisking up unevenly (Left Picture). Now add the yeast mixture. Make sure you either reserve some water on the bottom of the pitcher to swish around the sugar stuck to the bottom or add a little more warm water the swish around (Right Picture).

Mix the dough together until the dry ingredients is hydrated (Left Picture). Knead on a slightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic (Right Picture). Cover the dough in either melted butter or olive oil (preferably melted butter) and cover your bowl in plastic wrap. Let it double in size for about an hour.

Literally punch the dough down after an hour (do you see the punch marks in the dough pictured on the left?) and let it rise a second time. Punching the dough down once in the bowl lets out the excess carbon dioxide that can impair fermentation and flavor production. It also gives you a more consistent crumb in the final product. If you’ve ever had a nice baguette with lots of nice holes all over the inside, you’ll know they didn’t punch the dough down during the rise. This is ideal in baguettes, not so much in a burger bun or roll like this recipe. Now let it rise a second time (Right Picture). 

Punch down again and weigh out your dough. Weighing out your dough is important for consistent baking times and uniform shape. 5 oz. is ideal for burger or deli buns and 3 oz. is a good sized roll (Left Picture). Now, roll each one into a ball and flatten into a 3-3 1/2” circle if you’re making buns (Right Picture). Grease a baking pan with non-stick spray and dust your pan with corn meal, making sure you save a cup for the top of the buns. This will ensure your buns won’t stick to the pan and give it a rustic look.

The next step is the egg wash. The picture above shows the 3 steps of this. The far left is no egg wash, the middle is brushed with egg wash, and the one on the right is dusted with the remaining corn meal and egg washed a second time. Egg washing it a second time ensures that the corn meal will stick to the bread and give it a better sheen after it’s baked. Do all of this before you proof your bread on the tray. Now, you can either cover the pan loosely in plastic wrap or sprits the dough every 5-10 minutes with warm water. I like the water technique if you’re in a really dry climate such as Utah or the Arctic but it’s up to you. Let it double in size and put into an oven at 375 on the bottom shelf. If you have a convection oven, decrease the temperature to 350. I bake it for 8 minutes, rotate the pan and cook it for 6-8 minutes longer. 
It may take longer in your oven so just pull it out when it’s browned all the way to the bottom of your roll, near the pan. If you want to get more technical about it, bread is baked thoroughly when you stick a thermometer into it and it reads 185 F or above. Notice with the picture on the left that the holes in the opened bread are all consistent. This is an awesome hamburger bun or, as my friends in South East call it, KC’s Famous Pulled Pork Sandwiches! bun. 
**If you want me to cover a certain recipe you find interesting, let me know in the comments below. I won’t be able to do much desserts but pretty much anything else will do.