June 10, 2017

Cheesy Sausage Buns

It's almost Father's Day, so get your shopping list ready with seasonal dad-approved recipes like blueberry coffee cakecorn and tomato salsaribeye with vidalia compound butterzucchini fritters, and peach cobbler. If none of those fit your Father's Day aesthetic, find more tasty recipes in my recipe index. Today, I'm writing about a recipe that maybe won't do so well for a big grill fest or barbecue but is definitely one of my dad's favorite recipes. I'm not really sure what to call them (cheesy sausage buns are reasonably descriptive and snappy) since we found them at one of my favorite Madison bakeries--Batch--and I recreated them at home. Batch makes a bunch of different buns, but my dad is always disappointed if they don't have the one with andouille sausage and caramelized onions. I threw in some pepper jack cheese for good measure so he can have the pseudo Batch buns year round (and avoid the frigid Madison winters).

Since Batch makes all sorts of buns, it's easy to whip up your own combination of fillings. I tend to rotate the meat (usually some sort of sausage but diced chicken or beef would work too), the vegetables (I love my caramelized onions but I've seen black beans, grilled veggies, and corn), and of course any good melting cheese. Just cook up your protein and the veggies, let it all cool down, toss the filling ingredients together, and stuff and bake the buns. It is pretty labor-intensive, so I'll usually make a double batch and get it over with so there are plenty of buns to go around.

If you read my blog diligently, you'll notice this dough is the same as what I use for the pretzel nuggets with beer cheese dip and cheesy buffalo pretzel ring but without actually making it into a pretzel. Honestly, this would be delicious as a pretzel bun, so as long as you're confident in your sealing abilities go ahead and dunk the buns in a baking soda solution before baking. That would be especially delicious for a Philly cheesesteak bun with beef, peppers and onions, and lots of cheese. What I love about this dough is that it's so stretchy and elastic, which lends itself well to being manhandled into bun shapes. The trick is to make the edges thinner than the center (but still keeping it all pretty thin) so there's no giant hunk of dough at the bottom where you gather it all up. It definitely takes some skill to get the right dough to filling ratio without anything exploding, but a little extra bread never hurt anyone.

For my typical filling, I brown and dice the sausage (or dice and brown, if the sausage is firm enough). I then cook the vegetables in the sausage fat for maximum flavor and toss both with shredded cheese and spices. That gets stuffed into buns, brushed with egg wash, covered in more cheese, and baked until molten hot. I tend to make mine into hockey puck or hamburger sizes so they could constitute a meal, but you could also make these smaller for snacks or appetizers. Everything inside is cooked before it goes in, so all you need to do is make sure the outside is brown and the dough is cooked.

I've worshipped Batch as the type of bakery I'd want to open should I fail all my classes and abandon food science altogether. Their food is simple but done extremely well, and I can never decide what to order. My dad always makes a beeline for these buns and is ecstatic that I figured out how to replicate them at home but more to his liking, so a batch of these is always on the menu.

2 1/4 tsp Yeast
1 T Sugar
4 1/2 - 5 Cups Flour
1 tsp Salt
1/2 Stick Butter, Melted
1 Egg, Beaten
14 oz Andouille Sausage
2 Sweet Onions, Sliced
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Cayenne
6 oz Pepperjack Cheese, Grated

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, sugar, and 1 ½ cups warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes or until foamy. Using the dough hook, stir in the butter, 3 cups of flour, and the salt. Knead for 5 minutes, gradually adding the remaining flour as necessary until it's not too sticky.

Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour. Line cookie trays with parchment or silpats. Roll the dough into approximately 16 balls, place on the prepared trays, cover, and let rise for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, dice the sausage. Heat some oil in a large skillet and cook until crisp and brown, about 4 minutes, stirring often. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the onions to the skillet and cook over low heat until caramelized, about an hour. Stir in the baking soda and cayenne when they are almost done; season with salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 375F.

Stir the andouille, caramelized onions, and cheese together. Roll each ball of dough into a very thin circle and scoop a spoonful of filling onto the center. Pinch the edges of the dough together to form a bun and place bake on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling and brush with the egg. Bake for 16 minutes or until golden.

Makes 16

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