As you may know, I’m currently living with my parents, which means I get to steal all my mom’s amazing secret recipes and publish them on Autostraddle dot com (don’t worry I actually did get her consent even though some of these were legit secret until right now). Last week I taught you how to make the greatest honey cake of all time to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, and this week I’m going to teach you how to make a traditional South African yeast bun to celebrate the end of the Yom Kippur fast because it’s September and the Jewish holidays just keep coming!
For the non-Jews among us, Yom Kippur is “The Holiest Of Holy Holidays In The Whole Year” for Jewish people. I know this for a fact because of this song we used to sing at my Jewish Day School back in the day:
Just when it seems like a blur
It is time for Yom Kippur
It’s the holiest of holy holidays in the whole year
We don’t drink
We don’t eat
Don’t wear leather on our feet
And we contemplate the way we can improve the things we do!
Oy vey iz mir, oy vey iz mir, oy vey!
So uh, anyway, as you can see based on my very scientific knowledge, Yom Kippur is a big deal. No but for real, in Hebrew “yom” means “day” and “kippur” comes from a root that means “to atone,” so the day is, shockingly, known as the Day of Atonement. Technically we were supposed to start atoning last week, on Rosh Hashanah, for a ten day period know as the High Holidays in Judaism. Yom Kippur is the culmination of that period, and we mark the holiday with a 25 hour long fast and a lot of praying in synagogue. I actually don’t go to synagogue because it’s not really my jam, but a lot of Jews who also never go to synagogue do go for Yom Kippur because it’s the Super Big Deal of Jewish holidays.
I do fast though, mostly just because it’s tradition and also it makes my parents happy, which means that from Friday evening through Saturday evening this week I will be not eating or drinking or brushing my teeth, yum! But then on Saturday evening at the end of the fast there is this thing called “Break Fast” where you break your fast (super complex terminology, I know) and while a lot of American Jews have a low-key bagels-and-lox situation, my crazy South African Jewish parents host a 40 person feast for Break Fast every year. We open the feast with my mother’s famous bulkas, which are basically yeast buns and also somehow became a traditional Break Fast food for South African Jews. They are also the best damn thing in the whole world, especially when you haven’t eaten for 25 hours but also all the time.
WHICH BRINGS US TO our recipe of the day. Are you excited to make these things? You should be so fucking excited. Seriously, the thought of bulkas is what gets me through the Yom Kippur fast every year. They are kind of labor intensive to make but I swear it’s worth it. Make these before you begin your fast on Friday night and I promise you will be the happiest little hungry hungry hippo come Saturday evening.
Vanessa’s Mom’s Famous Bulkas
1 stick of butter (½ cup)
1 cup of superfine sugar
¼ cup lukewarm water
1 package dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 stick of butter (½ cup)
¾ cup of milk
½ cup superfine sugar
1 tsp salt
4 cups of flour
extra superfine sugar
1. I make the filling first, because it’s super easy and why not. Often when a recipe says to cream butter and sugar I just melt the butter into liquid because who cares, but in the case of this recipe the butter/sugar mixture should be pretty solid, so try not to liquify the butter in your microwave. Best case scenario, you’re super good at planning and you remember to leave a stick of butter out for a few hours before you make this, but if you forget that’s fine, just microwave the butter a teeny tiny bit. Just enough to soften it. Then take the stick of butter and a cup of superfine sugar and mix that shit up. Sidenote, when my brother was little he thought this was “custard” and my mom had to inform him that actually it is not at all custard, it’s literally just butter and sugar. I feel like I’ve told you this story before. It is sort of folklore in the Friedman family. Anyway, make the filling then set it aside. Boom, step one, done.
Now onto the dough!
2. Get your yeast ready. Take your package of dry yeast and dump it in a small container. Add the ¼ cup lukewarm water and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Cover it (I use a dishtowel) and let it do its thing. After 5-10 minutes you should hear it bubbling (quiet bubbling – don’t expect fireworks or anything, it is very very quiet, lowkey bubbling) and when you remove the covering the yeast should have expanded a lot. Does it look like the picture below in step 3? Excellent. If not, your yeast is fucked and you need to do this step again with new yeast. Do not take this step lightly. Seriously, if your yeast is bad this recipe is a huge waste of time.
3. You can do this step while the yeast is getting yeasty. Put a stick of butter and ¾ cup of milk in a pot together and heat it up on the stovetop. Boil the butter and milk until the mixture comes to the top of the pot.
Warning: my mom made me super paranoid about this because she said once the mixture starts to boil it rises to the top super quickly and before you know it you’ve got scalding buttery milk all over your kitchen floor, so as a result I don’t really let the mixture come to the top of the pot. I sort of grab it off the stove as soon as it starts to rise. But maybe you’re wilder than I am. If you do let it rise to the top of the pot and manage to avoid disaster you should let me know so I can tell my mom she’s crazy. Moms love when you do that.
Anyway, once you take the pot off the stove you need to let it cool down until you can stick your finger in the mixture without burning yourself. This method is sort of iffy because how can you tell if you’re gonna burn yourself until you’re, you know, burning yourself, but listen, no one ever said this life was glamorous. We all make sacrifices for delicious baked goods, okay? (Seriously just let it cool for 10 minutes at the minimum and please don’t sue me if you do burn yourself, be careful kids.)
4. Once your milk/butter mixture is sufficiently cool put it in a large bowl and add the eggs, superfine sugar, salt, and yeast mixture. Then, add up to 4 cups of flour. You want the dough to be elastic and sort of sticky, so don’t add too much flour. I think I added too much flour this time around, which you’ll hear me complain about in the VIDEO below (yes there’s a video, yes I’m super proud, yes please say nice things about it in the comments). Anyway just add the flour cup by cup and gauge as you go. The dough should stick to your hands a little bit but not too much. As always, follow your heart.
5. Cover the dough and let it rise! This is why the yeast is important. It’s gonna expand! You made a small thing and it’s going to grow into a bigger thing! It’s like community! It’s like Autostraddle! It’s like love! It’s like science! Gosh darn isn’t the world cool? Anyway. Let the dough rise for 4-8 hours in a warm place. Wait for the magic to happen. Marathon the whole season of Orange Is The New Black which I embarrassingly still haven’t done are you judging me you can judge me I’m judging myself. Daydream about A-Camp. Maybe have some sex.
6. Hi, we’re back! Grab your dough and grab your filling that you made like a million years ago and get ready to have some fun! You’ll need a somewhat large work space for this part. Sprinkle flour onto the surface of wherever you’re gonna do this thing and remove the now-much-larger ball of dough from the bowl. Try not to play with it too much – unlike your lady lover, this dough does not like to be touched too much before the main event.
7. Grab a rolling pin and roll the dough out into a big rectangle, like so.
8. Take the filling and spread it on half the rectangle, horizontally (like in the picture). I like to draw a light line with a butter knife down the middle of the rectangle so I can visualize exactly where the filling needs to go.
9. Fold the dough rectangle in half. You should have a large dough rectangle sandwich situation with dough, filling, dough.
10. Cut the rectangle into a bunch of long strips. All of these directions are best described by the visuals, not my words. That’s why I made you a video, actually. Did I mention I made a video? It’s my first YouTube upload ever, I’m really proud of it. The video that I made. Did you know I made a video?
11. LOOK THIS IS WHAT YOU DO NEXT, I MADE YOU A VIDEO TO DEMONSTRATE! You tie the strips into knots! For some reason I called the strips “strands” in this video. I also said they’re kind of like pretzel knots which makes absolutely zero sense because guys, they’re not like pretzel knots at all. I dunno, my brother started filming and I panicked! Also ugh, my voice. BUT ANYWAY LOOK AT THIS RAD VIDEO, IT SHOWS YOU WHAT TO DO IN THIS STEP:
12. Once you’ve made all your little yeast bun bulka knots, put them on a baking tray and cover them with a dishcloth because we’ve gotta let them rise again! I told you this was a labor intensive recipe. It’s worth it, I promise. Go watch another episode of OITNB or have a quickie because this rising process is only 30 minutes long. Oh, and now is a good time to turn on your oven. Preheat to 350 degrees, baby. It’s about to get hot in here.
13. And we’re back! Again. It’s time to glaze! Take the egg I instructed you to get for this part of the adventure and crack it into a small container. Then whisk it all together with a fork. Then take a fancy baking brush and gently glaze the bulkas with the raw egg. I don’t know what you could use instead of a baking brush for this process. I understanding that you might not have one. I personally don’t own one, but obviously my parents own three because suburbia. And grown ups. I think you could maybe just drizzle egg on top if you didn’t own a baking brush? Or maybe you could use a regular paint brush if it was very very very clean. I’m not sure. Maybe this is a recipe that only grown ups who own baking brushes can make. Maybe I am not being inclusive. Fuck.
14. Once you’re done glazing the knots with the raw egg and once I’m not being neurotic that I’ve alienated everyone who doesn’t own a baking brush, take your extra superfine sugar and sprinkle it on top of each bulka. I think this is self explanatory but a cute girl recently told me that evenly distributing sesame seeds on top of challah can be challenging and I thought that was self explanatory also, so allow me to take this moment to inform all the cute girls in the world that there is no wrong way to distribute sugar on a bulka. Just go for it! I believe in you.
15. It’s finally time to get these guys in the oven! They should bake for 15-20 minutes. Let the sugar bubble a little bit and let the tops turn golden brown and then swoop in and get them the fuck outta there because these babies are DONE. Mazel tov. Let’s eat! Just kidding you have to fast for 25 hours before you eat these, duh.
Whew. Thank you for coming on this spiritual journey with me, Straddlers. I wish those of you who will be fasting on Yom Kippur an easy fast, and I hope all of you, Jewish or not, enjoy my mom’s top secret bulka recipe. I’ll think of you guys when I take my first bite to break the fast on Saturday night!