Back when I was a personal cook for a family, I made bread at least every few days. And I never made the same bread twice. It was perfect for me, because it’s just the kind of thing I like to do in the kitchen – mix it up! And bread is so versatile, with various grains and flours from which to choose. Not to mention the liquids as well as the different seasonings you can use in your bread to really enhance a meal.
I always made bread for my family as well, but a certain family member has recently eschewed the merits of whole-grain carbs. I know. Boo. But to be fair, he has a specific wheat allergy, so of course, I will occasionally “force” home-made gluten-free bread on him. In spite of his carb issues, the bread always disappears quickly.
But occasionally I like to made bread the old-fashioned way with wheat. And today I wanted a rich spicy bread to go with a very mild bean and green chile, if you will. So since I was thinking Southwestern flavors, I came up with using chili powder and pecans. It turned out fabulous, I must say.
I’ve included photos representing all of the steps, just in case you’re not familiar with the bread-making process. Relax, it’s easy. So here’s my recipe:
Chili Pecan Buns
1/2 cup warmish-hottish water
2 teaspoons yeast
Sprinkling of sugar
1 1/2 cups milk*, warmed
2 – 3 tablespoons chili powder (I used 3)
2 tablespoons plain oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup pecan halves, toasted, ground up
2 cups unbleached bread flour
plus a little more for kneading
Place the warmish-hottish water in a large bowl. You should be able to hold your finger in the water and it not burn. If it’s too hot or cold, adjust accordingly. If you’re a perfectionist, the water should be 110 – 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Also make sure the bowl doesn’t cool down the water.
Sprinkle on the yeast and sugar. Wait about 5 minutes.
Then whisk the mixture together and let it sit another 5 minutes or so.
This is called proofing, and the mixture will look all bubbly and doubled in volume. If none of this happened, your water was too cold or hot, or your yeast isn’t working. But I doubt the yeast, because I’m still using at least ten-year old yeast that I bought in bulk and store in my freezer. It always works.
At this point, add the warmed up milk, oil, salt, and chili powder.
Add the whole wheat flour and whisk the mixture together until very smooth. It will look like this:
Cover the bowl and place it in a warm place for about an hour. It will double in volume. Remove it from your warm place and whisk the mixture again. Now is when you add your ground pecans.
Stir the pecans into the batter, and then add one cup of flour and stir until well combined. Add the second cup of flour and stir as well as you can to incorporate it. At some point, when the dough isn’t too sticky, you need to remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a well-floured surface. You have to use your instinct for this – sticky dough can be dealt with by patiently using floured hands. If you prefer your dough less sticky, incorporate more flour into it before attempting the kneading process.
Knead the dough and incorporate flour as needed for about 5 minutes. What that means is, if the dough is sticking to your work surface, add a sprinkling of flour. If your hands begin to stick, add a sprinkling of flour. In my experience, it is best to use as little flour as possible, while still managing to knead your dough properly.
Leave the dough on your work surface and cover with a damp towel for at least an hour. After it has risen, remove the towel.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Knead the dough a little bit, and then cut into half. Since I made buns, I wanted them to all be about the same size for baking purposes, so I used a scale to weigh out the halves. My dough ended up in eight pieces, at about 5 1/2 ounces each. They ended up the size of hamburger buns, so if you want them smaller, cut your dough into 16 pieces.
Make nice round buns by rolling the dough in between your hands, them place them on a greased cookie sheet. Continue with the remaining buns. Then let them rise in a warm place until they double in size once again.
Bake the buns for about 20 minutes. Again, if you’re a perfectionist, test a bun with a thermometer – it should read 195 degrees Farenheit.
Remove the buns from the oven and let cool slightly. They are best served warm, but they reheat really well.
* Just for fun, I did not use a dairy milk for this recipe. I’ve always loved showing people how easy it to substitute ingredients in cooking – especially in simple, every day kind of cooking. So, surprise! I used coconut milk in this recipe!!!
note: If you don’t want pecans or other nuts in this bread you could always add about 8 ounces of grated cheddar to make a Chili Cheese Bread!!!