One of the bakeries I’ve always wanted to visit is Milkbar in USA. We’ve been on a road trip through the west coast but never got an opportunity to try their goods, especially their pretzel milk, cookies and their soft serve ice cream. Yknow, the well televised baked goods! Nonetheless, I’ve always been a more savoury person more than a sweets person, and what caught my eye while browsing the Milkbar Cookbook by the wonderful Christina Tosi is the Milkbar Volcano.
Now, there is no denying that a volcano sounds exciting. It is also very filling and if served with a side, I think it can be a full meal for an average person (I say average person because I don’t have an average person’s appetite HAHA. My appetite is bottomless and my friends and family would know that too well). It starts out with a bread dough that Christina Tosi calls the “mother dough”, namely because it is the dough that is frequently used for her bread based products. It’s kneaded, proofed, rolled out, and filled with soft sweet caramelized onions and a stack of potato gratin. Wrap it all up, slice the top to form a little X and top it with cheese before shoving it to the oven
Externally, the finished product looks like the old-school cheese buns that many can find at the local bakeries here in Singapore. The biggest difference is in the bread dough itself - I absolutely LOVE it. It is soft, pillowy and chewy. Best eaten when fresh, it still holds up pretty well even 1-2 days later after heating up in the oven or microwave/toaster.
The filling is what makes it a meal on its own. Although the onions gave it the nice sweetness and the potato gratin gave the extra cheesy, creamy, starchy bite, I’ve found myself coming up with other fillings that may go well with the dough. It was yummy, but it wasn’t mind blowing. I’ve found myself dreaming about filling up the bread with pulled pork, a hamburger patty, or even a Thai- styled basil pork stir fry with chilli! The options are endless! I just felt like I needed something juicier or more savoury (like a meat of some sort) so that the bread can soak all the goodness up bite after bite.
The recipe is a tad long, adapted from Milkbar. Most of the time is dedicated to the proofing but everyone knows that fresh homemade bread can’t be beaten so I say, it’s time well spent. The recipe is also split between the Mother Dough, the filling and the actual baking of the combined product. The volcanos make a good brunch or lunch on the go, and I’m definitely looking for more time to make it again!
Caramelized onions and potato gratin volcano bomb
Yields about 4 large volcanos/6 medium sized volcanos
1 ¾ cups bread flour
1/ tablespoon kosher or sea salt
½ teaspoon active dry yeast (heaping teaspoon)
¾ cup + 2 tbs water, room temperature
Drizzle of vegetable/canola oil
Stir together the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl Add in the water and mix for 1 minute by hand until the mixture comes together into a shaggy mess
Using an electric mixer with a dough hook, mix the messy dough on the lowest speed for 3 minutes or until the ball of dough is smoother and more cohesive. Knead for about 4 more minutes on the lowest speed. (Total mixing time 7 minutes). The dough should look like a wet ball and bounce back softly when prodded
Brush a large bowl with the oil and place the dough in it. Cover with cling wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for 45 mins to an hour
Once proofed, the dough is ready to be used. Feel free to also store it in an airtight container (that is at least twice the dough’s current size) and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Prior to using, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature for 30 to 45 mins before usage.
2-3 tablespoons vegetable/canola oil
2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt/kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over med-high heat for 1 minute. Add onions and let them cook for about 2-3 minutes without stirring
Add the salt and stir the onions with a spatula. Lower the heat to a medium-low. Spread the onions out and let the caramelization process happen slowly over low heat for the next 15-20 minutes. Toss the onions over themselves every 5 minutes during this time. In the last 5 minutes, sprinkle the sugar over the onions and toss. Once brown to the colour of caramel, they are done.
Cool completely before using them in the volcanos
1 garlic clove
½ cup heavy cream
1/3 cup milk
1 bay leaf
¼ rosemary sprig
½ teaspoon kosher / sea salt
A pinch of fresh ground black pepper
100g bacon – cut into cubes and cooked till crispy. (Feel free to use pancetta as well)
2 large potatoes
Smash garlic clove with back of a knife and remove skin. Place garlic in small saucepan with cream, milk, bay leaf, rosemary, salt and pepper and simmer over low heat
Once simmering, remove the saucepan from the heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes
Peel the potatoes and slice thinly (just slightly thicker than paper) using a mandolin if possible. Submerge the slices into a bowl of cold water
Heat oven to 175 degrees C. Using a baking dish, layer the potatoes in the tray, putting bits of bacon between each layer of potatoes, until the bacon and potatoes are done. Remove the herbs and garlic clove from the cream mixture and pour the crema over the potatoes.
Bake for 45 minutes, until the top layer of potatoes are golden brown and have a milky translucence (they should not be crispy/burnt like chips!) They may be slightly undercooked but they will have more baking them inside the volcanoes
Cool and chill the potatoes in the fridge for 2 – 3 hours. Cover with a foil and place a bowl/bag of flour on the surface to weigh them down in order to keep it compact
Assembling the Volcano:
1 Recipe for mother dough
1 egg, beaten
½ to 1 teaspoon water
1 cup shredded cheese – feel free to use parmesan or cheddar
Heat oven to 190 degrees C
Remove mother dough from bowl and punch down to flatten the dough on a clean, dry surface. Cut the dough to 4 equal pieces. Use your fingers to gently stretch each piece of dough out into a mini pizza
Divide onions equally amongst the 4 portions and scoop them in the center of the dough.
Remove the potato gratin from the fridge and cut into 4 equal squares. Place each square in the center of the dough on top of the caramelized onions
Take the edges of each round of dough and pinch together to seal it so that you are unable to see any part of the onion or potato. Gently roll the ball between the palms of your hands to make sure it has a nice round shape. Place the volcanoes seam-side down onto a parchment paper lined baking tray.
Whisk the water and egg together and egg-wash the volcano rounds. Using a paring knife, cut a small X on top of each volcano. Drizzle the shredded cheese on top the volcanoes and stuffing some into the X
Bake the volcanoes for about 25-30 minutes, until the dough is a deep, golden brown and the cheese on top has caramelized. Let cool for 10 minutes before tucking in
They are best served warm! Leftover volcanoes can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge once cooled. They can be toasted for about 1-2 minutes prior to eating.