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Pizza pockets

When I was in primary school, ordering my lunch from the canteen was incredibly exciting.  Our system was that you put your lunch money in an envelope and wrote on the front what you wanted for lunch, as well as your name and what class you were in.  You dropped this off at the canteen before school, and then just before lunch, a student from each class would tootle off to the canteen and bring back a basket with all the ordered lunches for that class in it, each one in its own brown paper bag with the envelope stapled to the front. I swear I have a Pavlovian response to brown paper bags now.

I remember those lunches very clearly, and one of the things I remember most were “pockets”: buns with a baked filling inside them.  The pizza pockets were the best, full of cheese and sauce and things that burnt your mouth if you ate them without opening them up with a fork first and allowing them to cool.  A close second was the apple and custard pocket – a dessert pocket, if you will – but the pizza ones were always very close to my heart as a child.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of making them myself sooner, but I had forgotten all about them until I saw this recipe for baked baos on I Like Lemons.  The pizza interpretation was my own, completely inauthentic twist on these awesome buns.  And I’ve got to say, they are really, really awesome.

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The dough is really robust, meaning that you can roll it, flatten it and manipulate it quite a lot without it becoming flabby or stretched.  It also doesn’t collapse and lose its puff while you’re working with it.  Which is good.

I followed the recipe fairly faithfully, although being the impatient cook I am, I didn’t start the yeast off in the sugar water, but just whacked all the ingredients in the breadmaker basin and set it to knead and rise.  It rose beautifully.  When the dough had nearly risen out of the basin, I divided it up into 12 balls and made them into pizza pockets by filling each one with the following mix:

  • finely chopped Kalamata olives, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes
  • finely shredded mozzarella (although I should have doubled, or even tripled, how much I used, since they’re not quite cheesy enough)
  • a teaspoon of pesto
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • a dash of salt

baos-01.JPG I was going to mix in some leftover pizza sauce that we had, but it ended up being used for dinner instead (ah, the precision art of cooking). Here they are, rising under plastic wrap.

These babies have a heavenly texture; they’re really light, puffy and soft.

I strongly recommend brushing the baos with water while they’re having their second rise, since it seems to encourage a much, much softer crust.  Brushing them with milk before baking also seems to have given them an even brownness, too.  Here they are, rising under some plastic wrap to keep the moisture in.

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Now I’m thinking of all the other things I want to try filling them with (baked beans with smoky BBQ sauce, anyone?).  They’d be really good for car trips and picnics, I think.  The recipe says they freeze really well, so maybe I could make, like, millions, and freeze them all, then play “I wonder what’s in that one?” every day for lunch.  That’d be awesome.

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