Kids in the Kitchen: Mexican Garlic-Oregano Bolillo Buns

Where I grew up in the frozen Yukon Territory, winter arrived early and stayed late, so the best way to cope was to embrace the snow.

Once a year our family hosted a sledding party that lasted all day; the crunch of our guests’ tires on snow beginning after breakfast and lasting into the night, when the Northern Lights flickered overhead.

Before the party, my mother and I would make bolillos, traditional Mexican crusty rolls, to serve with my mother’s hearty soup, and the pots of chili that guests brought. It was my job to shape the buns, making sure the ends were twisted and placing them on cornmeal-sprinkled baking sheets.

After the second rising, we would slash the tops lengthwise from end to end, and slide the pans into the oven to rise gloriously and turn brown all over.

Kids in the Kitchen: Mexican Garlic-Oregano Bolillo Buns || Simple Bites

I always grabbed two bolillos, warm from the back of the wood stove, before heading out into the snow. I’d slip them into the ends of my woolen mittens, before putting my feet deep into my Sorel boots. Then I would wrap a woven scarf around my neck and join a group of family, friends and sled dogs for the trudge out to the hill.

The best slope was on a small island nearly half a kilometer away across the frozen Jackfish Bay, but it was worth the trek. (Here’s the exact island, if you are curious). At the top of the hill one could see for miles, white shoreline dotted with peaked roof houses to the south, ice-bound lake and mountains to the north and west, and hills to the east.

My friends and I would pile three, four, even five on a battered wooden toboggan and shove off down the slope, the Huskies barking and leaping behind us. The hill was wicked fun and so tremendously steep that the sled would reach the bottom and glide far out onto the frozen Lake Laberge before lurching to a stop in a wind-carved snowdrift.

The snow stung our eyes, the ice particles clung to our wool mitts and formed hard balls, our toes ached from the cold no matter how many pairs of socks we wore, but still we flung ourselves down the perilous slopes again and again.

Kids in the Kitchen: Mexican Garlic-Oregano Bolillo Buns || Simple Bites

When my stomach started growling like the blue-eyed pups cavorting in the snow, I would sink into a snowdrift, pull off my snow-encrusted mitts and eat the bolillos. Two were never enough, but they kept me going for the walk home and the waiting pot-luck meal.

Why bolillo buns, when we were a family of Canadians living in the frozen North? Good question. My father spent much of his youth in Colombia and Venezuela and carried a love of South/Central American food into adulthood. Our family kitchen held a beloved Mexican cookbook and my sister and I probably made every single recipe from that book. Twice. Remember, this was before Pinterest, food blogs or, heck, the Internet. So, yes, a traditional Mexican bread brings back memories of baking with my mother.

Sledding

Nowadays, I’m keeping up tradition with our three kids. Our sledding hill is much smaller in comparison, but it’s only five minutes out our back door. On a recent Saturday, Mateo and I baked a batch of tiny bolillos, scented with oregano and garlic, and every bit as crusty as the ones from my childhood. While the dough rose, we donned our gear and spent an hour tobogganing in the sunshine, and then returned to shape the buns.

Bolillos are a jolly baking recipe for getting kids involved in the kitchen. It’s always magical to see misshapen lumps of dough rise and transform into gorgeous golden buns. And there’s nothing better than eating one warm straight from the pan with butter.

We make our bolillos much smaller than they do in Mexico, small enough to fit in your pocket, but you could turn this recipe into 8 or 10 rolls to have them slightly larger. Serve them with homemade soup or chili for a comforting winter meal.

Kids in the Kitchen: Mexican Garlic-Oregano Bolillo Buns || Simple Bites

Mini Garlic-Oregano Bolillo Buns
5.0 from 2 reviews
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Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Mexican
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 14 small rolls
Don't worry about shaping these buns perfectly. Part of their charm is that they are mismatched.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup warm water (105-110 F)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon cane sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • cornmeal, for the pans
Instructions
  1. Pour the warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Stir with a fork, then let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Add a teaspoon of salt, the sugar, olive oil and whole wheat flour to the yeast. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and beat for a minute until everything is combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Allow this dough to rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Add a cup of all-purpose flour, the oregano and the garlic to the dough. Turn mixer to low speed, and mix for 2-3 minutes, until incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Sprinkle in the remaining flour.
  4. Knead dough on Low for 8 minutes. Remove dough hook, cover the bowl with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal.
  5. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 or 14 pieces, depending on how small you want them to be. Shape them into balls, then roll them to be more oblong. Pinch the ends to make them pointy.
  6. Place bolillos onto the pan and cover loosely with a clean tea towel. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425F. Mix 1/4 cup of warm water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt together.
  7. Place a 9x13 pan on the bottom rack of the oven and pour an inch of water into it. Let it build up some steam for at least 5 minutes while you prepare the buns. Brush the buns gently with the salt water. With a very sharp knife or straight-edged razor, make a lengthwise slash in the top of each bolillo.
  8. Place the pan on the centre rack of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes (or longer, if your bolillos are bigger) without opening the door and letting the steam escape. Cool slightly on the pan and then enjoy warm.
Notes
I keep a small razor in a safe place in my kitchen specifically for slashing bread and buns. It's the best tool for the job.

Sledding

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. I plan to make these soon. They look so good. I’ve read to make steam in the oven for other breads too. Do you know why?

  2. I loved reading the story of your childhood. It felt like I was right there on that snowy hill with the huskies running around me. Food and memories and life events are so intertwined! Thank you for sharing your story and the recipe!

  3. What a great story! What a magnificent sledding hill. And, how did a boy from England find himself in S. America? That’s a guest post waiting to happen! Thankful for your post — and I’m looking forward to giving these a whirl. Hope all is well in your world. Stay toasty : )

    • Good question, Pippa, and very astute. 🙂 My grandfather was a civil engineer, so that job took them places. An you are right, another story for another day.

      We’re doing our best to stay warm!

  4. I love little stories like this! Reminds me a bit of Little House, stuffing warm bread in mitts and going tobagganing 🙂
    Sarah M

  5. You mentioned these buns in an Instagram post about making molletes a few days ago; they sounded amazing, but I’ve never heard of them and am wondering if you could do a follow up post about how to make them as well. Even just a reply here if it’s pretty simple. Thanks!

    • Ah yes! They are currently in the blog queue to share with you all. Hopefully soon (but realistically, check back in about 2 weeks.) I’ll give a full recipe with suggestions for toppings. In the meantime, you can practice your bolillos! 😉

  6. These sound delicious and perfect for after sledding. What a gorgeous part of the world to spend your childhood!

  7. Hello from Chicago! Thanks for sharing your story and the recipe for the bolillos. I was planning to make soup for dinner and these looked like a perfect accompaniment. I made them soon after reading your blog. We all loved them and they were really easy to make. It looks like your husband has recovered from his surgery. Yeah!

  8. LOVE fresh bread. We make it often and I look forward to trying these, especially since it’s soup season and we are enjoying bread with soup many afternoons for lunch.

    Your writing about your childhood was magical. I love reading about your experiences and how vividly you describe them. So very different than growing up in Georgia where we were lucky to have snow deep enough to do any sledding once every few years!

  9. Aimee, I really love your blog. I’m so glad to see you posting here again. Though I’m sure it’s my own fault, I am doing a terrible job at having anything that resembles a social life these days. The daily grind of single parenting sometimes feels so huge that I can’t even wrap my mind around, let alone attempt, to reach beyond the necessary details of my days. I tell you this only because I want you to know what a bright spot your little corner of the web is for me. I find so much joy in posts like this. I hope this year is much easier for you than the last.

    I can’t wait to make these buns with my own littles. If only we had some snow . . .

    • Thanks for reading and for the kind words, Allison. I wish I was posting more often. It means a lot that my blog is a small part of your busy life. Much love. A

  10. Hi there,
    Hoping to make these with my 5 yo daughter today but….wondering can you make these with instant or quick rise yeast? If so, what would the modifications be if any?
    Love your blog and your cookbook!
    Many thanks,

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