Man Buns

IMG_5534You may argue with me if you like, but I am declaring 2015 to be an annus horribilis. I consider it to be so for many reasons, none of which I can share openly at the moment. Instead, I’ve decided to focus my frustration on something awful and frivolous that I can talk about– The Rise of The Man Bun. I have borrowed the Latin term (annus horribilis, in case you have great difficulty sifting the non-English phrases from paragraphs)  from Queen Elizabeth II, who used it to great effect in 1992 when her favorite residence (sort 0f) burned down. She may not be the best example of someone who keeps up with the latest hair trends, but she certainly knows what works for her. Also, I just enjoy quoting royalty.

If you don’t know what a Man Bun is, please let me explain. Simply, it is the hair of a man which is pulled back into a tight, self-consciously sloppy knot at the top of the head. My assumption is that this is done to provide extra cushioning to protect the adopters of this particular hairstyle from the Wile E. Coyote-style anvils that I would like to drop on their noggins. Or, perhaps like the Hare Krishna, they simply want to give the deity of their choice a handy way to yank them into heaven, where I am certain not to run into them.

My irritation with the man bun is arbitrary and irrational. I have absolutely no problem when surfers and Sikhs and Willie Nelson do it, but when I see a guy wearing dress shoes with no socks show up with his forelocks pulled back tighter than a cheap facelift, I want to saw off his topknot with a bread knife and shove it up his annus horribilis.

This chagrin of mine is stupid, I keep telling myself. I need to be more charitable of spirit to victims of fashion. I mean, it’s not as if they’re evil, like Joseph Stalin or people who text during dinner.

It’s just hair. I need to calm down and identify the problem, which is when people (read: me) become frustrated and helpless and cannot address the real issues that make for their own terrible year, they find something trivial to attack and make fun of (read: man buns). At least, that’s how it’s done on my block.

But the thing is, I’ve still got two and a half months left of 2015 and I don’t want it to be a total wash out. So I’m doing my best to channel my not-so-pleasant feelings about this year into something positive. And the best way for me to do that is to take something I can’t stomach (read: man bun) and turn it into something I can (read: edible man bun).

It’s pretty much the best therapy in the world. And tasty, too.

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Man Buns

I am unashamed to admit that I loved to eat Manwich Sloppy Joes as a child. I am also unashamed to admit that I recently went looking for Manwich cans and/or seasoning packets in my neighborhood and came up empty. So I decided to make my own from scratch, which is a very easy thing to do.

In this particular session of kitchen therapy, I have removed the offending sloppiness of the man bun (why can’t they just wrap it into a lovely halo, Auntie Mame-style?). Of course, I have also reduced the relative sloppiness of a Sloppy Joe by wrapping it into a lovely bun. A Manwich Bun or, Man Bun for short.

These may not solve the world’s problems, either personal or tonsorial, but they do make one feel much better after eating them. A full and happy stomach goes a long way to improving one’s approach to those things which one cannot control. And the things one can. So shove a few of these mothers in your oris horribilis (or is that horribilis oris?) today.

Makes 10 man buns you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be caught eating. 

To make the Manwich-like/Sloppy Joe-ish Filling:

• 1 tablespoon of olive oil
• 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
• 1 red bell pepper, also finely chopped (and seeded)
• 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
• plenty of salt and pepper
• 1 pound of ground beef
• 1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
• 1/4 cup ketchup
• 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
• 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

To make the buns*:

• 1/3 cup of warm water
• 1 packet of active dry yeast
• 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 3/4 cups of unsifted flour
• 1/2 teaspoon of salt
• 2 large eggs
• 3 tablespoons of olive oil

To glaze and decorate:

• 1 large egg
• 1 tablespoon of milk
• sesame seeds

Instructions:

To Make the Filling:

  1. In a large pan of your choice, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell pepper, and garlic. Next, toss in liberal amounts of salt and black pepper. Cook until everything is soft and the onions are translucent but not brown, which should take about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir frequently.
  2.  Add ground beef, making sure to break it up into tiny pieces. Cook, stirring often, until the meat is thoroughly cooked through, which should take you another eight or so minutes.
  3. Now add the tomato sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire, and cayenne pepper. Simmer gently until thickened– you want to evaporate a lot of the moisture until your meat goo is nearly caramelized. By the time you finish, the man bun craze may very well be over.
  4. Transfer your Sloppy Joe mixture to a clean bowl, cover, and refrigerate. You are very welcome to make this filling the night before you stuff your buns.

To Make the Buns:

  1. In a little bowl, combine the water, yeast, and 1/2 tablespoon of the sugar, stirring to dissolve the yeast. Let it do its thing for about five minutes, until it begins frothing at the mouth.
  2. Combine 1 1/2 cups of flour, the 3 remaining tablespoons of sugar, and the salt in the bowl of your stand mixer (you can certainly do this in an ordinary bowl and mix with your ordinary hands, if you wish) until well-integrated. Next add the eggs and oil and mingle until thoroughly fraternized.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead the hell out of it, which is a wonderful way of venting one’s frustration about man buns and life in general. Continue to do so until the dough is as smooth and elastic as those little things hipsters use to pull their hair back into that annoying coiffure. Wash, dry, and oil up the same mixing bowl and place the dough inside, flipping it once so that the top side now has a thin sheen of oil upon it. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).
  4. In the interval, you may: tend to you fixed gear bicycle’s maintenance needs, update your Etsy store, or wax your mustache into a fascinating configuration.
  5. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  6. Turn the dough out onto the previously-floured work surface (I hope you didn’t bother to clean up that mess.) Roll into a 10-inch log and cut said log into 10 equal pieces. Divide these lumps of dough onto your baking sheets, cover with more clean towels, and place them in your special warm spot to rise again for an hour.
  7. Reconfigure mustache, remove filling from the refrigerator.  Heat oven to 350°.
  8. IMG_5521Roll each piece into a 5-inch round and place 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of filling at the center of each. Slightly moisten the edges of each circle with a little bit of the thickened Sloppy Joe sauce and pinch them tightly closed and into a ball-type shape. Place your raw buns seam-side down, divided evenly on your to prepared baking sheets.
  9. Whisk together 1 whole egg and a tablespoon of milk until thoroughly networked. Brush the tops of each bun with this newly conglomerated egg wash and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds.
  10. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until they have turned a lovely golden brown color on top and feel light when you lift them (yes, they are hot, but you can do this. I believe in you)– as though there is no longer any raw dough inside of them, which is not to be desired.
  11. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
  12. Serve them warm or at room temperature to friends and family, or hoard them for yourself and eat them quietly over your bathroom sink in full view of the mirror so that you can admire the way your Franz Ferdinand mustache rises and falls as you chew. Then suddenly remember what happened to the original Franz Ferdinand and shudder with horror, turning around to spit out the contents of your mouth into your lo-flush toilet.

About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
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