Fear Conquered: Homemade Burger Buns
"I have no idea what I should write about for this recipe," I say, drumming my fingers across the laptop keys and tilting my head back against the sofa cushion.
Boyfriend Javelin is washing dishes and making small noises of protest over certain pieces of cookware. He glances at me. "What recipe is it?" he asks.
"Hamburger buns," I say. And I sigh. Even the name sounds boring. What is there to say about burger buns?
Boyfriend Javelin rinses something, sighs loudly, viciously attacks it with a fingernail, and rinses it again. "You could talk about all the dishes they make," he offers gloomily.
I half smile, half glare at him. "But they don't make many dishes," I point out. "There's just a bowl and spoon and baking sheets."
"I was JOKING," he says, stopping long enough to stick his tongue out at me. "I don't know…" he says, scrubbing a new dish slowly. "Why did you start working on the recipe to begin with?"
"Yeah, yeah, I know," I say, drumming the keys again. "But I can't talk about that. It's boring. I need a story or something." I sigh and roll my head from side to side. "I need something more meaningful than 'Here's why I made yet another recipe all from scratch'…" Because what can be said about burger buns? They're round. And they're made of bread. And they've got sesame seeds on top. You put burgers in them. Seriously - I'm bored just thinking about it.
"So talk about why it's the best bun then," Boyfriend Javelin says. He slaps off the water and leans in close to inspect a plate. And growls something dark.
"But it's NOT the best bun," I object peevishly. "Brioche buns are much better. And Hawaiian buns are amazing. These are just…like…basic buns." I throw my head back against the couch cushion. Woe is me!
Boyfriend Javelin shoves the water back on full blast and rinses the plate again, then unceremoniously shoves it into the dishwasher rack with a clatter. "Look," he says, and I can't tell if he's justifiably irritated with me or the offending plate. "You had a reason for working on these buns otherwise you wouldn't have kept going. So talk about that."
I sigh. I moan. I roll my head back and forth. And drum my fingers on the keys again. Which quickly leads to exercise in alliteration. Boring buns. Boring basic buns. Boring basic burger buns. Brilliantly boring basic burger buns. Basically boring brilliant burger buns. Basically brilliant boring burger buns. Brilliantly basic boring burger buns.
Truthfully, I don't know if these are brilliantly basic or basically boring or basically brilliant. But I do know they're basic - in the best possible way. No fancy ingredients, no special techniques, no special equipment. Just measure and dump, mix and knead, rise and bake. Maybe that's the boring part.
These buns are so soft and so tender, you'll never miss those pale, squishy, store-bought burger buns - eight squashed to a bag. And these buns are so simple to make, anyone can confidently bake gorgeous buns. Anyone. Maybe that's the basic part.
These buns are also tasty. Not buttery-brioche-tasty. But rustic, fresh-baked tasty. With toasted sesame seeds, whole wheat flour, rolled oats and olive oil. Sure, these may be boring and basic, but there's something brilliant about pulling a tray of toasted, golden buns out of your own oven. Basic, boring - but brilliant.
And that's why I'm sharing this recipe. Everyone should be able to fearlessly bake their own brilliant burger buns. Believably brilliant basic boring burger buns. (Boyfriend Javelin is still washing dishes and I'm still working on my alliteration.)
|Heat 2 cups of skim milk to 105F - 115F. I use the microwave.|
|Add the milk to a large bowl and sprinkle 3 teaspoons of yeast over the milk. Mix the yeast into the milk with your fingers.|
|Let the yeast and milk rest for 5 minutes - the yeast will begin to bloom.|
|Add 1/2 cup rolled oats to the milk and yeast.|
|Add 1 cup of whole wheat flour.|
|Add 1/4 cup olive oil to the flour/milk mixture.|
|Add 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar.|
|Add 4 cups unbleached all purpose flour.|
|Add 1 Tablespoon vital wheat gluten and 2 teaspoons kosher salt.|
|Mix everything together with a large wooden spoon until the dough forms a sticky mass.|
|Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, adding more flour as necessary.|
|Gather the dough into a ball and let rest for 10 minutes.|
|Knead the dough for another 5 minutes, then gather into a ball.|
|Return the dough to the mixing bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap.|
|Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.|
|Punch down the dough and deflate it thoroughly.|
|Gather the dough back into a ball and cover again with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for another 30 minutes.|
|Punch down the dough and gather into a ball; turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface.|
|Divide the dough in half.|
|Divide each half into thirds (a total of 6 pieces).|
|Divide each piece of dough in half (total of 12 pieces).|
|Line a 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.|
|Form each piece of dough into a smooth ball and place on a baking sheet (no more than 6 pieces of dough per sheet). Flatten the balls of dough with your palm.|
|Brush each flattened bun with egg wash.|
|Optionally sprinkle each bun top with sesame seeds.|
|Allow the formed buns to rise for 20-30 minutes.|
|Bake the buns for 20 minutes (I bake each sheet of buns separately). Rotate the baking sheet halfway through the bake time.|
|Transfer the buns to wire racks to cool completely before storing or freezing in airtight bags.|
|The perfect size for even large burgers.|
Multigrain Homemade Hamburger Buns
Prep Time: 3 hrs
Cook Time: 20 min
Ingredients (12 buns)
- 2 cups warm skim milk (105-115℉)
- 3 teaspoons dry active yeast
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
- 1 Tablespoon vital wheat gluten
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Sesame seeds (optional, for sprinkling)
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tablespoon skim milk
- Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper
- In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk with your fingers; set aside for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to bloom
- Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl in the order listed and mix together thoroughly with a large wooden spoon until the dough gathers into a sticky mass (you can alternatively use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook)
- Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, adding extra flour as necessary if the dough is too sticky to work with (you can alternatively use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook); after kneading, let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then knead again for 5 minutes
- Gather the dough into a ball and return to the mixing bowl; cover with oiled plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 1 hour; punch down and deflate the dough, gather into a ball, re-cover with the plastic wrap and let rise for another 30 minutes
- Make the egg wash by thoroughly beating together the egg and milk with a fork; set aside
- After the dough’s final rise, deflate and gather the dough into a ball; divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (first divide the dough in half, then divide each half into thirds and then each third in half once more)
- Shape each piece of dough into a smooth ball and place on lined baking sheets (no more than 6 buns per baking sheet); flatten the balls of dough with your palm and brush each piece of dough with egg wash; optionally sprinkle bun tops with sesame seeds
- Preheat the oven to 375℉. Allow the shaped buns rise for 20-30 minutes until puffed, then bake the buns for 20-25 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the bake time
- Transfer the buns to wire racks to cool completely before storing or freezing in sealable airtight bags
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Hungry for Tips?
- Stand Mixer: I often use a stand mixer to make these buns which frees up my hands from kneading the dough. After the yeast blooms, I just measure, dump, mix and knead. But if you don't have a stand mixer, don't fret - kneading the dough by hand is simple and the final dough will turn out beautifully.
- Bread Machine: This recipe makes a lot of dough and it rises quite aggressively, especially during the first two rises. So if you intend to use a bread machine, cut the recipe in half. This will ensure the bread machine paddle can effectively mix and knead the dough while also avoiding basket overflow during the rise cycles. I recommend selecting the Whole Wheat option on your machine and removing the dough just before the final rise cycle. You can then shape and bake the buns following the recipe instructions.
- Flour: You will need at least 4 cups of all purpose flour for this recipe. But if you're baking on a humid day, you will likely need extra flour (perhaps an extra 3/4 cup). If you're kneading the dough by hand, you may need extra flour to keep the dough from sticking to the board. The dough should be always be tacky, but if it sticks and clings to your fingers, the board or the stand mixer bowl, add a little more flour.
- Sesame Seeds: I think sesame seeds manage to make even the most crude of buns resemble something close to gourmet. And they add a bit of toasty flavor to the bun. So I highly recommend sprinkling your buns with sesame seeds. But you could also try poppy seed. Or maybe a little flax seed. Or even a combination of all three.
- Knead and Rise: Why the double knead? To soften the flours and encourage the formation of gluten strands - a strong gluten structure helps to trap the gas released by the yeast. Why the triple rise? To encourage the formation of gas pockets within the dough for lighter, softer buns. If you're in a rush, you can skip the 30 minute rise and get right to forming the buns.