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Hamburger buns: "Ideal"? recipe

Some of you will no doubt have seen my whinging on the indifference of typical hamburger buns, even at "specialist" burger joints. Various comments suggested that for a lot of people the bun is considered exclusively as a vehicle and therefore of little concern. My view has always been that, given that the bun is one of the sine qua non parts of a hamburger - it's not one without a bun - if the objective is to produce a really great burger, the bun should match that. OK, let me put that to the test. Here's my recipe for a great bun; I'd like if possible for people to try this and give me your *honest* comments. That means, I don't need any praise from anyone indicating how great they think they are, unless you really think that they are that great, and I'm open to any criticism no matter how severe you feel is appropriate, unless you're merely firing criticism because I've made myself an easy target. It's my view that no matter how good *I* might think the buns are, that's meaningless: it's what the wider world thinks that matters; only then would they really be good as opposed to good for me. So if you feel inspired to make these, please do, and tell me what you think. From my point of view, I think these are close to ideal because: 1) They have a real flavour but one which never interferes with or overshadows the flavour of everything else; 2) They will stand up to the heaviest of loading (250 g patty, cooked rare, + all sorts of toppings) without collapsing or dissolving; 3) They remain soft and pliant, a similar texture to the patty, rather than heavily chewy and difficult. 4) They look lovely - just exactly as one might imagine an iconic hamburger bun would look like.

Hamburger Buns

Makes approximately 12

850g (approx, by weight) strong bread flour
500 ml whole milk
3 (UK) large eggs + 1 for brushing
60 ml mild vegetable oil (I use sunflower)
15 g salt
Approx. 10 g fresh yeast (probably about 1/4 packet dry)
About 20g sesame seeds (optional)

Take a small amount of the milk (about 50 ml), heat to lukewarm, and in it dissolve the yeast. Stir the salt, oil, and milk in a large bowl. Beat the eggs and add. Add about 1/2 of the flour, then the dissolved yeast, and mix (with a fork or mixer) until it is well-blended and has a stringy texture. Allow to sit for about 20 minutes.
Add most of the rest of the flour (the amount here is approximate, you are aiming for a very sticky consistency but one that doesn't quite flow) and knead vigorously (preferably with a stand mixer; I use my hands because that's what I'm used to and prefer but most will find this difficult and tedious because of the stickiness of the dough) until it starts to clear either the hands or dough hook (it will have a smooth, uniform consistency). Cover and allow to rise until double. (about 6 hours)
Knock back and allow to double again (about 3 hours).
Now, line hamburger bun tins (the ideal ones are about 10 cm/4 in in diameter and about 1 cm/0.4 in in height) with parchment. Divide the dough evenly amongst the tins - it should fit about 12 - and allow to rise until the domes swell about half again the height of the tins. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top, if desired (I personally prefer sesame seed buns but you can leave them off if you prefer) and press lightly in.
Preheat the oven to 175C/350 F. Beat another egg and brush the tops with it (over the sesame seeds if there; this helps to bond them in, in addition to browning the bun tops), then bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops are uniform brown and there is a hollow sound when the bottoms are tapped. Remove and place on a towel, then cover with a large tin (or anything else that will cover all the buns - the aim here is to trap some of the steam while cooling so that the crusts don't crisp).

When fully cool, these can be used as is, toasted if preferred (I do) or frozen in plastic freezer bags.

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  1. I'm going to reread this very carefully but could you tell me what "strong bread flour" is. TIA.

    13 Replies
      1. re: sandylc

        Thanks. I know words mean different things in different areas.

        1. re: c oliver

          True! I wonder how our large eggs compare to Alex's - ?

          1. re: sandylc

            As of today, I've made bread all of three times, so I'm a sponge.

            1. re: c oliver

              Baking is the very best blend of art and science. You'll love making bread. Once you've learned the basics, there's no stopping you.

              1. re: sandylc

                We had BLATs (BLTs plus avocado) on MY homemade bread. Was that ever a kick :)

                1. re: c oliver

                  It's exciting, isn't it? You can happily cook and bake all sorts of things, but BREAD is really something special...!!!

                  1. re: sandylc

                    I feel quite silly about it. BREAD was never something I'd aspired to :)

            2. re: sandylc

              the software destroys the format of my table.

              a USDA 'large' egg = 56.7 g; EU 'large'= 63-67 g

              USDA 'extra large' = 63.8 g
              a better sub for UK large.

              1. re: PSRaT

                Thanks. With these weights, I can whisk my large eggs and weigh out the right amount!

                1. re: sandylc

                  the weights include the shell....

        2. re: c oliver

          Where I'm from, "very" strong bread flour is 14%+ protein, and strong is around 13%.

        3. Have a teaspoon/grams measurement on that dry yeast? I buy one-pound bricks of instant. Fresh is increasingly unavailable in my area.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sandylc

            To convert fresh to IDY, you divide by 3, approximately. So that would make ~3.3g IDY or about 0.39% in bakers' percentages.

          2. Thanks for putting this together. I am not much of a baker but I'll try this and report back.

            I feel pretty strongly about burger buns too. My ideal is a store-bought kaiser roll that's steamed in the pan or on the griddle with the beef patties and onions. The steaming step is important because it makes the bread soft and stretchy, as well as melding the whole sandwich together into a cohesive whole.

            1. First of all, great post. I especially want to agree with you about not needing any congratulations/support - ! I hate it when I'm analyzing a baked good and someone gushes over how wonderful it is without really any concrete contributions!

              I'm not making any promises on making these soon, but we'll see what I can make happen.

              Regarding my ideal hamburger bun, I like a variety of burger holders. I enjoy brioche, potato rolls, Kaiser rolls, even ciabatta or a chunk of baguette. So far the family seems to like the potato rolls with just a bit of whole wheat in them the best.