Eric and I are both really into bread baking these days. It all started with this Light Wheat Sandwich Bread a couple months ago, and we’ve been hooked ever since. We’ve had bread starter on our counter for quite some time, and Eric has been taking such good care of it that we decided it needed a name (we chose Arthur, by the way). While I was away at BlogHer Food in Atlanta, Eric made rolls to take to a party. (Seriously, here’s his picture.) I couldn’t help but smile when I saw his tweet and the attached picture while I was sitting in one of the sessions. One of my friends jokingly told me that her boyfriend would be eating frozen meals if she wasn’t there to cook, but I can safely say Eric loves cooking so much that he does it even when I’m gone. On that note, I know I’m the only one that writes this blog, but Eric is as much a part of it as I am. He does quite a bit of cooking and works on behind the scenes stuff for the blog all the time. And hey, I wouldn’t have this cool last name/blog name if it weren’t for him. ;)
Okay, back to the bread. This is just a basic recipe for hamburger buns, but you’ll be amazed at what a difference you’ll notice in taste when compared to store-bought ones. This recipe comes from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and it does not disappoint. This is one of the easiest breads we’ve made, and it doesn’t require a preferment like so many of Reinhart’s other recipes. The flavor comes from the enrichments added to the bread, namely butter, and for that reason a preferment is unnecessary. We made hamburger buns this time, but this recipe can also be used to make loaves, hotdog buns or dinner rolls with a couple slight changes in method. The buns are incredibly soft and airy and have a rich, buttery flavor. Reinhart mentions that it’s okay to substitute regular milk or even buttermilk for the powdered milk, but I have yet to try it. This substitution will cause the texture and flavor to vary slightly, and he recommends trying several variations to find your favorite. I already love this one so much that it may be a while before I try another version. If you’re thinking about cooking out this weekend, give these buns a try! They’ll make your hamburgers so much more special, and I have no doubt you’ll love this recipe as much as we do.
Soft White Hamburger Buns
4 3/4 cups (21.5 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (.38 ounce) salt
1/4 cup (1.33 ounces) powdered milk
3 1/4 tablespoons (1.66 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons (.22 ounce) instant yeast
1 large (1.65 ounces) egg
3 1/4 tablespoons (1.66 ounces) butter, melted or at room temperature
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon to 1 3/4 cups (13 to 14 ounces) water, at room temperature
1 egg, whisked with 1 tablespoon water until frothy, for egg wash
Sesame or poppy seeds, for garnish (optional)
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a 4-quart mixing bowl, stir together flour, salt, powdered milk, sugar and yeast. Add the egg, butter and 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon water. Stir or mix on low speed until the ingredients form a ball. If the dough is too stiff, very slowly add more water until the dough feels soft and supple.
Switch to the dough hook and knead at medium speed for about 6 minutes. Alternately, sprinkle a work surface with flour and knead for about 8 minutes, adding more flour if needed. The dough should be tacky but not sticky and register 80ºF. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to it, turning to coat the dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
Remove the dough and divide it into twelve 3-ounce pieces. Form each piece into a ball by stretching the outside of the dough and pinching underneath to seal it. This will help increase the surface tension on the top of the buns and hide any seams on the bottom. Allow to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes. After the rest, gently press down on each ball to form the buns. Transfer the buns to a parchment lined sheet pan and lightly spray them with oil. Loosely cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough has nearly doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Brush the buns with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds as desired. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the buns are golden brown and reach 180ºF in the center. Cool buns for at least 15 minutes on a wire rack before serving.
We’ve stored these buns in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 day and found no decrease in quality. Additionally, they can be frozen in an airtight container and thawed at room temperature.
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart