This is prime season for burgers, whether for a barbecue or any kind of al fresco eating And I love a tasty burger as much as the next person, but find I am becoming more and more conscious of the bread bun it is served in.
It doesn't matter how good your burger is, if it is sandwiched between a soft, limp and tasteless bun that disintegrates after the first bite, it is the bun you remember, for all the wrong reasons.
These days, the fashion seems to be for brioche buns and most supermarkets now sell them, but often I find them a bit too sweet for my taste when served in conjunction with a savoury, juicy, chargrilled burger.
I do prefer a brioche bun with my burger, but wanted to find one that had less butter and sugar than traditional brioche (keep that for bread and butter pudding), but still retain that brioche richness, while being light, soft inside and able to stand up to the juices and sauces of your burger.
So I found this recipe from the cooking section of the New York Times which ticks all the boxes. I’ve made these a few times and not only are they perfect burger buns, they are fantastic for any kind of sandwich filling, from ham, cheese, chicken, salad etc.
It is worth mentioning that the enriched dough for these rolls can be quite wet and sticky (it’s meant to be), so first timers might find handling the dough a little bit more difficult than normal bread dough.
But persevere and you will be rewarded with fantastic homemade rolls just waiting for that tasty burger, or anything else for that matter.
450g Bread Flour
2 tsp fast action yeast
1½ tsp salt
36g soft butter
240ml warm water (feels warm on your finger, but not hot)
45ml warm whole milk
1 beaten egg
Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl.
I make my dough with a food mixer, so do everything in the same bowl.
Cut the butter into small pieces and rub in to flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. If using a food mixer, you can use the mixing paddle to achieve this.
Combine the warm water, milk and beaten egg and pour into the mixing bowl. Using a spatula, or your hands, give the dough a good mix round to incorporate everything into a shaggy mess.
Change to a dough hook on your mixer and knead at a medium speed (number 3 on my mixer) for about 10-12 minutes. The dough will look and feel wet and sticky. You can do this by hand on your counter top for 10 minutes or so if you are a masochist.
Still in the mixing bowl, scrape down the sides and form into a rough ball shape. Cover with cling film or a shower cap like I do (non-perfumed!) - the ones from hotel rooms are ideal, and thanks to friends who are under orders to bring me as many as they can if they've been travelling, as long as they haven't been used! Put in a warm place and leave to rise until doubled in size. This could take anything from 1½ hours to 3 hours depending on the temperature of the warm place. My room was 23.5℃ and took 2½ hours to rise.
When ready, tip the dough onto your floured counter top and divide into 8-9 equal pieces. I weighed them to about 90g each which was the right size of roll for me. If you want bigger rolls just weigh out 100g-110g pieces.
Take each piece of dough, flatten it slightly, fold the sides into the middle, and give it a pinch to form into a ball shape.
On a part of your counter that isn't floured, flip your ball of dough over so the pinched side is on the bottom. Cup your hand into a claw shape and place over the dough ball.
Rotate your hand in a circular motion until you have a smooth round ball. The friction from the non-floured surface helps with this, but dust with a little flour if it becomes impossibly sticky.
Place the smooth dough balls onto a baking sheet (or two) covered with baking parchment. Sprinkle the tops with flour to prevent sticking and cover with a large plastic bag, allowing the dough balls to rise, until about half their size again. Try not to let the plastic bag touch the top of the rolls as they could well stick. I put a couple of glasses or something with height inside the plastic bag to create a ‘tent’.
This second rise should take between 1½ to 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 200℃/180℃ fan, and place a deep tray of hot water on the bottom to create steam and a moist atmosphere.
When your rolls have risen and look ready to bake, brush the tops with an egg beaten with a splash of water.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until a deep golden colour. You may need to rotate them in the oven half way through to get an even colour if your oven is anything like mine.