Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What To Make When You're Out Of Dough

Friends and family (thinking I've gone 'round the bend): "You're making what?!"
Me (not having noticed whether I'd rounded any bends lately or not): "Um, hamburger buns."
Friends and family (certain that I've gone 'round the bend): "...from scratch?!"

Admittedly I get kind of a kick out of hearing that response, especially when I know that it's not exactly rocket science that I'm engaging in. Anyone can make these. Just why are we incredulous? Is there a great shroud of mystery around the creation of hamburger buns that only the commercial bread manufacturers know the secrets behind?

I probably used to think that. Or rather, I probably never thought to even think that they could be made at home. Not until the Hubs came home the other day with a package of ground beef, but no buns... and wanting hamburgers for dinner. He thought we could save money* and use our sourdough bread instead of buying buns. I couldn't do that though. I've just never liked hamburgers on bread. Hamburgers and hot dogs require buns for a reason. Juicy burgers and condiments soak right through regular bread and it falls apart before you're halfway done eating. It's a mess. Sliced bread is for sandwiches and toast and even toasted sandwiches. But not burgers and dogs. We were almost out of bread anyway, and frankly, it would be irritating to use up the last of my nice semi-whole-wheat sourdough that way.**

So much for my motivation. The results were... surprisingly good! Somewhat smaller than store-bought buns but bigger than sliders, they had a nice dense crumb that would hold up against the juiciest burger out there. It's getting to be backyard BBQ season (though you'd never know it by the weather), and you can bet I'll be making these more than once this summer. Now I just need to find a whole-wheat version...

Hamburger Buns
adapted from: page 34, BH&G Homemade Bread Cook Book, 1973

8 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (110°)
3/4 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 eggs

In large mixer bowl whisk together 4 cups of the flour and the yeast. In a separate bowl, combine the warm water, oil, sugar, and salt. Add to flour/yeast mixture, then add in the eggs. Beat at low speed just until combined. Scrape the bowl and beat for 3 minutes at high speed (med-high if using a stand mixer).

By hand, stir in the remaining 4 cups all-purpose flour to make a soft dough. Turn out on floured surface; knead till smooth and elastic. If using a stand mixer, replace beater with dough hook and add remaining flour one cup at a time on low setting. Continue until dough is smooth and elastic.

Place dough in greased bowl, turning once. Cover and let rise in warm place till double (about 1 hour). Punch down, then divide dough into 3 portions. Cover again and let rest 5 minutes. Divide each portion into 8 balls of dough.

Shape into buns by folding edges under to make even circle. Press flat between hands. Place on greased baking sheets (or use Silpats), pressing to 3-1/2 circles. Let rise till double (about 30 minutes). Bake at 350° about 20 minutes, rotating pan half way through. Let buns cool completely before slicing and serving. Makes 24 (smallish) hamburger buns.

My Notes: Recipe makes 24 which was way more than we needed for just the two of us, so I planned on halving the recipe. Note the use of the word "planned". Yep, I forgot. I guess we'll find out how well they freeze. I overworked the dough by using the dough hook to mix the last four cups of flour in and then hand-kneaded it afterwards. Do one or the other, but not both! The original recipe said to bake for 10 minutes at 375°, but they were way too pale after 10, so I ended up keeping them in for closer to 15 minutes. By the last batch, I lowered the oven temp to 350° and baked them for 20 minutes. That seemed to do the trick, and while they were too soft and doughy to use right away, by the next day they were perfect. Yes, I used the P-word. Buns were somewhat small. Next time, try making 18 larger ones instead of 24.

*Hmm...kind of funny how the words dough, bread, and scratch have all been used as slang for "money".
**Go ahead and say it... sounds like I'm a bit of a bread snob. Really it's more a matter of wanting to use "the right bread for the right job". It's about form following function ...even when it comes to food.

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