I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat store bought hamburger buns again . . . ever. I knew when I started I shouldn’t have made these. The moment I got the June issue of Gourmet magazine, I could think of little else. They were calling me like a siren’s song. I ignored the little warning voice in my head and pulled out the Kitchen Aid from its place on the shelf. There was no turning back.
I baked these on a sweltering July day, which made for a bit of misery in the kitchen but the rising dough filled the house with that comforting yeasty smell of fresh bread. I admit that I was a bit nervous at the start. Any time I work with yeast, I always question whether the yeast and sugar mixture is foamy enough to begin. Do I start over? Is it all dissolved? Will it rise? That being said this was the first time that I had no question that my yeast was alive and ready to work. I mixed the warm water, sugar, and yeast together and turned around to work on something else. When I turned back around to check its progress, the yeast had gone to work and the mixture was fluffy and foamy, rising high in the bottom of the mixing bowl. I was encouraged.
Since it happened to be a sweltering July day, I figured I would place the dough on the balcony outside where it would be free from draft and air conditioning. This, I believe, was the key to my success. The dough bubbled up and out of the large bowl where it was placed. The heat seemed to have the perfect effect. I’ve never had dough rise so high so quickly (granted it was still a couple of hours). I was encouraged further.
Back inside, the dough was easily rolled out and cut into the buns. My dough happened to be very sticky, which explains the thick layer of flour covering my counter top. I was taking no chances. The last thing I wanted after waiting two hours for the dough to rise was to have it all stick to the counter.
The pretty dough now in the shape of buns was placed onto cookie sheets ready for the second rise. And quite to my delight, the second rise was as successful as the first. The little buns pushed upward and outward. Right before my eyes they bloomed into beautiful, full, fluffy buns ready for the oven. An egg wash was applied and into the hot oven they went. The waiting seemed so long. They smelled so good. The hamburgers were on the grill. The feast was ready to commence and out of the oven emerged golden, soft hamburger buns. That was the best hamburger I have ever eaten. As the juice of the first summer tomato was dripping down my arm from my hamburger, I commented to S that we could have been eating hours earlier. But it just wouldn’t have been the same and it never will be. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat store bought hamburger buns again . . . ever.
Gourmet June 2008
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup war water (105-115 degrees)
2 (1/4 oz) packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup plus 1/2 tsp sugar, divided
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into TBSP pieces and softened
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 TBSP salt
6 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 large egg mixed with 1 TBSP water for egg wash
Equipment: a stand mixer with paddle and dough-hook attachments; a 3-inch round cookie cutter
1. Bring milk to a bare simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and cool to 105 to 115 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, stir together warm water, yeast, and 1/2 tsp sugar in mixer bowl until yeast has dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast).
3. Add butter, warm milk, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar to yeast mixture and mix with paddle attachment at low speed until butter has melted, then mix in eggs until combined well. Add salt and 4 cups flour and mix, scraping down side of bowl as necessary, until flour is incorporated. Beat at medium speed 1 minute.
4. Switch to dough hook and beat in remaining 2 cups of flour at medium speed until dough pulls away from side of bowl, about 2 minutes; if necessary, add more flour, 1 TBSP at a time. Beat 5 minutes more. (Dough will be sticky).
5. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm draft-free place until doubled, about 2 1/2 hours.
6. Butter 2 large baking sheets. Punch down dough, then roll out on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 14 inch round (about 1/2 thick). Cut out as many rounds as possible with floured cutter and arrange 3 inches apart on baking sheets. Gather and reroll scraps, then cut out more rounds.
7. Loosely cover buns with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until they hold a finger mark when gently poked-1 1/2 to 2 hours.
8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds.
9. Brush buns with egg wash and bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are golden and undersides are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, 14 to 20 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool completely.
*Buns can be frozen, wrapped well, up to 1 month.