food

Buns

I love so many things about Spring.  Everything turns from brown to green, from dull to vibrant.  For our family it's basically a season-long celebration with all of the birthdays, anniversaries, and occasions.  Perhaps the best part for me, though, is that we get to spend more time outside than in.  This is even true for the time I spend cooking, since it's the beginning of grilling season.

While I'll be posting about a lot of grilled and smoked meats this season, this isn't one of those posts.  This one is instead dedicated to a component of the meal that is typically neglected.  Many of us devote great time and effort to smoking the perfect pork roast for a pulled pork sandwich or grinding the best blend of beef cuts for an incomparable grilled burger -- here's what we use for that, by the by.  But why go to such great lengths to produce amazing sandwich fillings when you're just going to put them on mediocre store-bought buns?

Don't get me wrong; if you live near a killer bakery or your grocery store happens to sell some really excellent rolls, go for it.  But if you've never experienced a bun that stands up to the quality of your meat, you must give these a try this weekend.

These buns are soft like challah and buttery like brioche, but more substantial and less time-consuming than both.  Start them early in the day when you're putting the dry rub on your meat and with a few minutes of active prep and some lazy rising time, you'll have glossy, tender, perfect buns.

This recipe is very forgiving.  You can make it in a mixer or by hand.  You can use toppings or not.  You can make the dough the night before and let it rise in the refrigerator.  You can weigh the dough balls or just approximate them.  Just make sure you do one thing:  Make these.

We had beef burgers the day I made these, then we froze the remaining buns and made turkey burgers, pictured above, a few days later.  They freeze wonderfully well in an airtight container; just set them out on the counter to thaw about an hour before dinner.  I highly recommend splitting the buns, spreading them with soft butter, and toasting the cut sides under the broiler right before piling on whatever fillings you crave.

Buns

adapted from Comme Ça restaurant, via smitten kitchen

makes 8 buns

  • 3 tablespoons warm milk
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, divided
  • Optional Toppings: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sea salt, cracked black pepper, minced onions, etc.

Combine milk, water, yeast, and sugar in a bowl or glass measuring cup.  Let stand about 5 minutes or until foamy.  Meanwhile, combine flours, salt, and butter in a mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer.  Use your fingers to press the butter into the flour, creating a fine, crumbly texture.  Crack one egg into the yeast mixture and stir with a fork.  Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or mix on low speed with a dough hook to combine.  Now knead for 8-10 minutes either by hand or on medium-low speed.  You'll be tempted to add more flour, but you really want a slightly sticky dough.  Shape the dough into a ball and return it to the bowl.  Cover with a kitchen towel or plate and allow to rise until doubled in size.  You can do this at room temperature for a couple of hours or in the refrigerator overnight.  

When the dough has risen, divide it into eight equal balls.  Space them evenly on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Lightly oil the tops of the dough balls and cover them loosely with plastic wrap.  Allow them to rise at room temperature for 2 hours or until doubled.  Toward the end of this rise, place a shallow pan of water on your oven's floor and preheat it to 400 degrees.  Beat the remaining egg with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the tops of the buns.  Sprinkle on desired toppings.  Bake the buns for about 15 minutes or until the tops are golden and glossy.  Allow them to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing in half.