Friday, June 24, 2011

The One in Which I'm Gushing Over Homemade Burger Buns

One of the things that I've been thinking about lately is how much "crap" is in supermarket loaves of bread.  Bread can be made ever so simply and cheaply with just four ingredients (Flour, Yeast, Water, Salt), and yet even the healthiest-looking whole grain loaves on the supermarket shelves have ingredient lists as long as your arm

It occurred to me that I should be able to make my own bread.  However, while I can turn out a beautiful Country Boule with a perfect crispy crust and a chewy inner crumb every single time, I fail miserably when I try to make a loaf that will do justice to the humble PB&J sandwich.  When it comes down to it, American sandwich bread is about two things:

1) Being able to slice it thin enough so that it doesn't overwhelm the sandwich filling (and so you can get your trap around it).

2) The crumb and crust being soft and of the right texture so that it holds together and doesn't become a rock in your stomach.

Try as I may, I couldn't get this simple equation to work.  The one exception was challah, but I can't justify that many eggs and that much butter for a bread meant to be consumed daily--unless I'm planning to kill myself of a heart attack (and break the bank).

A co-worker and fellow food blogger, who happens to be a good bread baker, suggested that if I wanted to get a soft, fine crumb, I should look for a recipe with an egg in it, as that "enriches the dough."  I immediately had one of those "doh!" moments where I wondered why that hadn't occurred to me, given my success with the challah.  Who says you need all that butter and egg to make it soft?  Maybe it only takes a small amount?

In any event, I'd been simmering on this idea for awhile, alongside one about making my own hamburger and hot dog buns.  The two collided just before Father's day, when I started poking around on King Arthur Flour's website and I found this recipe for burger buns.  It seemed to be just what I was looking for.  So, I printed it out and gave it a try.  We were having both of our fathers over for Father's Day for a cookout, so what better time?

The result was nothing short of fantastic.  The buns were nearly perfect--soft and slightly sweet almost like a potato bread or a brioche, but not overwhelmingly buttery or sweet like a breakfast bread.  They had the perfect crumb and were the perfect thickness for sandwiches or bugers.

These buns will definitely become a staple in our house in the very near future and I already have plans to try and turn them into a loaf of slicing bread.  I'll be sure to keep you posted on that experiment.

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