Now that summer is here it’s time to dust off the BBQ (unless you are South African in which case it is out all year round) and get grilling! Every great burger deserves a great bun – something which many burger restaurants overlook (hence I always order without the bun because I just cannot bear a bad bun). So, what are the characteristics of a great hamburger bun:
1. Soft. The perfect hamburger bun gently squashes down over the burger. You should not have to struggle with your burger. Struggling leads you to pinch the bit that you are holding rather firmly thus squashing it or (worse) making the toppings all fall out onto your lap.
2. Not too soft. Having to pick your bun off the roof of your mouth (universal sign of the sliced white bread-like-substance sandwich) is really unattractive for other diners. And on a date, it’s fatal. The crust of your perfect burger bun should be thin-thin-thin and ever so slightly crispy giving way to a lovely pillowy interior.
3. White. Sorry all you whole fooders our there. Whole meal hamburger buns are just a bit too worthy.
4. Tasty. A hamburger bun should not be tasteless. It should subtly enhance the flavour of the burger, complimenting and enriching it gently and firmly. I am not a fan of the brioche burger bun – it is way too rich. The richness should come from the burger – the bun is the partner in crime. Not the crime itself.
5. Not sweet at all. The white sliced bread with sugar (or HFCS) translated into a bun is a bad idea. It’s bad for you, it’s bad for your teeth, your digestion, your health and it’s bad for your burger. You are consuming enough calories in the burger as it is! No sweeteners at all please. Save the sugar consumption for the pie and ice cream where it belongs.
6. Dimensions. The burger to bun ratio has to be exact. Most places give you too much bun for your burger and the burger is lost. Some places give you WAY too much burger for your bun so forget about being able to pick it up. Better to have two small, perfectly formed burgers (with buns) than one mostly naked humungous burger in a too-small bun or one tiny burger in a bun so big you can barely find the burger. Your mother always said, “never eat anything bigger than your head” and she was right.
The recipe for the perfect burger bun
500 g plain white flour
150 g whole milk (can be straight from the fridge)
150 g water (can be straight from the tap)
75 g unsalted butter
10 g salt
2.5 g instant yeast/5 g dry active yeast/10 g fresh yeast
1 egg + pinch of salt + pinch of sugar + 1 tablespoon of water
If you are using instant or fresh yeast measure all the ingredients into a bowl. Bring them together and then turn the blob of dough out onto the counter. Knead well for 10 minutes. For guidance on kneading, see here.
If you are using dry yeast, measure the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the flour and measure in the yeast. Pour on the water and let the bowl sit for 15 minutes while you have a nice cup of tea. A beige sludge may or may not form on the top of the water. Don’t worry about it – you just need to dissolve the yeast. If you have never done it before, see here. Then, measure in everything else. Bring it together and then turn the blob of dough out onto the counter. Knead well for 10 minutes. For guidance on kneading, see here.
Return the kneaded dough to the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let it sit for 1-2 hours or until it has visibly doubled in size. Then, pull it out onto a non floury surface and divide it into pieces. The size of the bun depends on the size of the burger. 100 g is a BIG bun. 50 g is a small bun. I usually make mine 75 g.
Shape each piece into a tight ball (see here for guidance) and place the balls on a baking tray you have lined with non stick baking parchment. Leave a lot of space around each ball because you will squash them flat in the not too distant future and they will expand. Maybe 12 on a “normal” size baking tray.
Cover the balls with a tea towel and let them sit for 20 minutes. Then remove the towel and, with the palm of your hand, gently but firmly press the balls so they are no more than 1 cm thick. Cover them again and let them rest for another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, turn on the oven to 220 degrees c.
Just before putting the buns in the oven, press them flat again (don’t worry – you will be amazed at how much they rise) and then brush some of the glaze over the top. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top and pop them in the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes (check after 15 that they are not getting too brown and if they are, cover them with foil or parchment). Take them out and tap the bottom of a bun. It should sound hollow. Let them cool completely on a wire rack and then make the burgers to match the buns!
YUM. Your life will never be the same again!
If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, come and take a baking class with us. They are fun, you learn loads, and your sense of achievement is fantastic! You can learn to bake bread in London, you can learn to bake bread in Berkshire, you can take bread classes in Oxford and take bread classes in Essex/Suffolk! We have bread classes in lots of places in England!