Yesterday before she left for work, my wife prepared one of the family’s favorite dishes: The meat for Turkey-Mushroom and Swiss Burgers. As she was walking out the door, she asked if I could make burger buns – specifically buns I’ve made a few times that are light, airy, chewy, and packed with yeasty goodness. With the butter and sugar in them, they’re very similar to brioche, but not as sweet and not as buttery – but they’re close, which is why I call them butter buns.
But I have to be honest: This is NOT my original recipe, though I’ve refined it over the last year. This is a riff on King Arthur’s “Beautiful Burger Buns” recipe. And these burger buns really are beautiful. But not only that, they’re super easy to make!
When I first made these buns, I was surprised to see that there was no milk or powdered milk used in the recipe. I was also surprised at how low the hydration was (46-48%). But the egg and butter make up for the lack of hydration. Plus, the butter combined with the egg gives the crumb a slightly yellowish hue.
And though there’s sugar in the formula, these buns are not sweet overly sweet. The sweetness is much more subtle considering the amount of sugar used.
I’ve made these buns several times and to be honest, I recommend using a mixer, especially if you’re pressed for time. I made the buns entirely by hand yesterday and hand-kneaded the dough. But I had a bit of time, and hadn’t kneaded by hand for a long time (gotta keep my chops up). In any case, let’s get into the formula:
|Baker’s %||Final Dough|
|AP Flour (pref. unbleached, unbromated)||100%||473|
|Egg (1 lg. egg – room temp)||8%||36|
|Butter (room temp)||7%||33|
|Optimal Dough Temp||80ºF|
Note that the hydration is 46%-50%. On cooler days, I recommend using the lower number. On warm days, use the higher number. That said, I always start with the lower number, then as I’m mixing will add a bit of water to get to that smooth consistency. Also, make sure your water is nice and warm! It helps incorporate the butter much easier.
Preparation. Before you start mixing the dough, mix the water, sugar, and yeast together in a mixing bowl to dissolve the sugar and activate the yeast; yes, even if you’re using instant yeast. Beat the egg so the yolk and white are well-combined. Note that I don’t bother measuring out the weight of the egg if I’m making a single batch and just drop a large egg into the mix. But if I scale up, I will beat a few eggs together and weigh according to the formula.
Mixing. Combine the flour, butter, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the egg and water mixture and mix until all the ingredients come together there are no dry ingredients present. If you’re using a mixer, combine the ingredients at low speed, then once mixed go to the second speed to knead the dough for 2-3 minutes (dough should be smooth and pulling off the walls of the bowl). If mixing by hand, turn the dough out onto your board and knead until the dough is smooth (about 8-10 minutes).
Bulk Fermenation: 1-2 hours @ 80ºF or until the dough has almost doubled. In warm weather, this will happen FAST! With this amount of yeast, bulk fermentation will happen pretty quickly so you need to keep an eye on it.
Divide and Shape. Turn the dough out onto your board, then scale out 100g pieces. Roll the pieces into tight balls (you can do two at a time), then let them bench rest for 10 minutes. Place each ball on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and press them out into 3″ disks. Gently dimple the tops as you would a ciabatta (believe it or not, this promotes even rising). If you’re using a standard-size baking sheet, you might want to stagger the pieces so they fit better. Don’t worry if they touch when you press them out. They’ll expand even further during final fermentation and baking.
Final Fermentation. Allow the shaped disks to rise for up to another hour or until they’ve clearly expanded and are puffy. On warm days, my dough’s ready in about 30 minutes. In any case, check them after about 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 375°F.
Baking. Right before you bake, lightly brush the tops of the buns with melted butter. Bake them for 15-18 minutes until the tops are a light, gorgeous, golden-brown. Remove from the oven, then brush them again with butter. Cool for at least an hour before cutting.
I love this formula because you can use it for a couple of different kinds of bread besides burger buns!
Dinner Rolls. Instead of flattening out the rolls, place them in a round or a 13X9 pan to make dinner rolls.
Hawaiian Rolls. Half the sugar, up the butter to 10%, and replace 70%-75% of the water with pineapple juice and you’ll get a VERY close approximation to Hawaiian bread! Load the rolls into a pan as with the dinner rolls! You could also replace the remaining water with milk for an even fluffier texture!
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