Homemade Hamburger Buns
by Flo Braker
Americans have had a love affair with hamburgers that does not promise to end anytime soon. However, if the last time you ate one, the bun fell apart, was soft and cottony, and tasted sweet, then you're ready for a great combo: a hamburger on a homemade bun. Besides tasting delicious, homemade hamburger buns are crisp and crusty on the outside, yet even textured and light inside.
Homemade Hamburger Buns are nothing more than a simple bread dough of whole wheat and white flours, wheat germ, yeast, salt, milk, some sugar, and vegetable shortening. The recipe is uncomplicated with several opportunities to vary its flavors. And even if you aren't a habitual bread baker, you'll be so pleased with these buns that you'll make an exception from your usual routine.
This is a great make-ahead dough. You can mix and knead the dough, allow it to rise, punch it down, cover and refrigerate it for up to twelve hours. Then remove it from the refrigerator, gently punch the dough down and shape it into buns and allow them to rise. Chilled dough takes longer to rise than room-temperature dough.
The recipe yields 16 buns, but if your burgers are larger or smaller than the standard, you can alter the size of the buns to make fewer or more. For example, shaping the dough into 3-inch circles produces 4-inch buns after baking. To make larger buns, about 5-inches round, divide the dough into thirds instead of fourths as directed in the recipe.
The whole wheat and wheat germ in the recipe gives the buns a pleasantly coarse texture and an appealing, hearty flavor. The grains complement a hamburger rather than overpower it. Buns are also nutritious, with worthwhile protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
When the whole wheat kernel is ground, it becomes whole wheat flour. All parts of the kernel are retained, not just the starchy portion (endosperm) found in all-purpose flour. Whole grain indicates that the fibrous outer coat, or bran, and the tiny germ are also included. Because it is a whole-grain flour containing the oil-rich germ of the wheat, whole wheat flour quickly becomes rancid under ordinary storage conditions. Therefore, buy only as much as you will use within a couple of months and keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
For a more exotic meal, add special ingredients to the buns. Some possibilities are wheat berries, walnuts or olives. And though hamburgers aren't only made from ground beef, these buns are ideal for fish, chicken, turkey or any sandwich. You can shape them into buns for hot dogs or sausage too.
Hamburger buns made with whole grains need to cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing and eating, because whole-grain flours hold moisture longer than white flour.
3 cups all-purpose flour plus additional flour for kneading 2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup toasted wheat germ
2 packages active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
Place 1 1/2 cups each all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, the toasted wheat germ, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, preferably a heavy-duty one with a paddle attachment, briefly mix together the ingredients.
In a saucepan over low heat, melt the shortening. Add the milk and sugar and heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is very warm, but no hotter than 120 or 130 degrees. With the mixer at low speed, slowly pour milk mixture into flour mixture until blended. Increase to medium speed and beat mixture for about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup each white flour and whole wheat flour and beat 2 minutes more. Add 1 cup white flour and beat until dough comes away from sides of bowl.
Knead dough on a lightly floured surface about 8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. (Use very little additional flour.) Place in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise in a warm place until double in volume, about 1 or 1 1/2 hours.
Gently punch dough down and divide dough into four equal portions. Divide each portion into fourths and allow dough to rest just 5 minutes. Form the small portions into balls and with fingertips fold edges under to form even circles. Place on lightly greased baking sheets, about 2-inches apart and with fingertips flatten each bun to a 3-inch circle. (If you prefer the sides of the buns to remain soft, place them closer together. Then as the buns rise the sides will touch.) Cover with a towel and set aside to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Adjust rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees at least 20 minutes before baking. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden and buns sound hollow when tapped lightly. Cool completely on wire rack before slicing. (Or cool and freeze, well-wrapped, for up to 1 week.) Makes 16.
To form hot dog buns: Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, pat or roll out each portion to a rectangle about 14 x 5 inches. Cut about eight 5 x 2 inch strips from each rectangle. Between the palms of your hands, roll each portion into 6-inch long buns. Place buns, about 2-inches apart on lightly greased baking sheets. Cover loosely with a cloth towel and set aside in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Bake as directed for hamburger buns.
Wheat Berries: Add 1/3 cup wheat berries and a dash of salt to 2 cups boiling water. Cover saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Drain and dry them well. With wooden spoon, stir wheat berries into dough before kneading it.
Walnuts: Toast 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts in a 325 degree oven about 10 minutes. Cool and with a wooden spoon stir into dough before kneading it.
Olives: Coarsely chop 1/3 cup pitted, oil- or brine-cured black or green olives. With wooden spoon (or paddle attachment and mixer at low speed) stir olives into dough before kneading it.
Sesame Seeds: After shaping buns, lightly brush top of buns with an egg white lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water. Sprinkle sesame seeds over glaze. Cover lightly with a towel and allow buns to rise before baking.