Memorial Day is the first of the two "bookend" holidays, the other one being Labor Day, which mark the beginning and end of the summer holidays in the United States. This weekend, everyone from professional ribmasters to folks who have no business being within 20 feet of a grill will fire up their Webers and officially kick off the 2008 barbecue season. Whether you're a fan of the beer-can chicken method or your just a simple hot dog and mustard kind of guy/gal, chances are pretty good that at least one of your meals over the next few days will be served to you with tongs onto a paper plate (or custom-made Memorial Day tableware, if you happen to be celebrating at Martha's estate.)
Nothing says "cook-out" like a good old-fashioned hamburger. Usually, there is so much focus on the burger itself--how much seasoning, turkey or beef, what type of cheese--that the bun is all but forgotten about until the very last minute. Those pathetic and flimsy little grocery store versions are always too thin, become too soggy, fall apart after the first bite, and besides, have you seen the price of bread lately?? Here is your golden opportunity to take you burgers to the next level, with fresh homemade hamburger buns.
Imagine how great this scenario would be: Your most hard-to-please family member asks you which bakery made the incredible hamburger buns. You breezily reply, "Oh those? I just made them myself this morning, as I was doing other things of course." Priceless. These buns don't require much labor or attention, just ample time to rise, so if started first thing in the morning, they really could be ready for lunch. Make a triple batch and freeze them to enjoy throughout the summer months--and have a safe and happy Memorial Day! Here are some extra tips for making these bakery-style burger buns:
- When you first combine the yeast and warm water, if the yeast doesn't foam after five minutes, then throw it out and start over. This indicates that the yeast is no longer active, and the dough will not rise.
- One 1/4-ounce package of yeast is equivalent to 2 1/4 teaspoons, so for this recipe, you will need 4 1/2 teaspoons yeast.
- This recipe can be made using all white flour instead of a mixture of white and whole wheat flours.
- If you don't have an standing electric mixer, just stir all of the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Then, knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 7 to 8 minutes.
- The baked buns can be frozen, tightly wrapped, for up to 1 month.
- If you don't have a 3-inch cookie cutter, then use the top of a glass to measure the rounds.
Homemade Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns
Makes about 16
2 cups whole milk
2 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar, divided
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 large egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
Bring the milk to a low simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and cool until the temperature reaches between 105F and 115F degrees.
Meanwhile, stir the warm water, yeast, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in the bowl of a standing electric mixer. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the butter, warm milk, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar to the yeast mixture and mix with the paddle attachment at low speed until the butter has melted. Mix in the eggs until well combined.
Add the salt, 2 cups regular flour, and 2 cups whole wheat flour to the bowl and mix, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary, until the flour is well incorporated. Switch to the dough hook and beat in the remaining cup of regular flour and the remaining cup of whole wheat flour at medium speed until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary. Beat for 5 minutes longer; dough will be sticky.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 1/2 hours.
Butter 2 large baking sheets or line them with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface, using a floured rolling pin. Roll to a 14-inch round, about 1/2-inch thick. Cut out as many rounds as possible with a floured 3-inch cutter and arrange 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. Gather and reroll scraps; cut out more rounds. Loosely cover the buns with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until they hold a finger mark when gently poked, 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees with racks in upper and lowed thirds. Brush the buns with the egg wash and bake, switching positions halfway through baking, until tops are golden and undersides are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, 14-20 minutes. Cool completely.