Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hamburger Buns

I was looking for a hamburger bun recipe yielding a roll that would work fine with or without a hamburger inside and I stumbled upon this one by chance. I had started out by following Nancy Silverton's directions in her terrific Breads from La Brea Bakery but I hadn't read the complete recipe (always a big mistake!) and found out too late that Silverton uses in fact a brioche dough with 5 large eggs, close to 300 g of butter and 85 g of sugar. While I am sure her recipe is delicious, for health and other reasons, I don't really like baking with a lot of butter and eggs. So here I was with a beautifully bubbling sponge and nowhere to go! I turned to my other bread bible, namely Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread : A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes - which I had had the lucky foresight to take with me on our trip to the river - and looked up Hamelman's recipe for hamburger buns. It did use sugar, some butter and eggs but the sugar could be skipped and the butter replaced by olive oil. As for eggs, it only required one and since there was fresh milk in the sponge, I could skip the powdered milk (a good thing since I didn't have any). I scaled the ingredients taking into account the amount of flour, water, milk, starter and yeast which I had used in the sponge and we were in business. The resulting rolls are a little bit more crusty than simply yeasted buns but they are quite tasty. The crumb is mostly tight enough to keep ketchup or mustard from leaking through, yet airy enough to make a nice dinner roll. In other words, this stumbled-upon recipe is a keeper, especially as the rolls can be made ahead and frozen, which means I can make them whenever I have a surplus of starter (I am always looking for ways to use up my starter).
The recipe is made over two days as the sponge ferments for about 24 hours beforehand and I found the final dough to be pretty resilient. As we had to go out, I set it to wait in the fridge and even though we were away for more than three hours, it hadn't overproofed when I took it out.

Ingredients (for 18 rolls):
For the sponge

  • 171 g cool water at 70 F
  • 1 pinch of dry instant yeast
  • 184 g mature liquid starter
  • 115 g fresh milk
  • 282 g unbleached all-purpose flour 

For the final dough

  • 373 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 118 g water
  • 40 g extra-virgin olive oil
  • 13 g salt
  • 1 egg
  • 4 g instant dry yeast

  1. To make the sponge, place the water, yeast, starter, milk and flour in a bowl and stir with a rubber spatula. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature for 10 to 12 hours
  2. Bubbles should have formed on the surface. Resecure the plastic wrap and place the bowl in the refrigerator for 1o to 12 hours
  3. 24 hours later, remove the sponge from the refrigerator and place it in the bowl of a mixer (I use a spiral one), together with the water, the flour and the yeast
  4. Mix on low speed until just incorporated and let rest, covered, for 20 minutes (autolyse)
  5. Add the salt and mix for a few minutes until the gluten network is moderately developed, then add the egg
  6. When incorporated, slowly add the olive oil
  7. Remove from the bowl of the mixer and place in an oil-sprayed container. Cover tightly before setting to ferment at room temperature (the dough will take longer to ferment than indicated in the Hamelman's book because the sponge is taken straight from the fridge. In my case, the dough temperature was 72 F/22 C at the end of the mixing, which is clearly on the lower side since the desired temperature would have been 76 F/24 C. It took about 2 hours but right before it was done, I placed it in the fridge for more than 3 hours, so all together, it fermented for at least 5 hours. I wouldn't particularly recommend this technique of retarding the dough out of personal convenience but it is good to know that it can be done)
  8. Divide the dough in 70 g pieces, pre-shape round
  9. Let the rounds relax for about 5 minutes under a sheet of plastic
  10. Lightly flour the work surface and with a rolling pin (I actually used the flat of my hand), roll each piece into a disk about 3.5 inches/9 cm in diameter
  11. Proof on sheet pans lined with parchment paper and cover with plastic
  12. When risen, lightly spray the top with water and drizzle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds or grated parmesan cheese (I left one batch bare as my 4-year old grand-daughter can be picky when toppings are concerned) and bake at 400 F/204 C for 20 minutes. The crust should be golden but the rolls should be soft when gently squeezed, according to Hamelman (mine had a little bit more body because of the starter).

These Hamburger Buns go to Susan, from Wild Yeast, for Yeastpotting.


  1. Thanks for this recipe. I've been looking for a hamburger bun with less butter and sugar. Now I wonder? What would happen if I sub out some white flour for whole wheat?? :0)

  2. Hi, Mimi! Replacing 1/3 of the all-purpose flour by white whole wheat flour was actually what I was going to try next. If you try it before I do, please let me know how the buns come out.

  3. Very nice crumb, MC - are they crusty? How long did Hamelman suggest for the room temp fermentation?

    I'm going to try these.

  4. Thanks for coming by, John! Hamelman suggests a bulk fermentation of one hour at room temp. As for the proofing time, he doesn't indicate any. He just says "until risen and light to the touch". By the way, I made your recipe for Veracruz pork. It was very tasty and we greatly enjoyed it!

  5. i love the photo of the little reaching fingers! I have a burger roll recipe I like but it does not use sourdough starter so I'm excited to try this one too.



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