Sunday in January. It is 18 degrees outside. I am cleaning my house, dressed in sweats with no makeup on. I’m not leaving unless I **have** to leave. I mean, this house would have to be on fire. And it would have to be a fire I couldn’t manage myself. I am not leaving.
In the slow cooker I’ve got a pork loin roast cooking to make pulled pork. Then it hits me. I have no buns, or bread for that matter, in the house. I could get dressed and go buy buns, but I really, really don’t want to. Really.
Oh, wait. I’ve got this awesome appliance called a bread machine. In fact, I have two of them – and a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook.
The first bread machine was released in Japan in 1986. It is a home appliance for baking bread whose pan consists of a tall, square-ish tube at the bottom of which are one or more built-in paddles. The pan locks into the center of a small special-purpose oven. There’s your Wiki lesson for the day.
Oh, for future reference, I never bake in my bread machine, I just make dough. I dislike the shape and denser texture of the bread baked in the bread maker, so I dump the dough ball out into a loaf pan, let it rise again, and then bake.
Back to the machine: Once upon a time these handy machines cost several hundred dollars each – some still may – but as they became more popular, the prices went down. They are also huge. In my kitchen I’d lose an entire counter to a bread maker. When it comes to the whole “how much of my kitchen counter is this thing going to occupy” question, the answer in my case is “most of it.” Considering the amount of counter or storage space the machine takes, and how infrequently most folks use them, I found bread machines have become quite popular garage sale and Craigslist finds. I found both of mine as free giveaways on Freecycle.org. They live in my garage.
I love my bread machines. And they love my hips. Carb heaven.
Off to find a recipe. There are a million of them. I like simple recipes without any exotic ingredients, stuff I could normally have in my kitchen. That usually eliminates a large number of recipes. Then I tweak – sometimes a lot – to make the recipe my own.
I had thought hamburger buns would be a lot more exotic than they turned out to be. In fact, they’re surprisingly simple. I usually try each recipe I find as written the first time, and tweak afterwards, but I’ve used my bread machines enough to know what I need to do to make the perfect bread.
Oh, and on the subject of flours – oh, look! Squirrel! – I never buy bread flour. I use all purpose flour keep a box of vital wheat gluten on hand for baking bread, especially breads that incorporate wheat flour. While some folks don’t add gluten, I do, because it gives that nice elasticity you need and the dough tends to rise higher resulting in a softer, airier loaf. So in the recipe below, if you’re using all bread flour, you don’t have to add the vital wheat gluten. However, like I say, I use just plain old all purpose flour and add gluten.
I also rarely, if ever, sift. I should, I just dislike doing it.
Homemade Hamburger Buns
1-1/4 c milk, slightly warmed (I zapped it for about a minute in the microwave)
1 beaten egg
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/4 c white sugar
3/4 tea salt
1-1/4 c whole wheat flour
2-1/2 c white flour*
3 tbsp vital wheat gluten*
1-1/4 tea active dry yeast (one packet)
(If you don’t have wheat flour, or want white bread buns, using 3-3/4 c all purpose flour and is more than acceptable.)
1. Place all ingredients in your bread machine pan in the order suggested by your manufacturer (usually liquids first, then dry ingredients, then yeast in a well in the center of the dry ingredients)
2. Set the machine for the dough cycle setting and process.
3. When the dough cycle is complete, turn the dough ball out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the ball into 12 balls. I usually start by dividing in half, then half again, then thirds.
4. Form round balls with each ball, then gently pat into patties. With a rolling pin, roll each ball until flat and about the size of a hamburger bun. You’ll have to gently turn each dough patty and roll both sides because the dough is very elastic and will snap back into a ball if you’re not patient with your rolling.
5. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper (or you can lightly grease them) and place six buns per sheet, leaving plenty of space between each bun.
6. Lightly brush each bun with an egg wash and a pastry brush for that lovely golden top. (Egg wash is one beaten egg with a dab of water or milk.) Do not over apply the wash.
7. Place both sheets in a warm dry spot, cover with a cloth, and let rise for at least an hour.
8. Preheat oven to 350F and when the dough has risen to double, bake for 9-10 minutes until golden.
OMG. These things are wonderful. Light, fluffy and so fresh tasting. Who would have thought such a simple thing would have made me so happy to make.
It would take us weeks to eat 12 buns, and without preservatives, they’ll mold pretty quickly. I wrap each bun in plastic wrap, then drop the wrapped buns into a freezer zip top bag. The double wrapping help keep ice crystals from forming and making your defrosted buns soggy.
Here’s a picture of my sandwich — and a reason to pay attention to the background when taking pictures for publication.
Download an 8-1/2″ x 11″ recipe card: Homemade Hamburger Buns