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Practicing the basics: hamburger buns

Hamburger buns are easy to make, but more importantly they are MUCH cheaper to make than to buy. Plus they just taste better. I suggest you read the lesson on bread before trying this. Hamburger buns are a pretty basic bread recipe — just shaped differently and baked for a shorter amount of time because they are smaller than a full loaf — so nearly everything in the basic bread recipe (including how to knead bread) applies to this recipe too.

Suggested reading:

Makes 8 hamburger buns. Total time: about an hour and a half.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups water, heated to 100-110 degrees F.
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. powdered milk
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • For optional egg wash: 1 large egg, 1 tbsp. water
  • Optional: sesame seeds

Mix together the water, sugar and yeast until the sugar and yeast are fully dissolved. Let sit for five minutes. After five minutes there should be ahead of foam on top, a sure sign that the yeast is working. If there are no bubbles, start over again.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, powdered milk, and salt and stir to evenly distribute. Add the yeast mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until it forms a shaggy ball of dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for ten minutes, until the dough is smooth and bounces back when you poke your finger into it.

Divide the dough into eight equal pieces. The easiest way to do this is to roll it out into a log; cut it in half, then each half into quarters, and each quarter into eighths.

Roll each piece of dough into a ball, then place on a half-sheet baking pan. Space out the dough balls evenly; they will need space to expand as they rise.

Spray the top of each dough ball with non-stick spray, then cover them with a sheet of plastic wrap. Place a second half-sheet baking pan on top of the the plastic wrap. The plastic wrap stops the dough from drying out. The second baking pan on top helps to shape the buns — but don’t worry, they will rise plenty more in the oven.

Allow the dough to rise for thirty minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the top baking pan and the plastic wrap.

For egg wash: beat the egg and one tablespoon of water for one minute in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash onto the tops of the buns. The egg wash helps make the tops of the buns shiny and golden brown.

If desired, sprinkle sesame seeds on top of the buns. The egg wash will help the seeds stick.

Place in oven and bake until tops are brown, about 20-25 minutes. If some of the buns are browning faster than others, rotate the pan at the halfway point.

Allow the buns to cool on a wire rack before separating or slicing them. These will rise enough in the oven that they might join together; but hey, the ones you buy in the store do that too.

Tips and suggestions:

  • You can substitute 1-for-1 wheat flour for the all-purpose flour, but if you do that for more than one cup you will probably need to add some vital wheat gluten to give the buns extra strength to rise or they will come out flat.
  • The same dough works for hot dog buns. Just roll them out into cylinders (each about the size of a hot dog before rising) instead of balls.
  • The powdered milk in this recipe isn’t strictly necessary, but it helps the bread retain moisture and makes it softer.
  • You can use a stand mixer with the dough hook to do the mixing and kneading of the dough. It works well and will save you time and a lot of energy.