Saturday, August 7, 2010

whole grain burger buns

It must be some unwritten law of slapdash baking. After mutliple disappointing attempts to produce an acceptable (appropriate size, not too dense, mild flavor) homemade, whole grain, burger bun, I gave up and went back to buying them at the health food store. When I could get them. Which could have been yesterday, except I somehow overlooked that item on my list and came home without them. This was a problem, as I had thawed some ground bison and was looking forward to a burger for lunch today.

So, with a big sigh (and the idea of multi-tasking), I decided to throw together a dough last night that might (fingers crossed) supply both a small supply of burger buns and a pizza dough or two. I did not write down what I did. Because I gave up on doing that, where buns are concerned. Pizza dough, too, although that's more because even when it's "meh," it turns into pizza, and I'm happy.

So, that unwritten law I referred to has to do with the fact that THIS TIME, having given up on it months ago, and having not recorded what I did, I turned out a REALLY PRETTY GOOD burger bun. Fortunately (for me) I did use a measuring cup to scoop out the flour, and so have at least some idea of what I did. That may not help you, but here goes:

Slapdash Burger Buns
1 cup whole wheat bread flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups "white" whole wheat flour
1-2 T gluten
1 tsp salt

Put all that in the bowl of your stand mixer, with the paddle thingie on, and mix on lowest speed to stir it all up.

1 T active dry yeast
1/2 C warm water
1 tsp honey

Dissolve the honey in the water, stir in the yeast, and let proof to make sure it gets good and bubbly.

While the yeast is proofing, whisk up (a fork will do) in a small bowl:
1 large egg
1/3 cup whole milk (that 1/3 cup is a guess)
a generous splorp of olive oil (2-4 T? maybe?)

Dump the proofed yeast-water and the milk-egg-oil into the mixer and run on lowish speed, adding in more warm water as needed. This is where it will help if you have some bread-baking experience, because I did not measure. Best guess: maybe another 1/2 cup?

"As needed" means until the dough comes together and gloms around the paddle, pulling away from the sides of the bowl in one mass. I know it when I see it, and hope you do, too. I'd have taken a picture for you if I had any idea that this batch would turn out well. Maybe. Truth is, I hate interrupting my cooking to take photos, which is just one of several reasons I'm a mediocre and sporadic food blogger.

Anyway, back to the dough. Once you've finessed the water content, switch over to the dough hook and run on medium speed until it's done: cool to the touch, firm and bouncy (even if sticky still), with nice gluten development. I wet my fingers with water and pull off a lump and stretch it to see how elastic it is. Beginners, if you are still with me, surely you've figured out this blog is not the best place to begin your bread-baking apprenticeship. The only way to learn when it's right is to make a lot of bread. There's no shortcut, although a good bread baking book, or a cooking class, could shave a few loaves off your learning curve.

I did an overnight-in-the-fridge proof. It puffed up gloriously and then fell by morning, which is fine for the OITF method. This morning I turned the dough out of the bowl, gently deflated, and cut into quarters. Two of the quarters were rolled into balls, pressed into disks, wrapped in plastic, and put in the freezer for future pizza dough use. The other two pieces I cut into thirds, also rolled into (six) balls, pressed into disks, and placed on a baking sheet, on parchment paper, and left to rise on the counter while I went downstairs to the workout room to earn some carb calories.

An hour later the buns had risen nicely, so I preheated the oven to 375 and baked them for 22 minutes. They cooled for about 10 minutes before I gave in and tore one in half to slather it with butter see how the inside looks. Perfectionists would have brushed the tops with something to make them shiny, but I didn't bother. Seeds of some kind would have been nice, but the only ones I could find in the spice drawer were of questionable vintage so I was cautious and left them off.

The verdict: a homemade, mostly wholegrain, burger bun I'll be happy to eat. The flavor is okay, not fantastic, but that's what I look for in a good bun. I want the burger to be the star of the show.

And, while I'm boasting about improvisational bread successes, here's a pic of a loaf I made a month or so ago. No recipe for this one either, although I did follow Peter Reinhart's method, which is a sure path to success even if my proportions and ingredients are subject to whimsy. This one started with a 6-grain cereal, includes some coarse-ground cornmeal I was trying to use up, and is 100% whole grain and organic, but other than that I don't remember details. I meant to take another pic of this to show off the very nice grain, but by the time I'd sliced and was eating it I'd forgotten. It was delicious: