A long, long time ago someone read my new little blog. And she asked, very nicely, if I could talk about baking bread. Specifically, if I could talk about baking hamburger buns as her recipe had left her frustrated. And even thought I'm no expert on hamburger buns, or bread and I haven't even had a blog long enough for it to have been a long, long time ago I decided I'd finally get around to answering her questions because she asked very nicely. So here is my best explanation of how to make great homemade hamburger buns.
Can you tell I've been up a long time already?
Basically, I've learned that baking bread is really not that hard if you really aren't too terribly fussy and you have one little piece of equipment, a bread machine. I have no special skills, but I've learned that feel is more important that specific measurements when it comes to how much flour vs. how much water you need on any specific day. And I quickly learned that a bread machine is your bestest friend ever when it comes to kneading. You can make bread without it, but I really prefer to have one!
So I had to make about 60 hamburger buns for my son's birthday and I did it all without too much muss or fuss. Start with your ingredients. Pictured here are some of what goes into our favorite hamburger bun recipe. Not pictured is milk. Please ignore the rather messy appearance as this was taken after the 4th batch of dough had been started. And I do not keep a clean kitchen while in the middle of baking. Or cooking. Or on Wednesdays. Or any day that ends in "day." It is a problem.
I load all the ingredients into my bread machine. Sorry for the blurry picture! It is my savior when it comes to kneading dough. It makes all the dough for pizza crusts, hamburger buns, and bread in our house. It is at least 10 years old, is dirty, and is worth every penny of the $12 I spent on it when I bought it! I see these for sale at yard sales and thrift stores all the time. We actually bought a brand new one for $9 for my mother-in-law at a thrift store just 2 years ago. They are worth the investment! My machine gets all the wet ingredients first, dry on top and then yeast at the very end. It gets set to the dough setting which takes an hour and 20 minutes to complete.
I check it about 10 minutes into the process to adjust with more flour or more water. You want it to be kind of silky to the touch. It should not be overly sticky (add more flour) and it shouldn't be so dry and tough that the machine cannot knead it fairly easily (add more water). There will be some bounce to the dough if you push on it and some resistance when you break a piece off. Then I just let it do its thing! When it beeps I have a big hunk of dough to work with.
Just for fun, a trippy picture of dough being kneaded by the machine.
Plop the dough on the counter and grab a bench scraper. If you don't have a bench scraper you can use a knife. Or your hands. This is not rocket science and there is no need to be afraid.
Pinch, pull or cut off a hunk of dough that is a small palmful or so. This can be adjusted for the size of buns you want to make. Tiny amount for sliders, huge amount for jumbo burgers. Do what strikes your fancy! Or get crazy and shape it into hot dog buns or brat buns or hero rolls.
Roll the dough around in your palm until it makes a ball, assuming you are going for the standard hamburger bun style roll. If I'm being more picky (or making just one batch and have some extra time) I kind of flat them a bit and bull the edges down and underneath so the top gets super smooth. Then they are a bit more nice looking, but no one has ever noticed when I do that extra step, so let's just do the quick method.
Smoosh the ball. It may or may not be perfectly round, but just get it kind of like a circle. It should be fairly flat. I just use my hands to smoosh, but if you wanted to break out the rolling pin and get them to be all equal in size and thickness, knock yourself out!
Put the rolls onto a backing stone or cookie sheet or whatever you plan to cook them on. Please take no notice of the dirty pizza stone and just look at the nice cookie sheet above. You may notice that my buns are not perfect. Such is life! Embrace diversity :) Cover them with a towel and let them rise. They need to poof up and look more like hamburger buns. This could take 30 minutes if conditions are perfect, but I always figure 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Just check on them when you get a chance and be ready to bake them when they look right.
This is looking right. They are poofed up a bit and look like unbaked hamburger buns.
Put them in a 400 degree oven and immediately turn down to 375. These will cook for 15 minutes or so. I check them at about 12 and then just pull them out when they look done. They should be lightly browned on top. I find that with a pizza stone they take a little longer (the stone is not preheated since they were rising on it), with a metal cookie sheet them are done a bit quicker. If you find that some outside ones are done, but that some in the middle are not yet done enough just pull off the ones that are done and pop the pan back in for a few minutes. I won't tell anyone!
Place the rolls on a rack to cool. Enjoy the yummy smell of fresh bread. Tell your husband he has to wait until dinner. Watch him rolls his eyes and drool a little. Then give in and let him have one hot out of the oven. Let him tell you how great you are. Then cool these and serve or cool and then freeze. We keep a bag in the freezer and just pull out what we need. They freeze really well and taste great after they thaw! You may notice that the tops are not as bumpy as before. The rising on the counter and the extra rise when they bake helps take care of some imperfections. This is why I wouldn't stress too much about the making them really smooth unless you like stress. Then have a ball!
The recipe I use:
1 1/4 c. milk
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp salt
3 3/4 c. flour
2 1/4 tsp yeast
Layer in machine in order listed. Run dough cycle. Shape rolls, flatten, place on a stone or cookie sheet with sides almost touching. Let rise 45-60 minutes or until they look right. Heat oven to 400 and place pans in. Immediately lower to 375 and bake 12-18 minutes. Will make 10-14 average size rolls.
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!