Do you know what this is? This is It. This is the hamburger bun recipe I’d been obsessing, dreaming and fretting over when I had my Incident back in May, which was namely that I’d spent a ridiculous amount of time and ingredients fighting a no-good recipe with a decidedly average finish. Since then, my frustration has faded somewhat, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that perhaps they weren’t the end of the world, they just weren’t the thing I was looking for: they were more of a limp white bread bun — the kind so easily purchased at a store under any generic brand, it made little sense to eek them out at home — and I wanted something a little more moist and rich. I wanted something better, the kind of thing that you knew you weren’t going to get in any plastic bag.
In the six weeks since, I have waded through nearly 100 burger bun recipes, all submitted by you kind folks with promises that they’d be better. I saw white bread buns and challah buns and whole wheat sourdough buns and you-name-it buns and, gah, I barely knew where to begin. And then, just as I was halfway through the early steps of a totally different hamburger bun recipe that, if all goes well, will be a wonderful, unusual complement to these, I dropped that effort completely in the pursuit of the Light Brioche Buns run in the New York Times article this week on the elements of a perfect burger.
My hunch that they were onto something grand was duly rewarded. These buns are plush and mildly sweet and slightly buttery; think of them as halfway between a high-quality white bread and a decadent brioche. When you pick them up, they feel heavy for their size and when you lightly toast their edges — a must, says both the New York Times and yours truly — before building your perfect burger dreams upon it, they sing. You’ll sing. Seriously, I had a Moment with these yesterday, part relief that the recipe I’d been looking for was indeed out there and — bonus! — not laden with an excess of steps or labor and part a deep sigh, because they’re splendid, and I can’t wait to give them a proper spin on the grill tomorrow. If they make it that long.
Previously: I’ve been posting up a storm this week, but promise to stop now. Check out the Watermelon Lemonade I’m drinking right this very second or an avalanche of July 4th slaw and sides ideas if you’re just catching up now.
Go! Make these! What are you waiting for?
Makes 8 4 to 5-inch burger buns
3 tablespoons warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Sesame seeds (optional)
1. In a glass measuring cup, combine one cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg.
2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, well-floured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. The dough will be on the sticky side so it can be a bit messy, but keep in mind that the more flour you knead in, the tougher the buns will get. Try to leave them tackier than you would a round loaf.
3. Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, one to two hours. (In my freaky, warm apartment this only took an hour.)
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper, divide dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap lightly coated in nonstick spray and let buns rise in a warm place for one to two hours. (Again, this only took one hour in my apartment and I suspect, you’ll also only need an hour for a second rise.)
5. Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.