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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Hot Dog & Hamburger Buns

As the majority of the northern hemisphere begins to shake of the last winter chill, we start to think of one thing – being outside. Summer evokes thoughts of times spent in my parents backyard. The backyard would serve many a purpose… Dog-training arena, where I would try to get our golden retriever to play fetch. Operative word being try, she was more of a watcher… Campground, where in the hot nights of the summer my brother and I would camp out in tents, with the dog watching guard… Slip’n’slide/water-soaked wasteland, where we would set up the slip’n’slide at the top of the hill and hurl ourselves to the bottom. We would inevitably wind up sliding off the end and becoming covered in grass…

Most importantly, our backyard was Grill Town. While the grill was never packed away for the winter, it saw its prime use during the days of warmth and sunshine. Grilled chicken, shish kabobs, hot dogs and hamburgers. The grill would see lobster tails and freshly caught fish, Polish sausage and corn on the cob.

Let it be known here and now, I was never in charge of the grill. In fact, to this day I have not cooked anything on a real outdoor grill. The reason? I scared myself half to death while trying to light the grill in the summer of 1993. The simple lesson I learned, do not let the grill fill up with propane before clicking the ignition switch. KA-BOOM! I’d like to eradicate this fear, but currently I don’t have a backyard. I think it’s safer for all of us.

While I might not have a grill, or a place to grill, or the courage to buy/ignite a grill, I do have a grill pan. I have also had it long enough that it has a nice seasoned coat on it. I know it’s not the same, but it’s all this apartment-dwelling, grill-exploding woman has! Luckily this Why Bother? Challenge isn’t about grilling. The month of May is dedicated to all things hot dog!

We start the month with hot dog and hamburger buns! In two weeks we’ll perfect our ketchup and mustard-making skills. We’ll finish out the month by making pickles and you’ll be ready for all of your summer BBQs!

Why are we bothering to make our own hot dog buns? It’s because the store-bought variety consist of 99.3% air. Seriously. Go to your local grocery store and grab a bag of buns. Now squeeze them and squish them down as hard as you can. You’re left with a ball of bread that is about the size of a golf ball. Now carefully put the buns back on the shelf and walk away, quickly.

Air-filled buns are generally flavor-free. These buns should only see the plate when there are fifteen of them piled high and you’re in a competition to eat the most hot dogs in two minutes. Personally, if I’m going to eat it, I want it to have a little flavor! These buns that I made last weekend totally delivered.

These aren’t your average weakling hot dog/hamburger bun. They are sturdy, have great texture and have flavor for days. They were best the day they were baked, but sprung back to life with a few minutes on the grill. These guys are simple white bread bun and I have major plans to make a whole-wheat version before the summer is up.

The lesson from this challenge – Make your own buns, save the store-bought ones for hosting an eating contest.

One Year Ago: Kiwi-Strawberry Pop Tarts

Hot Dog & Hamburger Buns
Adapted from The Bread Bakers Apprentice

4 3/4 Bread flour (plus a few tablespoons if necessary)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup powdered milk
3 1/4 tbsp sugar
2 tsp instant yeast
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 1/4 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp warm water

1 egg, whisked together with 1 tsp water
poppy seeds, caraway seeds, kosher salt

Combine dry ingredients (flour through yeast) in a large bowl, whisk to combine.  Add egg and butter and stir to distribute.  Slowly add the water, stirring to bring all of the ingredients together.  Stir with a wooden spoon (or the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, for 3 minutes). 

Dust your counter with flour and turn the dough out of the bowl.  Knead for 7 minutes by hand, adding flour and tablespoon at a time, until you have a soft, tacky (not sticky) ball of dough.  Alternatively, switch your stand mixer to the dough hook and knead for 7 minutes on medium-low.  Add flour until the dough ball clears the sides of the bowl, but still sticks to the bottom.

Coat a large bowl with cooking spray and transfer the dough ball to to the bowl.  Roll the dough around until it is coated in oil.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm spot for 1 1/2-2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Lightly spray your counter with cooking spray and turn dough out onto the counter.  Using a kitchen scale, or your trusty eyes, measure out the dough into twelve 3-ounce pieces.

 Rolls each piece into a tight ball.  Mist the dough balls with cooking spray and drape with plastic wrap.  The the balls rest for 20 minutes.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.  To form the burger buns, place the dough ball on the baking sheet and flatten it out with the palm of your hand.

They will look like dough patties.  To form hot dog buns follow the pictures below...

Press dough ball flat...

Grab two opposite sides and bring them to the middle...

Roll it up...

Pinch it closed...

Now roll this log into a hot dog shaped piece of dough...

Transfer to the baking sheet.  Lightly mist the shaped dough with cooking spray and gently cover with plastic wrap.  Let the buns rise for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Using a pastry brush, coat each bun with egg wash.  For Chicago-style hot dog buns, top with poppy seeds!  For Buffalo-style Kimmelweck burger buns, top with caraway seeds and salt!

Bake buns for 15 minutes.  Once golden brown, remove from the oven and right away transfer the buns to a wire cooling rack.  Let buns cool for 15 minutes before slicing and filling with your favorite grilled item!

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