The temperature is slowly rising and so is your desire for a good burger. If you’re tired of flimsy, flavourless burger buns, why not try making your own? And while you’re at it, you might as well pour in some beer….
Adding a good wheat beer to your burger buns will add a sweet malty flavour to the bread as well as enhance the wheat and yeast flavors already present. You may also find that adding a Belgian Witbier adds a faint touch of citrus, as well. And lets be honest, as soon as you say “I put beer in that”, people think you’re some kind of culinary mastermind.
Choosing a beer:
Any style wheat beer will work here. German Weissbier, Belgian Witbier and American Wheat beers will all give suitable, albeit different, results. I used our American Wheat/Rye “Commander Rye-Ker” for this batch.
For full disclosure this is not a recipe for grocery store, pillowy-soft buns. Rather they fall somewhere between those, and a dinner roll. They are soft enough so as to not be chewy and a chore to eat, but strong enough to not become soggy. These are hardy hamburger buns. With that said, I understand that some people only see the bun as a meat cover whose only purpose is to keep your hands clean. In that case you may want to stick to your Wonderbread.
Teaching people the fundamentals of bread making is beyond the scope of this article. If you’ve never touched dough before I suggest you read some introductory articles such as this one one about knowing how long to knead dough. Another important basic principle to learn is how finished dough should feel so as to ensure that it is not too wet or too dry. It’s a hard concept to grasp, but once you’ve experienced it you’ll understand. Essentially if the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl after a good mixing, or if it’s sticking to your hands, it is too wet. In that situation you need to add some flour. It’s okay for it to be “tacky” but it shouldn’t be “sticky”. If the dough is too dry than it will not become smooth and pliable. Rather, it will easily tear and break when you try to stretch it. In that case, add a little water, about a tablespoon at a time, kneading or mixing well between additions.
With all that out of the way – if you are interested in learning how to make bread, this is a great starting point. Smaller rolls are generally a lot easier to work with than large loaves. They also tend to be more resilient and less likely to implode. Unless your yeast is dead, the worst case scenario is that they turn out ugly, but that won’t stop you from eating them. Don’t be discouraged. Bread making is very similar to homebrewing in that practice makes perfect and the only way to get better is to keep trying. And remember: you control the yeast, not the other way around.
Recipe adapted from Jacquelin Dodd‘s recipe in “The Craft Beer Cookbook”.
I highly recommend this book and if you are interested in learning more about it, please consider using one of our Amazon links. There’s no added cost to you and it helps us a bunch.
Measure (or, preferably, weigh) the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar, salt and yeast, stirring after each addition.
In a smaller bowl, or a 32oz measuring cup, combine the beer, butter and egg.
Add the beer mixture to the flour mixture and stir until all of the flour has been moistened and a rough dough is formed.
If using a stand mixer: add your dough hook attachment and mix per your mixers instructions for bread making until a smooth, pliable dough is formed. This will take roughly 8-10 minutes.
If mixing by hand: Knead the dough on the counter until a smooth dough is formed. This will take roughly 10-12 minutes, depending on your pace.
The dough may be slightly tacky but should not be sticky and should hold its shape.
Form the dough into a large ball and transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl at least twice its size. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to double in size at room temperature. This will take 60-90 minutes.
(Alternatively you could put it in the fridge to rise over night. In that situation make sure to take it out at least an hour before proceeding to the next step)
Shaping the buns
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and transfer to a clean counter top.
Divide the dough into eight equal pieces. If you have a kitchen scale this is easily done by weighing the whole dough, dividing by 8, and weighing out pieces of that size. Otherwise, you can divide the dough in half, and then into quarters. Divide those pieces in half you'll have eight semi-equal portions.
Form the buns into flat, round pieces roughly 4.5-5 inches in diameter (the wider you go the wider and shorter the final product). See "notes" for forming methods.
Place each portion onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Lightly cover with some plastic wrap or a slightly damp, lint-free towel. Leave to rise for about 30 minutes. This is a good time to preheat your oven to 400F and prepare the egg wash.
To prepare the egg wash: lightly beat an egg (yolk and white) using a whisk or a fork. Add a tablespoon of water and continue to beat to combine.
Once the dough has adequately rested, brush the top of each round with the egg wash and sprinkle with the topping of your choice.
Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes. The buns should be golden brown (like in the picture). Let cool on a rack. Do not cut until buns are cooled.
Regarding shaping the buns:
There are a few methods for shaping:
A quick and dirty way is to form each piece into a ball. You can then place this ball between to pieces of parchment paper and use your palms to flatten it into a circle 4.5-5 inches in diameter.
The longer method is to flatten each piece into a rough circle (don't be hung up on making it perfect yet). You then roll this into a log starting at one end. The log is then rolled into a shape resembling a tiny cinnamon roll. Flatten this between two pieces of parchment paper to form a circle 4.5-5 inches in diameter.
I'm not sure the physics behind it but I tried both methods and option 2 gave a finished product that was rounder and more uniform. It also gives this interesting swirl pattern along the bottom.
Vegan friendly alternatives:
Feel free to try an alternative to the butter such as olive or vegetable oil. The finished product will be different but it will still turn out. While I do not have direct experience, replacing the egg in the bread with 1/4 cup of non-dairy yogurt is an option. Another alternative is to blend one tablespoon of flax seeds with three tablespoons of water until smooth. The egg wash is optional regardless and really just adds shine and allows any toppings to stick better. Using plain water should help with the latter part.