...or dinner rolls.
I've been putting off my grand treatise on bread for a while now. Bread isn't hard to do once you get the hang of it -- little kids made bread back in the day -- but it can be a little daunting when things don't come out quite right and you don't know what you're doing wrong. [On the plus side, croutons are best made from dense-ish bread and dried bread crumbs don't care who their parents were.]
This is a good recipe to start off with and perfect for grilling weather... and since the highlight of the burger is usually the meat/bean patty/portabella inside and not the shape or texture of the bun surrounding it, many bread sins can be overlooked. The dough is slightly sweet and tender; usually the more ingredients, the more forgiving the dough is. Once you pare it down [flour water yeast and salt], everything you do matters a lot more... but that's another post.
As a bonus, forming the balls give you 8 (or 16) times more dough shaping practice than forming a single loaf.
This recipe looks rather long, but it contains a lot of troubleshooting asides. You may want to paste the text into an editor and cut out the info you don't need. I'll also try to troubleshoot in the comments section if you need help.
(This is a home-ground pork burger with fennel pollen. If anyone has their own meat grinder and wants the recipe, I'll happily supply it.)
Recipe: Whole Grain Burger Buns
You can omit the oat flour and increase either the whole-wheat or AP flour by 1/2 cup. You can use all AP flour. You can use all whole-wheat flour, but they won't rise quite as well. You can use whole milk and water in equal parts. You can use only water. Any changes will change the final texture and flavor a bit, but they'll all work as long as you keep the liquid:flour ratio the same. You can use "active dry" yeast, but you should add it to the liquids and wait 10 minutes or so for it to foam before adding the dry ingredients. You can also easily halve the recipe and whisk one egg up and divide it roughly in two, saving part for the egg wash.
Makes 8 good-sized buns or 16 dinner rolls
Takes 2.5 to 3 hours, mostly inactive.
1 cup [skim] milk
1/3 cup [olive] oil
2 eggs [divided use]
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 package "rapid-rise" or "highly active" dry yeast [~2 tsp]
1/2 cup oat flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/4 to 1 3/4 cups AP flour
1 tsp salt
Additional flour for dusting
Sesame seeds for garnish
Combine milk, oil, 1 egg and sugar in a standing mixer bowl and stir briefly to break up the egg dissolve the sugar a bit. Add oat flour, wheat flour, and 1 1/4 cup AP flour, stirring after each addition until the flours are loosely incorporated (no dry patches remain, but it's a pretty shaggy mess). Cover with a pot lid or plastic wrap and let rest 17 minutes. [This is when the gluten forms, you can go over 17, but don't go under.]
Uncover and sprinkle salt over dough. Using the dough hook on the mixer, knead bread 7 minutes on the medium low [10-12 by hand on a floured surface]. After 4 minutes, the dough should be wrapped around the hook so that it only touches the bowl in the middle. If it's still sticking on the sides, add more AP flour a couple spoonfuls at a time -- knead ~30 seconds after each addition -- until it does. [Make a note of how much you used, though it can vary every time!] Recover dough with lid or plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warmish spot until doubled in size 45 -60 minutes.
Scrape dough onto a well floured countertop and pat into a rough circle of even height. Divide dough in quarters, then each quarter in half. Let them sit a minute so the top of the bread is just a tiny bit dry. To form the ball, pick it up and stretch the top, pulling it underneath on all sides and pinching it together at the bottom. Place each bun on a parchment-lined or lightly oiled cookie sheet.
If your ball tears along the top, you're pulling too hard. If you're super gentle with the next one and it still tears, your dough may be too dry. If it's too sticky to form and won't come off your fingers, your bread's too soft and you should dust it with a little extra flour. None of these things will ruin your bun; they'll just make them less pretty.
Dust the tops with additional flour then drape with plastic wrap near the oven but not directly in the path of its vent. Turn on the oven to 400F. The oven will be up to temp by the time the buns are fully risen, ~20-30 minutes.
Give your buns a poke. If they spring back or quickly fill in the indentation, they're not quite ready. If they completely deflate, they've over-risen. [All is not lost. Press them flat, give them another dusting of flour and pull them back into buns to rise again. They may be a little more dense. Compensate by making the best burger ever.]
Once your buns are ready, whisk the remaining egg with 1 Tbs water and brush over the tops with a pastry brush or smear on with your fingers. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Slide the cookie sheet into the oven and turn temp down to 350F. Bake until top develops a nice sheen ~25 minutes. Allow to cool 30 minutes before slicing.