I can never bring myself to buy hamburger buns at the grocery store. Sometimes they don’t have as many whole grains as I’d like. Other times they seem too expensive. Mostly, though, they just don’t measure up to that ideal of “hamburger bun” I have in my mind. So, because of my dissatisfaction with store-bought hamburger buns, we usually eat our burgers between two slices of bread (it’s usually a good bread, mind you: walnut levain or our favorite whole grain loaf). You might think it sacrilege to eat a hamburger between slices of bread, but we do worse: our favorite toppings are chopped jalapeños and chopped ginger.
Though we really don’t eat the most classic style of hamburger, I do try to maintain an ounce of normalcy in our hamburger-making ventures. Last weekend I decided to replace our usual beef hamburger patty with what I call The Bittman Burger: a meat burger fortified with spinach and cooked grains. I thought it might be better to serve this innovative patty with a more traditional bun instead of the usual two slices of bread. Since I knew I wouldn’t find hamburger buns I liked at the grocery store, I decided to bake my own.
Following the hamburger bun recipe from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I was able to bake satisfying whole wheat hamburger buns in a little under 4 hours, including mixing, rising and baking. The hamburger buns use a whole wheat sandwich bread dough as their base, which yields slightly sweet, soft hamburger buns. I usually aim for a 1:1 ratio of whole wheat to white flour in my baking, but this recipe does even better than that: it has a 2:1 ratio of whole wheat to white. Plus, these hamburger buns are fresh, homemade and contain no preservatives. I don’t think any store bought bun can beat that.
How to Make Your Own Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns
**Makes about 10 hamburger buns
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 packet granulated yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
¼ cup honey
2 ½ eggs (I halved this recipe from the original. To get half an egg, beat one egg in a small bowl and pour half of it in as called for. Use the other half for the egg wash before baking. Not the most accurate method, but it worked.)
? cup neutral flavored oil or unsalted butter, melted (I used coconut oil)
1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water) or melted butter
Sesame seeds (optional)
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, yeast, salt and vital wheat gluten.
- In a small bowl, mix together the honey, eggs, oil and water.
- Thoroughly mix the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients.
- Cover the dough and allow to rest at room temperature for about 2 hours (you want the dough to rise and then collapse or flatten out on top).
- You can use the dough immediately after this initial rise or you can refrigerate it and use it over the next 5 days. If you refrigerate the dough, be aware that the resting time before baking will be slightly longer.
- When you are ready to bake the buns, preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone liner or do it the old-fashioned way and grease it.
- Pull off a plum-sized chunk of the dough and shape into a smooth ball. You may need to use some extra flour if the dough is sticky. Place the balls of dough at least 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet and flatten them with your hand so they resemble hamburger buns. Allow to rest for 20 minutes (40 minutes if you are using refrigerated dough).
- After the dough has rested, brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash or melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired. Bake the buns for about 20 minutes, until richly browned and firm.
- Cool buns on a rack before slicing and eating.
**You can also experiment with making hot dog buns using this dough. Simply stretch the balls of dough into a 6-inch-long rope and bake as above.
Recipe from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (pp 92-95).
P.S. If you’re curious how the Bittman Burgers turned out, let me just say do not follow the suggestion to use steel cut oats in your patties. I used steel cut oats and the patties fell apart on the grill. Also, blanching the spinach took a lot of effort; I would rather have a spinach salad on the side. Still, if these sound interesting to you, give ‘em a try! You may have better luck than I did.