Monday, January 17, 2011

Light wheat hamburger buns

From this week: eggs

From weeks past: milk, goat cheese

Staples: whole wheat flour, AP flour, butter, salt, yeast, honey, oil

My aunt baked homemade graham crackers 15 years ago, and my dad (her big brother) still teases her about it. To him - a non-cooker of anything but rare steak - making something that you can easily buy in a box is nuts. And for most of my childhood, I agreed.

Then, in college, I started really getting into cooking. And then, in law school, I started really getting into eating healthy and local and whole food-y. Suddenly, it didn't seem so crazy to make basics from scratch. It's fun, things come out tastier, and you have total control (a concept I enthusiastically appreciate) over what goes into your food.

Only in the past year have I really embraced this philosophy and started baking my own bread. Mostly, I haven't been very successful. My sorry attempts at whole wheat bread have been dense and rock-like. These hamburger buns are a different story, entirely. Light, soft, moist, and sweet, they are SERIOUSLY the best rolls I've ever had. Maybe the best things I've ever made. Certainly better than anything store bought. And they're the perfect canvas for sandwiches and the excitement I have planned for later in the week (stay tuned!).

Tonight I had one (after I'd already "tried" two or three) with scrambled eggs and goat cheese inside.

I don't think I ever got to try my aunt's graham crackers, but maybe if I had, I would've come around sooner. My mom certainly did. She makes her own preserves, pickles, crackers, granola, and yogurt (this one I still find slightly crazy), amongst other things. And, you know what? I don't hear my dad doing a whole lot of teasing over his daily bowl of homemade granola- and preserve-topped yogurt.

Light wheat hamburger buns
Makes 26-30 buns

- 1 cup milk
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 packages (4.5 tsp) active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled, plus 2 tbsp, melted and cooled
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 2/3 cups AP flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 tbsp oil

Heat milk and water together in the microwave until warm, about one minute (technically I think it's to 110 degrees, but I think of it as the temperature of a warm bath). Mix with yeast in a large bowl and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in honey, 1/4 cup butter, salt, and whole wheat flour. Stir in AP flour a little at a time, stopping when the dough pulls away from the sides and wants to form a ball. Dump onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.

Pour oil into a clean large bowl. Turn dough ball in the oil and place in the bowl. Cover with a damp towel and leave in a warmish place until double in size, about 1 hour. Punch (literally) dough down, re-cover, and leave in warm place until doubled again, about 30 minutes.

Roll dough out into 1/2 inch thick round on a lightly flowered surface. Brush two cookie sheets with some of the 2 tbsp melted butter. Using a floured 3 inch cookie cutter (or the mouth of a glass), cut rounds and place on buttered cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Brush the tops of the buns with remaining butter. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and place in a warmish place until puffed, about 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, put an oven rack in the top 1/3 of the oven and another in the bottom 1/3 and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake with one cookie sheet on each rack for 5 minutes, then switch and bake for 3 more minutes. The buns should sound hollow when tapped. Immediately remove to a cooling rack.

The buns can be frozen in a large ziploc bag. When ready to eat, bake from frozen for 8-10 minutes, or until buns sound hollow again, in a 400 degree oven.

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