The perfect burger: Brioche, a perfect set of buns!

It’s a new week here at johanjohansen.dk, but we’re still talking burgers. Or, more specifically, my quest to create the perfect burger for my friends. If you missed parts one and two, check here for tips on the perfect patty and here for a list of perfect condiments and toppings, or read on to learn how I tackled the subject of the perfect bun for my perfect burger:

 

The perfect burger bun: The quest begins!

It goes without saying that for my perfect burger, I wanted a perfect bun. This posed somewhat of a problem, though, because in this increasingly industrialized world finding a freshly baked, homemade, top quality bun is harder than you’d think. So it pretty much stood to reason that if I were to make the perfect bun for my perfect burger, I’d have to get my hands dirty and bake it myself… And I’m not exactly what you’d call a seasoned baker. Put it this way, I once tried to bake a cake for my friend Emelie to apologize for some random stupid drunken thing I’d once done, and, well, there were explosions and some things caught fire and, yeah, let’s never speak of this again. Anyway, I do enjoy a challenge, and over the years I have grown quite skilled at making pizza dough. So “yeah,” I thought, “why the hell not give homemade burger buns a go?”

And while I was at it, why not aim to make the (so-called) king of burger buns: the brioche! The what? The Brioche!

Brioche is a French type of bread, usually served for breakfast, which stands out from most other types of bread as it is surprisingly high in eggs and butter. And by quite high, I really mean four large eggs and 250 grams of butter to 500 grams of flour. No, I kid you not, but stick with me, my story gets better! Brioche, according to many top chefs, make for an unbelievably moist, sturdy and flavorful burger bun which holds up nicely to all the other ingredients. Me, I wouldn’t know, but I do like a good brioche from time to time and I do trust the likes of Thomas Keller, Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay, so brioche burger buns for my perfect burger it was!

Looking for a recipe  for Brioche burger buns? Lately I’ve gotten quite good at something I usually never do – posting recipes. Since I completely and utterly stole the recipe this time around, though, I’d feel weird even pretending to take credit. So head on over to the Pink Whisk for a very good basic brioche burger bun recipe!

A few words of warning to those who may attempt to copy me: Making brioche is not exactly easy, though it’s not exactly hard either. It will be time consuming and it might get messy, especially if you’re doing it by hand. That being said, I’m by no means an expert baker and my buns turned out beautiful and delicious! So if you’re serious about doing your own burgers and feel like making your own buns. Do give these a shot! All it takes is a little patience and determination… And a lot of time!

Brioche ingredientsBrioche ingredients, what’s not to like?

Yes, I’m afraid brioche dough does take some time. About six hours to be exact. Don’t fret, though, out of those six hours, only about 20 minutes are actual labor. Everything else is just proofing time. If you’re using a stand mixer, you’ll be able to cut another 15 or so minutes of labor.

I said earlier that making brioche isn’t easy. Even so, the process could hardly be more simple: For starters, grab a large bowl and pour in some good flour, salt, sugar, four fresh, large eggs, a half pound of butter (oh, yes!), yeast and a splash of water. Then just mix. That’s pretty much it. If you’ve got a stand mixer, you’re in luck (and have more cupboard space than I do), if not, you’ll have to get your hands dirty – and sticky. Brioche is some heavy duty sticky shit and at first you’re going to have trouble even imagining it coming together.

Get your hands in, though, and start squishing and kneading things together. Keep at it, wiping your hands down and cursing as you go. After a couple of minutes of struggling and cursing, you’ll see the dough come together to a firm, elastic and very sticky ball. At this point, about five minutes in for those counting along at home, turn the ball onto a clean surface and start kneading by hand for at least ten minutes. You may have to give the surface a little dusting with flour and you may have to add a little flour as you go. Keep it at a minimum, though, you want the dough to be as elastic and sticky as possible, but not to a point where it sticks to your hands, the table, small pets or anything else. If you’ve got a stand mixer, you can completely ignore this step and use a dough hook for kneading. But that’s hardly very therapeutic, is it?

Brioche doughAfter a five minute struggle, your brioche dough will come together to something resembling this.

After all your hard work, you deserve a rest, so put the dough back in its bowl, cover it and let it rise at room temperature for about an hour. After an hour is up, move it to the fridge and leave it for another two hours.

Why this long rise in the fridge, you ask? Well, for a number of good reasons. For starters, it chills the dough, giving it a claylike texture and making it easier to work with once it becomes time for portioning and shaping. Secondly, yeast are microorganisms at work: they not only make the dough airy, they also impart flavor over time – which is why slow-risen dough is a such a good thing. Give them time and they’ll truly boost the flavor of your dough, but don’t leave them to do so on the counter or they’ll run amok, generate too much gas too quickly and eventually wear themselves out. Use the refrigerator or another cold space for long time proofing and your little yeast buddies will work at a controlled pace and not run out of steam. Your patience will be rewarded.

After a few hours in the fridge, it’s time to evacuate the dough and cut it into portions. The recipe used here makes for about eight burger buns, so portion them out, flatten them into discs and roll them back into little balls before placing them on a baking sheet. Then allow them to rise for, you guessed it, another two to three hours – this time at room temperature – until doubled in size. They’ll be very cold from the fridge, so rising will be slow and controlled.

Brioche burger bun, perfect burger bunsBurger bun perfection: Brioche burger bun!

After this final rise, give your buns a good basting with a basic egg wash (one egg, whisked thoroughly) and sprinkle them with sesame seeds if you so desire. Then bake in a 160-180 degree oven for about 22 minutes till golden brown and delicious. No, make that golden brown and absolutely gorgeous! Dress up and serve immediately or keep for a few days. I imagine they’d freeze well, too, but I didn’t have the opportunity to test this theory.

 

Brioche: The KING of burger buns!

Now, I hear what you’re thinking “four eggs, a half pound of butter for eight buns?” that sounds ridiculous! And indeed it does, but trust me on this one. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I was somewhat skeptical myself, but I’ve got to hand it to those master chefs.

A brioche, essentially, is a bit of a cross between a dinner roll and a savory sponge cake. It’s got a nice, brown exterior and an unbelievably soft interior. It holds it shape well and supports the burger perfectly, but once it hits your mouth it breaks apart easily and turns into a soft crumb with a velvety mouth-feel, a proper bready taste and a slightly nutty flavor. Though made up of about 25% butter, it’s in no way gross or fatty, but rather just soft, moist and flavorful. Fat is a great carrier of flavor, in case you hadn’t noticed! In short, it’s like a really good store-bought bun in terms of texture, but with a lot more flavor and a third of the ingredients.

There was no doubt in my mind, heading into this that I wanted a brioche bun for my perfect burger. And now that I’ve tried it out, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to anything else than a slow-risen brioche burger bun. Aww, man, there’s another otherwise relatively simple culinary task forever turned into an all-day project. It’s all worth it, though!

Now stay tuned for the next part of this adventure, when we combine everything we’ve learned so far and dine like kings and queens on perfect burgers!

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