Sunday, October 26, 2008

Nice buns, hun! :-)

This weekend I got totally immersed in my kitchen and began experimenting with brioche technique. The mad kitchen scientist that lurks within was feeling curious and this included ingredient experimentation….using different choices as well as different proportions vs the class recipe I’d received.

The great news is, I had amazing results. Well, at least I think so! I finally am on track to a good base for hamburger buns, something which has eluded me in previous home baking attempts; mine always come out quite tough and slightly rubbery, with large porous holes and a slightly granular texture...instead of a fine smooth interior. However, the brioche technique provides the tender, fine grained texture and golden appearance I think a good hamburger deserves. I probably just need one more round of experimentation and I will have cracked a good recipe….for whilst these ones were totally amazing to eat, they may still be a bit to delicate to support the weight of a burger patty (not to mention the grease!).

I mixed up ½ of the brioche recipe we’d received in our class booklet, as I thought it would be an easier load on my KitchenAid (not to mention pocketbook should the results fail). For the 250 g of flour required, I replaced about 50g with cornmeal. This gives a slightly crackly, gritty texture when the buns are baked which is a nice contrast to the other textures on a burger.

I made most of the dough into buns, achieving 6 generous sized portions using about a 70g dough portion per bun. I had excellent results in shaping the buns, something which I had trouble with at the practical. I realized that some of my success at home was owing to my kitchen countertops! Yes, can you believe it? At school we have granite work surfaces (which I generally prefer as well); at home I have plastic laminate counters. But to my surprise these laminate counters allowed me to get a bit more traction for the rolling, whereas the granite I found to be too slick. So I finally achieved bun shapes that looked like the ones Chef Walther had demonstrated in class. Happy days!

After proofing the buns, I brushed them with egg wash. I topped a couple of them with poppy seeds and snipped an X in the tops; this to see if it better enabled baking (it didn’t seem to make a difference though). The rest I left ungarnished since I didn’t have any sesame seeds available.

The remaining quantity of dough I made into a couple of cheese brioche. Since I don’t have individual brioche molds, I dug out a muffin tin and used that. I shaped the pieces into balls, then allowed them to proof until almost doubled in size. I then pushed a 15g cube of Fontal cheese into the center of each, pushing it down as far as I could towards the bottom of the pan. After brushing with egg wash, I popped both pans of buns into the oven, starting at nearly 200 degrees C and then finishing about 160 degrees C.

The buns came out of the oven looking divinely brown, with glossy tops and a nice shape. The addition of cornmeal gave a nice crackly effect when you bite into them, but otherwise the texture was tender grained and smooth. The cheese buns were a real winner; the top had almost perfectly resealed itself after my adding the cheese cubes. So it was nicely domed and there was a lovely melty cheese center perfectly encased in buttery brioche. I think with perhaps the addition of herbs with the cheese this would make a nice savory treat or accompaniment to tomato soup!

Anyway, I'll continue to play with this one...meanwhile here is a recipe report of what I accomplished with this first attempt...

Lisa’s Cornmeal Brioche Burger Buns


200 g flour
50g cornmeal
6g salt
30g sugar
12ml milk
12g fresh yeast
125g butter
Egg wash (1 beaten egg)

You’ll need a KitchenAid or heavy-duty stand mixer with paddle and dough hook attachments to make this work! Starting with the paddle attachment, basically you mix the first 5 ingredients until they are quite elastic and will make a snap into a balled mass when you scrape the sides of the bowl (give it a good 15 mins at maximum speed and scrape bowl often). Then add your yeast, which is crumbled into small pieces. Mix this for several minutes, scraping the bowl from time to time so that all parts of the dough are worked well. Then I reduced the speed a notch and let the machine run about 20 mins; you might feel like dancing at this point because the mixer will be pounding out a bongo-like rhythm which is most infectious (just be sure keep an eye on it the mixer because it may likely shimmy its way off your counter because the mixture is so dense!!). Once the mixture is no longer feeling sticky, switch to the dough hook and then add the butter which is cut into small cubes and continue beating until the butter is incorporated. By this stage you should have a smooth looking dough.

I placed this dough into a clean stainless steel bowl, covered it with plastic film (down to the dough itself, not just the top of the bowl!!) and placed it in the fridge overnight to proof. The following morning, remove the dough from the fridge and let it rest about 20 mins on the counter. Then measure out even quantities (about 70g per bun) then shape and place on baking sheet that has been lined with aluminium foil and generously greased with softened butter. Allow the buns to rise until about doubled in size. Then brush with egg wash using a pastry brush. Let the egg wash set on each bun, then apply another coat. Sprinkle with seeds or herbs if the feeling strikes you. Place in hot oven to bake, about 200 degrees C to start then reduce to about 160 degrees once the buns have taken some color and additional size.

Once baked, remove from pan and immediately peel away the aluminium foil, then cool buns completely on a wire rack (otherwise the bottoms will get soggy…and nobody likes a soggy bottom! ;-)). Before using for hamburgers, split the buns in half and lightly toast. Makes about 8 buns.

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