I live near an In-N-Out Burger where the line of cars for the drive-thru regularly extends to the gas station two blocks away. The other day, I was craving burgers and had to decide between waiting in line for 20 minutes to procure a burger that I'd consistently rate a 10 out of 10; and crafting a project plan spanning 10 hours to make a burger from scratch, one that had a 50-50 chance of being a 9/10 (I cap my highest rating at a 9 because I'm a humble cook and would never dare compete with a franchise). I prefer to do things the hard way, even if the hard way is also a million times less efficient, particularly if it means I can boast to my guests that "I made everything from scratch - literally everything. Okay, not literally, but you know what I mean."
So, I embarked on this all-day project. I had several goals for the burger:
- The bun had to taste and smell like brioche, a buttery French pastry.
- There had to be bacon in every single bite.
- I couldn't make my guests sick.
How did I do?
- I followed a "soft butter roll" recipe from Jeffrey Hamelman's bread textbook, aptly named "Bread." While it wasn't a traditional brioche recipe as there wasn't much butter in the dough, brushing melted butter on the buns while they were hot from the oven resulted in the aroma of butter wafting to our nostrils as we were eating the burgers (so long as we weren't eating the burger upside down!). And smelling is half of the experience of eating, so who needs French bougie brioche when you can save money on butter and settle for a good old American "soft butter roll?" I mark this goal a success.
- Just look at the photo below and you'll see why I'm calling this one a success. Now I can go make a bacon-lattice-tomato sandwich. I can't even pretend to take credit for that joke. It is courtesy of a stranger on Imgur - thanks!
- I failed at perhaps the most basic objective of this whole exercise - to not make any of my guests sick. In my defense, the poor kid got sick before we started eating the burger. But I wonder if it was the mere sight of the burger, maybe the layer-upon-layer of bacon with no escape, that made his stomach churn. Or the crème brûlée I insisted we eat before dinner that was unsettling. I will never know!
- 1 lb, 1.6 oz (4 cups) bread flour
- 8.1 oz (1 cup) water, 80-85 degrees F
- 1 egg
- 1.4 oz (3 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
- 1.1 oz (2 tablespoons) sugar
- 0.9 oz (3 tablespoons) dry milk powder
- 0.4 oz (2 tsp) salt
- 0.28 oz (2 3/4 teaspoon) instant dry yeast
- 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water (for the egg wash)
- sesame seeds
- Mix all ingredients using a stand mixer at low speed for 3 minutes.
- Turn speed to medium and mix for another 5 minutes. The gluten network should be moderately developed - it doesn't need to pass the window-pane test. The desired dough temperature is 76 degrees F.
- Bulk fermentation for 1 hour (i.e., let the dough rise for an hour). It should double in size and look super cute and pillowy!
- Turn the dough out on your countertop. Gently squish the air out using your flat palms (as opposed to jabbing the dough with your fingertips). Use scissors to divide into nine 3.4 - 3.5 oz pieces. Shape into rounds and proof on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, covered with plastic to keep the dough from drying out.
- After about 45 minutes to an hour, or when the dough is risen and puffy again, lightly brush with egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
- Bake at 400 degrees F for 18-22 minutes, or until beautifully golden brown.
- Brush with melted butter as soon as they're out of the oven to keep them soft and shiny.