Monday, January 12, 2015

UnRecipe: I Like Fresh Buns (and I Cannot Lie)

I know I should be writing about New Years diets or cleanses or anything with a hashtag and "for the glow." But I won't. Nope. Not gonna do it. I'm not trying to be obstinate or throw off any resolutions, I just decided I want to talk about hamburgers. Not because they're so popular, but marveling at how versatile a food it is. It's practically its own food group. More specifically, I want to talk about hamburger buns -- we talk so much about burger fillings, but the bread is just as important and what makes the hamburger such a versatile and delicious food. 

Cheeseburgers celebrating Lunar New Year - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Around the start of the new year, I typically get the bee in my bonnet for making dumplings. Not that I need an excuse, I am always glad to eat dumplings. I also got the hankering for mixing things up a bit. I like Chinese-style steamed buns, I like hamburgers -- put your hands together. My go-to recipe for yeasted buns is David Chang's recipe, of Momofuku fame. Just type in "David Chang Momofuku steamed bao" on a search engine and a recipe will magically appear, or you can just hit up this copy of the recipe on Food52's site.

The dough is versatile -- you can steam it in the traditional method of cooking, and it can be baked. I used half of the dough to make steamed buns for what I called Chinese BLTs -- steamed buns stuffed with fresh lettuce, tomato and candied bacon. A very Americanized version of pork belly buns, and I highly recommend it for a fun party food. The other half of the dough became stuffed cheeseburger dumplings. Oh yes, this totally happened (see above) and it was WONDERFUL. I initially wanted them to be totally sealed and steamed, but I wanted to make sure the beef was fully cooked. Baking the cheeseburger dumplings was the best move, since it gives the dough a bit of a crust. I highly recommend taking the hamburger on an Asian holiday and giving it a steamed or baked dumpling treatment, the dough is pillow-soft and sweet.

Steamed dumpling dough gets a BLT treatment - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I recently went on a challah-baking bender. Yes, that's a thing. A very good thing. Challah in loaf form is beautiful, with its lovely braids, but it's a lot of bread for just two people. Making smaller braided buns and having burgers with friends is a much more enjoyable way to indulge in an over-the-top hamburger experience. It's worth the time and effort, making buns from scratch. There's nothing worse than having a carefully crafted burger patty between lackluster bread. Like I often say, if you're going to have carbs, make 'em count!

DIY buns will definitely elevate your burger game - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I wouldn't call myself a burger superfan; if anything, I'm late to the burger party, I didn't eat much of them as a kid. Probably because I only had lackluster drive through burgers. As easy as it is to roll one's eyes over the hamburger craze, it's at least placed more focus on how good this humble comfort food can be, if you really focus on all its parts. It's easy to place all the effort on the meat, but the bread is just as deserving of the fuss, and when you make a hamburger totally from scratch, you'll see why buns garner their own post.

The next time you Treat Yo Self to a good burger, take note of the bun. Compare the flavors of places that serve burgers with mass-produced buns and the ones that make it a point to say which bakery their buns come from. You'll be inspired to get in the kitchen and start baking!

What I like to call "research" - Photos by Wasabi Prime

No comments:

Post a Comment

Commentary encouraged. Fresh baked cookies, super-encouraged. (hit the 'post comment' button twice, sometimes it's buggy)