Yes, the best. I don’t say that lightly, either. However, I will concede that my idea of best can vary wildly from yours. So let’s talk about what makes a good bun here for a second. I plan on using this dough specifically as hamburger buns this time, (also great for breakfast sandwiches, fried chicken sandwiches, pulled pork, etc.) but it is equally delightful if baked as a loaf and sliced. First and foremost, when I think about what I need from a bun, I really need it to not fall apart halfway through eating it. I absolutely love burgers, they are probably one of my favorite foods. And truth be told, I eat hard.
None of those dainty, demure, small bites when it comes to eating for moi. I attack a burger like I do most things in life: with gusto akin to a starving wild animal. So I really need for the bottom of my bun to not disintegrate into nothing while I’m eating. I really need that to not happen. So, the bun has to be dense enough to hold up to meaty burger juices while still being moist and buttery. I also want it to be pretty with a shiny, golden brown crust. And some seeds on top. When I make my brioche buns I bake them in ring molds (really just aluminum foil folded to make a ring) so that the buns rise up while baking, not out, giving them enough of a bottom bun to ensure a stable eating experience. Yes, we are waxing awfully existential about a bun. But anything worth eating, is worth eating right.
This recipe is fairly simple, albeit a bit time consuming, as your stand mixer will do all the work for you. Unfortunately, I do not recommend making this dough by hand as part of what makes the dough so smooth and buttery is the addition of cold butter while the mixer is running on high. The dough is then kneaded in your mixer for 20-25 minutes. Attempting to do this by hand would cause the butter to melt out of the dough from the warmth of your hands and your arms to fall off from overuse. The reason that the dough is kneaded for so long is to help the gluten develop in the buns which will result in a tight, dense crumb. We’re looking for the dough to be very smooth and to have pulled away from the sides of the bowl. A word of advice: do not walk away from your stand mixer while it’s working and let it fall off the counter. Take it from someone who has, in fact, done that. Your very expensive mixer, and your floors, will thank you for not letting this happen.
I like proofing my dough in the fridge overnight–this makes the dough infinitely easier to shape and work with the next day. If you are strained for time, at least give the dough 2-3 hours in the fridge to firm up. Brioche is a very sticky dough and I find it’s easiest to work with when cold. I always portion my buns by weight to ensure even cooking throughout and in my humble opinion, 90-100g makes a really great size for a burger. In terms of the foil rings, I use an 18″ roll of heavy duty aluminum foil. I start by tearing off a piece about 5 inches x 18 inches. I fold the aluminum over and over so that it’s about an inch wide x 18 inches. I then create a circle, overlapping the edges by about 1 inch, and fold the edges together, to hold the mold in place (you can also staple the ends together). What I am left with is a foil circle that is roughly 4 inches in diameter. You can also completely skip the foil ring step but I do like that it allows for taller buns instead of wider ones.
I generally bake my buns on a silpat, but parchment paper will work also. I arrange my foil rings in a single layer (I can usually fit 8 on a baking sheet) and lightly spritz everything with some nonstick spray. Once I’ve got my buns portioned and shaped, I drop each one into the center of a foil ring and loosely cover the whole tray with plastic wrap. The buns will need to proof for 2-3 hours, until they are almost touching the sides of the rings or doubled in size. If you find that your kitchen is on the cold side, you can turn your oven on to 250 degrees F and place your baking tray on top. If your dough rises too quickly, it will fall when you brush the egg wash on top so make sure that if you proof your buns on top of the oven that it’s clear of any hot spots. After our buns are proofed, crank your oven up to 350 degrees F. Brush buns gently with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds, if desired (I personally desire both). To create a humid environment in the oven, I fill an oven safe container with really hot tap water (cake pans work well) and place it in the oven 5 minutes prior to baking my buns. I bake the buns with the water in the oven for the first 5 minutes, then remove the water and let the buns continue baking until golden brown. If you’re worried about your buns not being cooked in the middle, use a thermometer to gently probe the inside. The internal temperature of the buns should register at 203 degrees F. Pull the buns from the oven to let them cool. They can be stored in gallon ziplock bags in the fridge as well as frozen and defrosted in the fridge overnight before using. Cut the buns in half, brush with butter, toast those suckers up and get ready to enjoy your new favorite burger vessel.
THE BEST BRIOCHE BURGER BUNS RECIPE:
makes 8 buns (this recipe can be doubled)
75g whole milk
8 g active dry yeast
40 g granulated sugar
400 g bread flour
50 g dehydrated milk powder
12 g sea salt
113 g (1 stick) unsalted butter
50 g milk
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1. Weigh milk, sugar, and yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow this mixture to sit for 20 minutes to allow the yeast to hydrate. Add eggs. Fit your mixer with the dough hook and start the mixer on low to just get the eggs incorporated to the milk/yeast mixture.
2. In a separate bowl, weigh your flour, milk powder and salt. Dice up your butter and place it in a small bowl in the fridge to stay cold until it’s needed. With the mixer running on low, add your flour incrementally until it’s all mixed in. Speed your mixer up to medium-high. Add your diced butter a few pieces at a time until all the butter is mixed into the dough. Allow your dough to mix on medium-high for 20-25 minutes until dough is smooth, glossy and has pulled away from the bowl (we’re looking for it to no longer stick to the sides). Transfer dough to a greased bowl (or if you’re like me, a greased ziplock back), cover and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 2-3 hours.
3. While your dough is chilling, make 8 foil rings (optional). Line a sheet tray with a silpat or parchment paper and lay your rings out. Lightly spray everything with nonstick spray. Set aside.
4. Using your kitchen scale, portion out your dough into 90-100g balls. On a floured surface, shape your dough into tight, smooth balls (see video above for shaping tips!). Place each shaped ball into a foil ring and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow dough to proof in a warm area of the kitchen for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place an oven safe dish filled with hot water on the bottom rack in your oven. Again, small cake pans work well for this. Whisk together milk and egg for egg wash. Gently brush the top of each bun with egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and poppy seeds if that’s your jam.
6. Bake buns in the oven with the water for 5 minutes. Remove water and continue baking buns, rotating halfway through for another 12-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown and internal temperature registers at 203 degrees F. Remove baking sheet and place on a rack to cool. Store buns in ziplock bags in fridge until ready to use. Buns can also be frozen for up to 1 month for future use.