Baking Central: Build a better burger bun

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 22, 2014 - 8:39 AM

We eat with our eyes, so watch how brushing a simple rice flour coating onto bread dough turns ordinary buns into works of art: Dutch Crunch burger buns.

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There’s nothing a cook likes better than to hear a good, “Ahhhhhh.”

It’s even more satisfying when inspired by such ordinary fare as your standard burger bun. That’s what happens when you channel your inner artist and paint risen dough with a rather curious mix of yeast, rice flour, sugar, water and oil.

The coating generally is called Dutch Crunch, mostly in the United States, and especially in San Francisco. Yet in the Netherlands, where the coating popularized by northern European bakers was particularly favored, it’s called tijgerbrood or “tiger bread.” Go figure.

The name is even more inscrutable given that the baked crust’s mottled effect looks more like the pelt of a cheetah or giraffe.

We’re going with Dutch Crunch, because that name also conveys the crust’s slight crackle, which adds another nuance to a well-filled bun.

The origins of Dutch Crunch topping are murky. Breadmaster Peter Reinhart revived the topping in his book “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice,” where he used it on loaves of Vienna bread. Rice flour (white or brown) is the main ingredient, but you also can use Cream of Wheat cereal. (We used Bob’s Red Mill rice flour, available in many groceries and co-ops.)

We’ll be honest: The coating might remind you a little of a papier-mâché project. Then again, this is kind of like art.

Here, our basic bun recipe gets an extra boost of flavor by swapping in potato flakes for some of the flour.

Once you’ve painted the risen buns with the coating, let them rest for another 15 minutes so the yeast begins to swell again, which makes a more mottled crust. These buns are best eaten the day they’re baked; otherwise the crunch begins to soften. But you can mix the dough the night before, letting it slowly rise overnight in the refrigerator, then simply shape and bake the buns in the morning.

Whether you fill them with burgers, egg salad, crabcakes or veggie patties, the end result will be the same: “Ahhhhhh.” □

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