Q Why, with grocery shelves stacked high with buns for burgers and brats, should anyone attempt to make their own rolls from scratch?
A Because serving fresh homemade buns elevates any cookout to a peak experience.
You know the range of buns out there: Some are fine. But others are cotton balls that fall apart with a sploosh of ketchup. Heartier buns refuse to embrace their fillings, while some "gourmet" buns have the appeal of lawn clippings. Unfortunately, you rarely know what you've bought until the meat is coming off the grill.
An ideal bun should have the presence to stand up to a juicy burger or to the fixings piled onto a grilled brat or hot dogs. Yet it should also have that essential squooshiness that enables you to get your jaws around it. When you make your own buns, you know what you've got.
Baking from scratch also gives you control over the sizes, from sliders to monster-size, from plump sausages to footlongs. You also control what you're eating. There's a reason that most bakery buns keep so well for so long: Dough conditioners and preservatives are good business, but unnecessary for the smart baker.
Health concerns aside, a homemade bun also can be bolstered with sautéed onions or garlic, tweaked with wheat germ or flax, or embellished with sesame or poppy seeds.
But remember: A simple, honest bun is a beautiful thing. Our recipe incorporates a bit of whole wheat and uses olive oil instead of butter or shortening for tenderness. An optional egg wash adds color and shine. Nor should kitchen novices fear the yeast: Instant yeast is a minor miracle, foolproof and less messy (although you can use regular yeast, if that's what you have on hand).
From start to finish, homemade buns take about four hours, tops. Mix, knead, let rise, shape, let rise and bake. And, despite yeast breads' reputation as chaining you to the house, you can leave while the dough is rising. Really. In fact, if you want to mix the dough the night before, it refrigerates well; just take it out of the fridge an hour before you want to shape the buns.
So for your next cookout, make the often-overlooked buns a memorable part of your meal. And remember, the baker who masters buns can tackle any other bread with confidence.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185