Fast food – the whip of the last decades and the abused type of food that is synonymous with the burger. Of course, it’s not only the name that has a stigma attached, but also the image of the frozen mix of ‘unknown’ ingredients, the additional flavour enhancer umami, the conditions of manufacturing and the way in which the burgers are handled. Even if you try to include a gourmet food in a fast food chain production, it will get plastic and only nominally “tasty”.
However, can a home made burger, built in our own kitchen as opposed to one mass produced, or made in the local hamburger joint, surpass just “tasty” and become something truly outstanding? Can it be quick, low budget and exotic looking? Can it please the picky amongst us and impress our friends? Yes, it can! It needs fresh ingredients, the right mincemeat from choice pieces, cut by a butcher we trust, and easy, fluffy, hand kneaded brioche buns. With only the absolute minimum effort necessary, the flavour of this much-maligned food exceeds our expectations. Let’s get over this food taboo though, and give the wonderful hamburger the quality it deserves, outside the depressing kitchens of the fast food joints. The perfect homemade burger in a handmade brioche bun is so easy to make it.
Now we have studied the background of the much-talked-about burger in its history post, it’s time to move onto something that concerns us much more -the practical side. How can I make the perfect homemade burger? Can I make the kind of bread that has the right texture, like that first one of Fanny Weber’s? And without, of course, spending all day in the kitchen? The answer will please everyone, and especially all those Mums who will become heroines in their children’s eyes as they boast that the best burger is (always) “Mums”.
It takes two to tango: perfect homemade burger with perfect brioche bun
If you are amateur with the art of making fine bread dough, no worries. I have to tell you, the first time I dealt with kneading dough, it was for these buns in the Pandespani kitchen. The buns really needed to be done twice to be 100% sure of the best result. And what’s that? Wonderful, soft and light, exactly how a burger bun should be. Even I couldn’t believe that these buns with their beautiful golden colour and velvet textured crumbs and crust (with buns, the crust and crumb texture are equally important) were kneaded and baked by my own hands. No mixer, no rolling pin, easy -just with a big dose of love. In actuality, you will see how the texture of the dough is so elastic and soft, it prompts you to treat it gently and carefully.
The ingredients are the usual ones for a dough; flour, butter, milk, egg, a little salt, a little sugar, and, yeast -the key ingredient for all bread, which, when combined with the butter, makes the best pairing for these buns. The yeast gives character to the dough making it rise, making it light, and together with the butter and milk, tastefully transforms the essence of the buns.
The recipe for brioche buns that follows is one of the fastest and easiest you can find, as mixing the dough doesn’t require special handiwork and waiting time is less than an hour. The wait is purely to have classic, respectable buns but if you are too impatient and cook them directly, it won’t affect them too much -they just won’t have as much volume- but they’ll still be delightful. The trick of using foil rings which keep the shape and having light fingers for kneading can be seen in the video on the site chefsteps.com -although their recipe takes much longer and is more work.
Having the amazing buns ready pushes you to finish the job. We used beef mince (recipe follows separately), cheddar cheese, fresh lettuce leaves, caramelized onions, crispy bacon and sliced tomatoes. The burgers were so delicious, they disappeared as fast as we made them. Naturally, they were accompanied by crispy French fries, sprinkled with thick salt, hot out of the frying pan -to have the “perfect” junk food, without, of course, actually being junk food. With the first bite, you could appreciate the quality and the pure taste that a homemade hamburger has to offer.
The perfect homemade burger
Preparation: Altogether about 1hr 20mins and considerably less (by about at least half) if you don’t wait for the bread to rise. You can prepare the rest (i.e. bacon, mincemeat) whilst waiting for the buns. The buns can obviously be prepared earlier, even the previous day, and kept in the fridge or freezer, sealed in a polybag. Very fast and easy for this type of recipe.
Ingredients (for 10 burger buns or 8 if you decide not to wait to let them rise)
for the bun dough
500 g hard flour
2 tbs dried yeast
280 ml hot milk (not boiled)
½ cup melted butter
1 ½ -2 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
for the burgers
150g minced beef for each burger, either passed once through the mincing machine, or finely chopped by hand
salt and pepper
for the garnish
caramelized onions (recipe follows)
2-3 large tomatoes, sliced
10 small lettuce leaves
10 slices bacon
10 slices cheddar cheese
crispy French fries or crispy oven chips
Prepare the bun dough: In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the hot milk. Leave the mix for 10 mins to foam. Add the butter, sugar, egg and salt. Mix. Slowly add the flour to the mix, firstly using a spatula, then by hand. The dough should be very soft, elastic and sticky. Do not add any more flour to the dough -instead, flour your hands.
Note: If you want to use the mixer to add the flour, and not your hand, use the slowest possible setting, and only mix until all the flour has just been incorporated. Continue after by hand. Do not overmix or the dough will harden.
Make aluminium foil rings: Cut a piece of aluminium foil about 30cm long and cut again into 3 along its length. Fold each third into 2, twice, creating long strips about 1- 1 ½ cm wide. Curl each strip into a ring, measuring about 10cm in diameter, and close the edges with a stapler. Place a foil ring around each dough ball on the baking sheet and lightly push each ball with the base of a bowl so it fills up the aluminium ring more. Cover the baking sheet with cling film and leave the dough balls in a warm place for 45 mins (at least – maybe for longer) to rise.
Preheat oven to 200° C.
To cook the buns: Remove the clingfilm and brush the dough with beaten egg, sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional) and bake in a preheated oven for 20 mins. Remove and allow to cool.
Prepare the burgers: Put the minced beef in a bowl, add salt and pepper and mix. Shape the beef into 11cm diameter patties (or according to the size of the buns). Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge until needed. Remove from fridge 10 mins before needed to allow coming to room temperature. Preheat oven to 60-65° C.
Baking: Place a large frying pan on heat and add a little olive oil (1-2 tsp). Add the burgers in a group (i.e. 4 each time) and cook on med-high heat, 3-6 mins on each side (depending on thickness and preference for rare, medium or medium well). Turn 1-2 times with a spatula. Do not flatten the burger -especially when already cooked and the outside already has a crust, as it will open up. Also do not use a fork for testing -it will create holes that will enable internal moisture to escape. Put on a plate and place in a warmed oven for 15 mins. Place on each, 1 slice of cheddar.
Completion: In the same pan, fry the slices of bacon until brown and crispy (2-3 mins), turning 1-2 times. Cut the buns through the middle and layer the lettuce, the burger with cheese, the bacon, the caramelized onion and the tomato.
Serving: Transfer every juicy, perfect homemade burger to a plate and serve with crispy, golden french fries.