The number one food I hope to see at a barbecue is a hot dog. Number two is a hamburger. I love a thick, juicy hamburger. And the only time I’ll use the words thick and juicy successively are to describe a hamburger.
When I was recently invited to a hamburger dinner, the obvious answer was yes. However, the invitation came from people following the keto diet, and hamburgers are only acceptable sans buns. I was told to bring my own if I wanted a bun, but since I don’t keep any on hand and didn’t want to stop at the grocery store due to equal parts laziness and responsibility to adhere to social distancing recommendations, my only choice was to bake my own.
I Googled recipes (I need more cookbooks) because there were none on the Food Network app. Apparently Food Network chefs don’t bake hamburger buns often. Shocking! It’s almost as if it’s exponentially easier to buy them at the store! Once I settled on a recipe (the first and only one I read), I got to work.
Full disclosure, I struggled. My first mishap occurred when the ingredient list called for 2 tablespoons of active dry yeast. The only yeast I had was packets of instant dry, and I absolutely could not find a definitive conversion. I ended up using 1 packet. The recipe instructed me to dissolve said yeast in warm water and add sugar and oil. Because of the way the recipe read, I was unsure whether to add the sugar and oil before or after dissolving the yeast, but I chose before. Quite honestly, I’m still not sure if that was correct, but it’s what I did and I can’t change it! Like I said, I struggled!
Post do-I-add-the-sugar-and-oil-now-or-later debate, I went to turn the dough into a floured surface. The problem was I don’t know what it means to turn! I need a baking dictionary. Does Amazon have one? I’ll check later. Anyway, I basically flopped it out of the bowl onto my counter and started what I think kneading looks like. I could be totally off. I’ve always used a mixer when making doughs, save the first time I made bread when I was 11, and of that I remember very little. I learned my lesson, though; my hands do not yet replace a dough hook. I’ll work on it.
Ounces of superfluous flour and less-than-mediocre kneading later, the dough was ready to be rolled into balls that would hopefully bake into scrumptious buns. I tried to form spherical dreams, but they ended up being round on top and horribly mangled, folded nightmares on the bottom. With ounces of hope equal to the flour, I stuck them in the oven and waited, only to be disappointed. Not surprised, but disappointed.
My buns looked decent on top, but the bottoms were straight up ugly. I topped them with melted butter upon removal from the oven, but it didn’t help much. I sealed my buns’ fate much earlier on when I likely didn’t use enough yeast and kneaded the dough like a contestant on Worst Cooks in America. Worst of all, they didn’t even taste that great. The flavor was okay, but the texture was dense and crumbly. Hamburger buns are supposed to be light and airy, and these were anything but.
Needless to say, I did not attend my hamburger dinner with buns, but I did learn a lot in the process. I mostly learned that I have a tremendous amount to learn. I’ll try again, but I also learned that a really good hamburger doesn’t need a bun.