Friday, April 28, 2006

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

Everybody is interested in whole grain everything these days. While I am interested in having plenty of whole grains in my diet, I'm not that interested in having things that are enriched with whole grains, like a cereal that has 5% whole wheat flour or something. I like my grains to be either soft and white or totally wheaty. This isn't to say that I don't often mix flours for texture and flavor in my breads, because I do. I just don't call it something it's not.
These rolls are exactly what they say they are: 100% whole wheat flour buns. I started off the dough with little direction. I didn't know whether I wanted to do dinner rolls or a loaf of bread. At some point (most likely while I looked at the ground beef in my refrigerator), I thought "this would make a great hamburger bun." And so it does.
These buns have a great texture, a slightly crisp crust that softens as it cools and a moist, light interior. The rolls are satisfyingly flavorful, with just enough sugar to cover any hint of bitterness that whole wheat doughs can sometimes have and not make the bread sweet. The plainnes of the roll makes it very useful. It soaked up the hamburger juices beautifully, but would make a great cold sandwich roll, too. It can also be used to simply sop up marinara sauce or topped with butter and jam.
Store leftovers in a plastic bag. They'll be good for a day or two longer.

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns
2 cups whole wheat flour, divided, plus more for kneading
1 cup water, warm (110F)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/4 cup wheat bran
2 tbsp brown sugar
scant 1 1/2 tsp salt

Combine 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup water and the yeast in a large bowl and stir well. Let it stand, covered, for 1-3 hours (time is flexible here), until nice and bubbly. This "sponge" will probably puff up, too. This is fine.

Stir the remaining flour, wheat bran, brown sugar and salt into the sponge. Add extra flour a tablespoon at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding extra flour as necessary to prevent sticking, for 6-8 minutes or until elastic. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1 1/2-2 hours.

Turn risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 6 equal portions. Shape into rounds and flatten (so they're approx. 3/4 inch thick) onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover rolls with a clean dishtowel and let rise for 45-50 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375.
Bake rolls for 19-20 minutes, until browned. They will sound hollow when the bottom is tapped. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Makes 6 buns.