Delicious, Whole-Grain Homemade Hamburger Buns

Once you discover the rich goodness of homemade hamburger buns, you’ll never be satisfied with wimpy store-bought varieties again.

| August/September 2009

Some years ago as we casually strolled by the “baked in store” goods at our local grocery store, my wife and I spied bags of caraway rye hamburger buns. That sounded good to us, so we bought some.

That evening, we swooned as we devoured the best hamburgers ever — big, juicy meat patties topped with cheddar; lightly toasted buns slathered with mayonnaise and mustard; fresh tomatoes and lettuce. With the juices running down our hands, we were in burger heaven. For six months we bought the caraway rye buns every time we saw them. Then they were gone. We asked the baker, “Where are the caraway rye buns?” All we got was a puzzled stare and an “I don’t know.”

Had some traveling baker — after a brief stint at our local grocery — moved on, leaving us to lust for a treat we could no longer enjoy? We’ve eaten a lot of juicy burgers since that time, sans the buns we associate with true hamburger goodness. Many times we vowed to bake our own, but it wasn’t until we got a catalog from King Arthur Flour that we knew our burger destiny was calling: homemade hamburger buns! They offered a hamburger bun pan — recipe included — that lifted our culinary spirits to such a pinnacle that we knew we had to get it. Make that two pans, plus flour and a nifty silicone rolling pad. It was like a first date with a beautiful woman: The chemistry was right, the anticipation was breathtaking, the finish line was in sight but the challenge was daunting, and a successful and satisfying relationship was the only acceptable outcome.

Now let me assure you that in my 60-plus years, I had never baked anything that didn’t come from the freezer section or out of a biscuit roll. In the beginning, we mixed the dough by hand or used a food processor. But after 30 batches, we invested in a stand mixer. A good price and free shipping made it a great deal. You might also want to pick up a treadmill, as testing each batch of buns with a bit of butter while they are still hot is irresistible!

Whole-Grain Hamburger Buns

So we tried King Arthur’s basic hamburger buns recipe. It turned out nice buns, but remember that we were after that elusive caraway rye flavor of our past. So, how did we turn that recipe into rye buns, then whole wheat buns and lots of other variations? The process has involved considerable trial and error, and we’ve made more than our share of hockey pucks. But if you start with the recipes here, you should have better luck!

King Arthur’s basic buns recipe called for 3 cups of all-purpose flour. For the caraway rye buns, we initially replaced that with a half cup of rye flour and 2 1⁄2 cups of all-purpose flour. The resulting buns had a wonderful light rye flavor, with the occasional caraway seed to boost the flavor even more.

The whole-wheat buns were more of a challenge. At first we tried the same ratio of whole wheat to all-purpose flour, but even after we added a King Arthur product called “Whole Grain Bread Improver” that improves flavor, moisture, and rise, the rich, warm whole-wheat flavor didn’t stand out and the buns were rather heavy. When we stepped it up to three-fourths cup whole-wheat flour, the flavor increased but the buns were more like rocks. Reading up on whole-wheat breads, we found a recommendation to start with a “sponge.” A sponge, in bread making, consists of all the liquid, plus a small portion of the flour and yeast required. This mixture is allowed to work (ferment) for a couple of hours or overnight, before the remaining ingredients are added.

1/19/2011 2:44:51 PM

Curse you! I'll never be able to eat a store bought hamburger bun again! These were so easy and wonderful. My family is also ruined. I think next time I'll make 8 buns out of the recipe instead of 6 as they were a 'healthy' size.

KAF Bakers Hotline
9/5/2009 11:51:38 AM

The sponge for this recipe may look deceiving - not at all like a wet sponge you may be familiar with. Once the other ingredients are added to this sponge the magic continues! We hope your finished results are worth the effort. Our bakers had a lot of fun with this recipe. If you'd like more assistance, call our baker's hotline directly at 802-649-3717 or call the 800# listed in the postings here. Irene @ KAF

9/5/2009 9:40:24 AM

When I made the sponge for the hamburger buns, following the recipe, and with the special recommended King Arthur products,it made a small solid dough, not the sponge that I was expecting. I checked the fluid to dry ratio in your recipe, which is different than other sponge recipe's. Should I have added more liquid? and, how much?

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