Luisa, of The Wednesday Chef made some really great looking breakfast rolls, which started me thinking about homemade hamburger/sandwich buns. I love sandwiches- hot and cold, for their portability and their individual portion size. Sandwiches can be experimental without much risk. If it turns out that you do not like arugula on your sandwich with roast pork and cranberry sauce (as I do), it is not nearly such a big deal as if, say, the ill considered addition of fennel seed ruins a whole pot of soup.
The photo of the nice, round breakfast rolls, reminded me of a terrific hot sandwich I had for lunch at the Cafe at the Frick. The bun was spectacularly good, and the meat juices soaked in just a bit- it was fine. I shared my burger thought with Luisa, who explained that hers were really sweet rolls, a point I'd missed while admiring the pictures.
At the library, I found Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Small Breads, and now I am a little preoccupied with small breads in general. I was (and still am) planning to make some french rye sandwich rolls from this book. They seem like a good candidate for a tasty, all-purpose sandwich/hamburger bun. However, looking at my rye flour, I found myself unable to remember when I bought it- a bad sign. So I tossed it- and those guys will have to wait til I get to the store.
In the meantime, I made this whole wheat seed bun experiment. How could it be bad to have an assortment of different sandwich/burger rolls available in the freezer? These are a spin-off on a roll from Maggie Glezar's Artisan Baking Across America. Hers were meant to be made with light whole wheat flour, and do not have seeds. She pointed out that made with that special flour, they were the only whole wheat bread her kids would eat. I expect it would be worth seeking out, if you have small children, and they are fussy.
Personally, I was in the mood for something a bit darker, grainy and nutty, so I used ordinary whole wheat flower and added some seeds. If you wanted to make them, you could, of course leave the seeds out, or add some kinds you prefer. I used sesame, poppy, and nigella. all of which I particularly like. I also made the rolls a bit bigger and more bun-like, since I had sandwiches in mind. The rolls are proving very sandwich-compatible. I haven't tried a burger sort of thing yet.
If you would like to make these, you will need:
unbleached all purpose flour 2 cups
whole wheat flour 2 cups
instant yeast 1 tsp
lukewarm water scant 2 cups
salt 2 1/4 tsp
2 tsp mixed seeds (eg nigella, fennel, sesame) optional
Combine flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook. Add 1 3/4 cups of the water and mix til just blended. Cover bowl, and let rest for 10-20 minutes. Add seeds and salt, and mix/knead at a medium speed about 5 minutes, or until dough is smooth, but soft, and cleans the sides and bottom of the bowl. If the dough is not climbing the hook and sticking together, add a bit more of the water, a little at a time, until it does.
Put dough in a clean, lightly floured bowl, and let rise until doubled- about 2 hours. For sandwich rolls, divide into 10 equal sized pieces, and form into smooth rounds, stretching the dough around to the bottom of the roll and pinching closed. Set rolls on 2 baking sheets covered in parchment paper. Cover with waxed paper and let rise 1 1/2 hours, until puffy. Meanwhile, arrange racks in oven to fit 2 pans, and preheat oven to 450F. With a sharp knife or razor blade, slash each roll 3 times, or in a pattern of your choice.If you like, you could brush the rolls with an eggwhite wash, and sprinkle with more seeds. I wanted to maximize crust, and didn't do this.
Bake 20-25 minutes, turning and shifting the 2 pans in the middle of the time. Cool on rack. These may be frozen in a bag, and defrosted individually.
I think there will be more small breads around here soon. After the rye rolls, some crumpets, bath buns, cinnamon rolls? Could be.