Le Pain by Numbers

Home bakers are more than common.  There is after all a reason why every house I have ever been in has an oven.  The lucky ones even have two.  Nevertheless a person can go their whole lives making chocolate chip cookies out of a package and never know the divine pleasure of home baked bread.  To this end I thought I provide a step by step guide to making almost every kind of bread.  First know that truly excellent bread is not easy.  Secondly, it is of the utmost importance that this doesn’t discourage you.  Though it can take a while to develop a feel for bread and its dough, the journey is more than worth the time and energy required.  Please keep in mind that the difference between mediocre bread and excellent bread is the experience of the baker.  So, without any more ado, great and simple hamburger buns in 7 simple steps.

1. Scale
Measure out your ingredients.  Here’s the recipe for six smallish buns.  I like smaller hamburgers so it works for me.  If you want bigger ones just increase all the ingredients by one third.

Bun Dough

300g Bread Flour
8g Instant Yeast
15g Brown Sugar
30g Butter
6g Salt
150g Warm Water
30g Milk

Scaling for bread is the easiest step.  Put the dry ingredients in one bowl and add the wet excepting the water.  add the water but withhold about ten percent of it.  This ten percent accounts for the variable absorbancy of flour.  Knowing when to add this extra water is a part of developing a feel for the dough.  At the early stages, don’t worry too much about this.  Just add all the liquid asked for and go from there.

2. Kneading
Some text books add the step of “mixing” in between scaling and kneading, but I don’t see much point.  They are all part of the same process.  So, mix the ingredients together and begin kneading.  The best method I have found is put the dough on your work surface and stretch it by pushing with the heel of your palms, then rolling it back towards yourself.  You’ll know you’re done when the dough is smooth and elastic.  A great way of checking is to break off a small chunk, roll it out and gently stretch it.  If you get it thin enough that you can see light through it without it tearing, the gluten is fully developed and you are done kneading.

4. Benching
This is the first rising of the dough.  Cover it and allow the dough to double in size.

5. Shaping
Fold the dough in on itself to release some of the gasses and divide.  In the case of our hamburger buns, divide in to six pieces of 90 grams each (120 for larger buns) and roll into balls.  flatten slightly.

6. Proofing
This is the final rise.  Once again, we lightly cover the dough and allow it to rise.  This gets a little delicate as it is possible to “over proof” the dough which will mean that the final bread is flat and generally of poor quality.  Generally the dough is fully proofed when you begin to see air bubbles under the skin and it doesn’t spring back when poked.

7. Baking
Bake the bread.  Some breads are baked at a high heat with steam, but our buns are brushed with milk and sprinkled with sesame seeds.  Slash the tops once and bake at 350° for about 15 minutes.

And that’s all there is to it.

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