This Week's Adventure

The tragic tale of the beautiful burger buns

So, in the four short weeks (and 15 recipes) of this project so far, I’m seeing a few themes developing. First, I love parentheses. (Seriously. I don’t know if I have a post here where I haven’t used them.) Second, and most important, things don’t go so well when I don’t pay attention to details.

Yesterday, Husband and I went to the grocery store to pick up Parmesan, saw the meat counter, and simultaneously realized burgers sounded really good for supper. (The croissants and our respective salads, chicken for me, egg-tuna for him, were lunch.) Husband remarked that I had mentioned having a burger bun recipe to try. Indeed I did.

While making recipes without planning ahead can result in missed ingredients or inadequate time estimates, the beautiful burger buns shouldn’t have had this problem. It’s your typical yeast dough procedure, with typical rich yeast dough ingredients. Even when baking on the fly, these buns should have had a chance to shine. I tried to give them that chance.

While the oven was preheating for the croissants, I started mixing the dough. I ran an egg under hot water to get it to room temperature. I measured out my flour by weight, mixed in the butter, added the water and yeast and salt, started kneading. It formed a nice, soft but cohesive dough. I was just reflecting on the pleasure of the texture of a good, rich dough, with color from the butter and the egg, when I realized the dough could not have the color from the egg at all because I forgot the egg.


So, conundrum. Should I go forward with a dough that had a seemingly perfect texture and would probably turn out fine, or should I try to mix an egg into a homogeneous, already well-hydrated dough?

In the spirit of trying to do the recipe right, I tried the latter. It went about as poorly as you would expect.

The dough went from smooth, to chunks covered in slime, to a wet greasy glob that sort of held together after several minutes of mixing. In order to get the dough to a workable texture, and to get some of the slime off my hands, I kneaded in some flour, which turned it into a more normal-looking, though still very wet, dough. I was afraid of adding too much and making tough buns. I let the dough rise and washed the eggy dough scales off my hands.

sticky kneading.jpg
Top right, starting to knead in the egg. Left, about three minutes later. Bottom, a good three or four minutes after that–a dough, yes, but not a dough for buns.

After the first rise, the dough was extremely sticky. Though it had all the ingredients of the original recipe, I think adding the egg late messed with the hydration of the flour. I managed to form the dough into eight balls not by rolling them on the counter, as instructed, but by pulling the skin taut around them while they dangled from my sticky, dough-covered fingers. Picture Shelob wrapping Frodo in webbing during Return of the King, and you have a pretty good idea.

Right, what happened when I tried to roll the dough on the counter. Left, my hands covered in regret over my victims’ bodies.

I plopped my sad globs of Frodough onto a greased pan, covered, to rise for another 30 minutes. I was an idiot and didn’t grease my plastic wrap, so it stuck to the overly soft dough and gave the buns dimpled tops before they went in the oven. I hardly cared anymore. In they went.


All things considered, it could have gone a lot worse. While they spread more than I would have liked, they were perfectly usable. They tasted good. The texture was all right, though a little dryer than ideal.

So, it’s not really a tragedy. It’s just the mistake was so preventable. The awkward, pretty okay buns could have been lovely. Even, as the recipe claimed, beautiful.

Okay, that’s not bad-looking.

However, burger buns are probably a recipe I’m going to make a couple times, and there’s no way I can make a mistake like that twice.

*Murphy laughing in the background*

Did you hear that?


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