When I was shopping for tailgate ingredients I noticed how expensive organic hamburger buns are. A package of six, locally made whole wheat organic buns at the market costs about $6. Although the rolls looked delicious, I put them right back on the shelf. Who can spend $6 on bread when you’ve gotta buy beer, too?*
I knew I could make some buns at home for much cheaper. I had all the basic dough ingredients on hand in my pantry, plus some leftover sweet potatoes and rosemary from my pesto roll party earlier this week. The bun recipe I created is a spin-off from my pesto roll dough, using whole wheat flour and honey this time to get a similar taste and texture to the store-bought hamburger buns. I used a handy recipe cost calculator to figure out that my homemade buns cost $5.21 cents, or $.43 per bun. Cheap and delicious! Here’s a picture of a finished bun in action:
In the background is the “Oklahoma Suks” beer I splurged on instead of the other hamburger buns. It’s brewed every year right here in Austin by Independence Brewing Co., one of my favorite local vendors.
Hook ’em Hamburger Buns
2 small sweet potatoes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (optional)
1 cup potato cooking water, reserved
1 cup milk at room temperature
1 Tbs. honey
1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 c. butter, melted
4 cups whole wheat flour plus 1/2 cup for rolling and shaping dough
Chop sweet potatoes into sixths and boil unpeeled potato chunks with rosemary sprigs in water for about 20 minutes. Once potatoes are tender, remove them from water with a slotted spoon. Reserve 1 cup potato water & the rosemary. Allow potatoes to cool enough to handle, then remove skin. Puree potatoes and rosemary needles in a food processor, then transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add reserved water, milk, honey, lightly beaten egg, and melted butter to potato puree and stir to blend. (Mixture should be between 100-120 degrees.) Add yeast and allow it to proof. Add 4 cups of whole wheat flour, stirring dough to incorporate.
Continue stirring dough for several minutes until it is fully formed and elastic. It may be soft and a little sticky– that is okay. Cover bowl with a damp dish towel and set in a warm place to rise for half an hour.
Once dough has doubled in volume, turn it onto a floured surface. Knead dough for 5-10 minutes, incorporating as little flour as possible, until it is firm and holds its shape. Use a pastry scraper to divide dough in half, set one half aside for later. Roll remaining dough into a circle about 1 inch thick and divide into six pieces. Shape each piece into a roll using floured hands. Tip: the technique for shaping roll dough is quite different from, say, cookie dough or clay. Instead of rolling the dough ball between your hands, cup the dough ball firmly in one hand and use the fingertips of the other hand to fold under the edges of the dough until the top surface of the roll is smooth.
Repeat the rolling/shaping procedure until you have formed 12 rolls. Each roll should be about the size of a tennis ball. Place dough balls on a buttered cookie sheet about two inches apart. Brush roll tops with butter and sprinkle with sea salt and crushed rosemary. Cover with a damp towel and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour.
Bake rolls 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Brush again with butter after you remove from the oven, move to a wire rack to cool.
*I know that not all hamburger buns cost $1 each. A package of 8, nationally distributed buns made with high fructose corn syrup costs just $1.50. This makes me angry since I know that my tax dollars subsidize the cheap corn, wheat, and GM soy in those rolls. When my niece is an adult her tax dollars will continue to pay for the long-term environmental and human health costs of those crappy hamburger buns.