One of my favourite summer-time treats is a grilled hot-dog.  Butterflied, dripping with yellow mustard (no ketchup for me) and if we are going all out, fried onions and hot peppers.  I am getting hungry just writing about it!  But let’s face it, part of the experience is the bun.  There is no way to make hot dogs a health food, so no whole-wheat here, just soft, fluffy white buns!

The Windowpane Test:   Your dough has been kneaded enough if it can be stretched thin enough to become almost transparent without tearing.

The Windowpane Test:  Your dough has been kneaded enough if it can be stretched thin enough to become almost transparent without tearing.

I know that I just said hot dogs are not health food, but that doesn’t meant I want to eat buns that have an ingredient list as long as my arm with too many four-syllable words!  So, in the summer you usually find me making my own hot-dog (& hamburger) buns .  My recipe creates a beautiful, smooth, easy to work with dough.  To create soft and flavourful buns I use milk, melted butter & eggs, not sodium stearoyl lactylate.  I  usually do a double batch and freeze some for later.

If you want to be a bread maker, you should learn how to do a windowpane test.  It is very simple and it tells you if you have kneaded your dough long enough. The purpose of kneading the dough is to create gluten, which gives bread its structure. For more on gluten development, see my earlier blog on Wheat Flour & Gluten.  The windowpane is done by taking a small piece of dough and gently, stretching and pulling it between your fingers.  Once the dough can stretch far enough that it becomes almost transparent, you know you have created enough gluten and you can stop kneading.  If the dough rips before you create the thin membrane, then you need to keep kneading to strengthen the gluten.  Knead for a couple more minutes and then test again.

If you are interested but new to making yeast doughs this is a great recipe to start with.  The hardest part is shaping the buns.  The secret is to make sure you rest the dough before attempting to shape the buns.  When you are working with yeast doughs (mixing, kneading, cutting, shaping) you are creating gluten.  Gluten is very elastic, so as you work with the dough those gluten strands tense up and make the dough difficult to shape.  Leaving the dough to rest allows those gluten strand to relax a bit and therefore they are easier to manipulate into your desired shape.  

Bread making is as much an art as it is a science, so give yourself some time, and if you don’t succeed at first, try again! If you are nervous about making yeast doughs, why not sign-up for one of my Yeast X2classes and I will teach you the basics of yeast bread methods while sipping on sparkling wine!!



Shaping Hot Dog Buns

Hot Dog or Hamburger Buns

(makes 1 dozen buns)

532 g (4¼ cups)  unbleached bread flour
11g (1½ tsp)  salt
42 g (3 tbsp)  sugar
6 g (2 tsp)  instant yeast
46 g (1 large)  egg, slightly beaten, at room temperature
56 g (¼ cup)  butter, at room temperature
336 g (1½ cups) buttermilk (or whole milk), at room temperature
1 egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water until frothy, for egg wash (optional)
sesame or poppy seeds for garnish (optional)

Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer, or large bowl. Pour in the egg, butter, and milk and mix on low-speed of the electric mixer with the paddle attachment until all the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball.   Alternatively, mix with a large wooden spoon to mix the dough.   If the dough seems very stiff and dry, trickle in some extra milk until the dough is soft and supple.

Change to the dough hook of the electric mixer and mix, adding more flour, if necessary, to create a dough that is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky. If you are making the buns by hand, sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading, adding more flour if needed to create a soft, supple dough.

Continue mixing, or kneading by hand, for 6 to 8 minutes.  The dough should pass the windowpane test. If using a stand-mixer, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick ever to slightly to the bottom. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 1½ to 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.  

Remove dough from bowl and divide into 90 g pieces. Lightly spray or brush the dough pieces with oil, cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes (this will make the dough easier to shape).  Meanwhile line two large baking sheets with parchment.  Shape dough into a torpedo shape for hot dog buns or a round shape for hamburger buns (see above for tips on shaping hot dog buns) and place on lined baking sheets.  Lightly spray or brush the dough pieces with oil, cover with plastic wrap and proof the dough for 1 to 1½ hours or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  If using, gently brush buns with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds. Bake buns for about 15 min or until golden brown.  Immediately remove the buns from the pans and leave on wire rack to cool completely. Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing. 

(adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprenticeby Peter Reinhart)