Sourdough Hamburger Buns

This is an example of how to reverse engineer a recipe and convert it to sourdough. I started with the recipe for beautiful burger buns on the King Arthur Flour Web site. That recipe calls for:

¾ to 1 cup lukewarm water

2 tablespoons butter

1 large egg

3½  cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

¼ cup sugar

1¼ teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon instant yeast

 

The King Arthur Flour Web site conveniently converts this to grams, more or less:

170 to 227g lukewarm water

28g butter

1 large egg

418g King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

50g sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon instant yeast

 

I split the difference with the water and, considering the water in the egg, came up with a hydration ratio of 57%. The amount of sugar seemed excessive so I cut it in half. The basic recipe with baker’s percentages, then, is:

Flour

418 grams

100%

Water

239 grams

57%

Egg

39 grams

9%

Water

200 grams

48%

Sugar

25 grams

6%

Salt

9 grams

2%

Instant dry yeast

9 grams

2%

 

The total recipe mass of 711 grams yields eight 3⅛ ounce buns. I decided to make mine a bit bigger, 100 grams (3½ ounces), so I had to scale the recipe. Dividing my desired recipe mass of 800 grams by the sum of the baker’s percentages, 167%, gave me the amount of flour I needed, 479 grams, which I rounded up and from which I calculated my new recipe quantities:

Flour

480 grams

100%

Water

273 grams

57%

Egg

39 grams

8%

Water

234 grams

49%

Sugar

29 grams

6%

Salt

10 grams

2%

Instant dry yeast

10 grams

2%

Converting the recipe to sourdough is simply a matter of replacing part of the flour and water with sourdough starter and reducing the amount yeast—or, if you are a purist and are patient enough to let the dough rise overnight, eliminating it altogether; I cut the amount in half. I chose, rather arbitrarily, to use 300 grams of freshly-fed 100% hydration starter which contributed 150 grams each of flour and water. The final recipe is thus—with the usual caveat that the Imperial unit equivalents are inexact:

Ingredients

 

Sourdough starter

300 grams

Generous cup

Water

84 grams

⅓ cup

Egg, lightly beaten

1 large

1 large

Bread flour

330 grams

2¾ cups

Sugar

29 grams

7 teaspoons

Salt

10 grams

4 teaspoons

Instant dry yeast

5 grams

2 teaspoons

Method

Put all the ingredients into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer in the order presented. Knead on the recommended speed setting for your mixer for about five minutes after the dough comes together. Scoop the dough onto a lightly floured surface and, with floured hands, knead lightly and form into a ball. It will be quite sticky.

Warm a large, heavy earthenware or glass bowl with hot water then dry and pour in enough oil to just cover the bottom. Place the ball of dough it in the bowl and roll it around so that it is evenly coated with the oil. Put a piece of plastic wrap loosely directly on the dough, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and set aside to proof until doubled in size, about one and a half to two hours depending on the temperature.

At the end of proofing, punch down the dough and divide it into eight equal portions. Roll each into a ball, then flatten with your hand into a disk about 9 cm (3¼”) in diameter. Place onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a towel and allow to rise again until the buns are nearly 2 cm (1 inch) thick.

Bake in a 190°C (375°F) oven to for about 15 to 18 minutes. The best way to determine doneness is with a thermometer; the center of the buns should be between 90°C and 95°C (195°F and 200°F).

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