I don’t really buy store-bought sandwich buns anymore.
In the first place, if you’re looking at the popular batch-bake hamburger buns from the popular name brands, you’ll notice that the bread itself is oftentimes soft, without much or any sturdiness to it. This may be fine for others, but I personally hate it when the moisture from my proteins seeps down into the bun and makes it soggy, making the whole thing not only hard to handle, but also less than pleasant to eat.
My preference for sandwiches are enriched bread doughs; the ones made with a sturdy, somewhat dense crumb that have a crusty exterior. They’re perfect for holding up to moisture and holding plenty of fixing. Plus, rather than just being the vessel for the filling, they can often be just as delicious all on their own.
A standard bread dough needs nothing more than flour, yeast, salt and water. Enriched bread doughs add things like eggs, butter and milk to ‘enrich’ the dough, often giving it more body, flavor and texture. Challah has become my go-to enriched bread to make. It has a relatively easy process in comparison to other enriched doughs, and the ingredients are often always on hand in my house. While it’s often shaped into loaves, as an enriched dough with a sturdy, somewhat dense crumb, I also figured that it would work well as a sandwich bun.
I’ve had the same go-to Challah recipe for several years now, so when it came time for me to put these together, I didn’t bother sampling out a new one. The only changes that I made to the recipe was in the actual shaping. I divided the dough up into individual sandwich buns, keeping things simple when it came to both the flavors and the appearance.
I have to say, these are everything I want in a sandwich bun. Challah has a sturdy, somewhat dense crumb structure to it that is perfect for absorbing moisture from sandwich proteins and condiments, but still holding together perfectly; even more so when you toast it, as is my standard practice. The egg wash on the top gives it that much more body. Plus, as a I said, it’s a pretty delicious bread in and of itself, so I find myself appreciating both the inside and the outside of the sandwich rather than just looking at the bread as the vessel for the filling.
Wear a mask. Socially distance. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn. Be kind.
Challah Sandwich Buns
- 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- Coarse salt, for sprinkling
In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over barely warm water. Sprinkle the tablespoon of white sugar over that. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until frothy.
Beat in honey, oil, 2 eggs, and salt. Add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating to kneading with hands as dough thickens. (You may not need all of it, this depends on location and time of year) Knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed.
Place dough inside a large and greased mixing bowl. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap, then a damp clean cloth and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.
Punch down the risen dough and turn out onto floured board or a pastry mat. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
Roll/stretch out dough to a square that is about 1 1/2 inch thick. Use a cookie cutter, a glass cup or a small bowl with a sharpish edge that is about 3 inches wide in diameter to cut out circles of buns from the dough and place them on two sheet pans you’ve lined with parchment paper. Repeat until you’ve used it all up. (The scraps can be rerolled and/or shaped into extras)
Cover the buns with plastic wrap and a damp cloth and allow to rise until puffy and grown in size, about 30-45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Beat the remaining egg and brush a generous amount over each bun. Sprinkle the tops with coarse sea salt, if desired. Using a very sharp knife dipped in water, quickly make diagonal slashes into the tops of the buns, to make an X shape.
Bake for about 20-30 minutes. After the first ten minutes, Keep an eye out on the tops to make sure they aren’t browning too quickly; cover with a sheet of foil if so.
Challah is done at an inner temp of 195 degrees fahrenheit. Bread should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Cool the buns on a wire rack for at least one hour.