I had an unstoppable hunger this past weekend for old-Chicago-style all-beef hotdogs from Vienna Beef, the best hotdog in the country in my opinion. I wanted that charred skin flavor of summer, the grill smoke from fat dripping on coals, the juicy snap when you bite into them.
I decided to make buns. Why? Because, we were inviting friends (great food must be shared); I had a cool hot dog pan from American Pan; I had never made them before; and most important, the best hot dogs deserve special treatment. One of the great things about cooking is that you're subliminally eating the entire time, a kind of calorie-free spiritual nourishment, and I was thinking about the hot dogs the whole time in the kitchen (with good mustard and minced sweet onion).
Hot dog buns are not simply about shape. You can't use the basic bread dough ratio and put them in a hot dog bun pan. Hot dog buns need to be soft and fluffy inside, with a delicate crumb and soft crust. A soft, tender crumb is in large part due to fat, which shortens the dough, making it tender rather than chewy. It also requires a generous rise so that it's light and airy inside. In trying to devise a recipe for buns, I thought about the qualities of other breads I'd done that were similar, and remembered these buttermilk dinner rolls, so I used that recipe as a guide.
The results were these splendid top-loaders. Leftovers can be wrapped in foil and frozen. If you wind up having too much fun that night and they don't get put away, day-old buns make excellent French toast. Or simply toast them, butter, and serve them with eggs, bacon, and grits, as I did. Great hot dog buns should be great bread, period.
Hot Dog Buns
- 900 grams/30 ounces flour (about 6 cups)
- 300 grams/10 ounces buttermilk
- 275 grams/9 ounces milk
- 7 grams/0.25 ounce instant dry yeast
- 14 grams/0.5 ounce sugar (1 tablespoon)
- 2 eggs
- 18 grams/0.6 ounce salt (1 tablespoon Morton's kosher salt)
- Melted butter as needed
- Combine all ingredients except the butter in a mixing bowl and mix on medium till the dough is elastic, about 10 minutes. This is a fairly sticky dough. Allow the dough to rise for 2 to 3 hours or till doubled in size. To make it easier to work with, you can turn it out every hour, fold it in thirds, and return it to the fermenting bowl. (More on this technique from expert baker Matt McDonald in November.)
- Turn out the dough onto a board and cut the dough into 80-gram/3-ounce pieces. Fold the pieces into rectangles, cover with a towel, and let them rest for 15 minutes.
- Gently roll the pieces into cylinders to fit a hot dog bun pan or, if you're baking them free form, to your desired length. Put them in your buttered pan. Their sides should be touching if you're using a sheet pan (you may want to use a support of some kind on either side). Cover with a towel for 1 hour.
- Preheat your oven to 350˚F/175˚C.
- Baste the buns with melted butter and bake until done, about 45 minutes. Baste with more butter. Allow them to cool before separating them.
- This recipe will make 16 to 20 buns. The recipe can be halved by weight.
Other links you may like:
- My post on making BBQ short ribs.
- The components of a Chicago-style hot dog do vary in the Windy City.
- Make some homemade corn dogs with the Homesick Texan's recipe.
- Check out the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council.
© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.