Parmesan Oregano Buns

One of my all time favorite sandwiches was Subway’s Meatball Sandwich, back when those meatballs weren’t swimming in marinara sauce but were available “dry”. Put them on a parmesan oregano bread alongside some lettuce, add a drizzle of smoky honey mustard or chipotle southwest, melt over some cheddar, and I was happy.

I had a copycat recipe for the bread, back when huge amounts of yeast weren’t a problem for me, but then kinda forgot about it.
I discovered it again when I thumbed through my old cooking notebooks, and I think it’s time. Time to let the lievito out to play and make a sourdough version of the bread I absolutely loved in my early 20s.

You need 320g lievito madre at peak activity. If you fed yours in the last few days and you have enough to spare, just drop those 320g in. If not, bulk it up now.

With those huge amounts, I alwas have to remember not to drop everything into the final dough. So make sure you make enough and have leftovers that you can keep feeding for future bakes.

  • 500g all purpose flour
  • 320g lievito madre (fed the day before and at peak activity)
  • 20g butter
  • 20g sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 15g salt
  • 280g full fat milk (warmed)
  • 60g grated parmesan
  • 2-3 tsp dried oregano
  • big pinch of garlic powder

Mix the first 7 ingredients and then knead them into a stiff dough. Make sure it passes the windowpane test. I made my dough in the early afternoon, left it on the counter for 2 hours (cold kitchen, only 17°C) and then it went into the fridge overnight, covered with a shower cap like food cover so the dough wouldn’t dry out. It was about doubled in size at 6 a.m., which was perfect for shaping.

I wanted to make sandwich buns as well as burger buns, so I divided the dough into 8 equal portions, about 150g each. That makes 4 monster burger buns with 12cm (nearly 5 inches) in diameter, and 4 20cm (8 inch) subs. “Normal” size burger buns would use about 100g, so that would be 12 portions.

I shaped all pieces into balls. No matter what shape they eventually end up in, the ball with all the surface tension is always the starting point.

After a bit of rest so the dough could relax and be more pliable, I flattened 4 of the balls into kinda flatbreads that fit the giant burger rings. They can definitely be baked without, but I don’t have the biggest oven and that way I don’t have to be too careful with spacing.

The other 4 balls got turned over, folded about a third of the way and then pressed down, folded again with lots of tension, then pressed down, until I had an oblong shape. Then I just rolled it with my hands until I had the length I wanted. The pointed tips are not Subway style for sure, but those buns are baked in a shallow pan. Mine are freestyle and the edges of my hands were so impressed with the baguette masterclass I took recently, everything that gets rolled into lengths ends up with pointed tips. They’ll get a bit more blunt with rising and won’t be as noticeable anymore.

(in case you’re wondering about the metal stamps, their handle’s job is it to keep the damp towel from sticking to the buns)

Let the buns rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, it can take a while. Mine took about 2 hours to fully proof, but my kitchen is on the cold side (only 17-19°C), so I whipped out the seed starting mat. That resulted in a whopping 27°C bottom heat (measured on the baking sheet).

Time doesn’t really matter as long as you’re not in a hurry and can keep an eye on things every now and then. We’re baking burger and sandwich buns, not panettone. A bit of additional flavor won’t hurt the final product. Lievito won’t make them super sour or anything, you’ll still get mild buns. I just don’t want to make everything into a fridge rise and have burger buns take 2-3 days. That’s why I keep most of these bakes to the weekends or get the temperature up.

Once everything’s well risen, pre-heat the oven to 200°C / 390F

Brush your buns with a bit of oil, milk or water. Mix the parmesan, oregano and a bit of garlic powder and use the mix to top your buns. It looks like a lot, but it’ll melt down. Heap it on!

Score the long buns so you can control where they open up. It won’t be too much, but better safe than sorry. The burger buns are ok in the rings. They’ll be finished rising before the ring heats up fully and the sides seal.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, internal temperature should be 92°C / 197F. My baking sheet was super full and the burger buns huge, plus the ring takes a bit of time to heat up in the beginning. They needed 22 minutes while the long buns were done after 18. So, keep an eye on your baking goods.

I’m absolutely excited, this recipe worked out really really well!

Just look how fluffy the insides are! The whole bun is like a cloud!

Enjoy your burgers and sandwiches, I sure will. The bun turned the sad leftovers from last night’s grilling into a feast of a sandwich 🖤

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