Za’atar Burger Buns

I can’t say enough how much I love burgers. They’re the ultimate sandwich, and the possibilities are endless. And while the patty can be made from all kinds of meats or veggies and is usually the star of the show, it’s the bun that completements the filling and allows it to shine. That’s why I have about 20 different burger bun recipes that I make again and again and sometimes change up a bit. I love the variety and the different flavor profiles.

You’re getting another burger bun recipe right now, because I was in Scotland and haven’t had a chance to fire up my grill in nearly two weeks. And while haggis, sausages and porterhouse steaks were great, I’m in serious burger withdrawal. The situation is dire! Because, let’s be honest: Scottish bread sucks! That’s the main reason why I went full scottish breakfast and had piles of meat, eggs and beans or scrambled eggs with salmon for breakfast every morning instead of something more… wholesome.

I was at my friend Rita’s to pick up a 7 pound roasting chicken on friday, took it apart on saturday, ran one of the thighs through the meat grinder with a bit of tropical fire spice mix and half an onion, and made two massive burger patties. Those have been waiting in the freezer ever since, because OF COURSE we’ve had nothing but rain for the last two days.

But things are looking good for tomorrow, the grill won’t be drowning, so I’m making oriental style burger buns with turkish yogurt and za’atar. That chicken burger is going to be a feast for the tastebuds!

Here’s Luigi, my lievito madre, all ready for battle, so let’s start!

  • 240g lievito madre (freshly fed and risen to twice the initial size)
  • 40g honey
  • 60g warm water
  • 250g all purpose flour
  • 60g olive oil
  • 150g turkish yogurt (greek is ok as well, but it’s runnier and you might have to reduce the water a bit)
  • 2 tsp za’atar
  • 8g salt

Mix and knead until the dough passes the windowpane test. Due to all the fat it will take longer than usual, so keep kneading until you have a smooth dough. The finished dough is very soft and sticky, it’s best to be handled with oiled hands on an oiled surface.

Shape it into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl. Cover and stash in a warm place until visibly risen. I had mine in the proofing box for about 2 hours, because the summer here in Germany is severely lacking heat at the moment. Perform a round of stretches and folds after about half an hour, it gives the soft dough a bit more stability.

I made big(ish) burger buns, using about 150g of dough for each. You can make 6 of those with this batch. I only made 4 plus a tiny little loaf for toasting.

After dividing the dough, shape the portions into balls, place them on a piece of parchment and flatten them a bit. I use my burger rings (5 inches diameter) because it saves space and the buns are the perfect fit for the burgers from the accompanying burger press. Plus, I can leave them like this for ages without several very soft buns spreading out into one big flatbread.

They got a two hour kickstart in the proofing box and were then left on the counter overnight (about 8 hours). It’s a heavy dough with all the yogurt and oil, which means that the lievito has a lot of work pumping it up. So don’t worry if it takes longer in your kitchen. Enriched doughs like these take time!

Once risen, brush with some yogurt and sprinkle with more za’atar while you pre-heat the oven including a pizza stone or baking steel to 250°C / 480F.

Turn the oven down to 200°C when you put the buns in, and bake with steam for 15 minutes. The yogurt keeps the surface from browning and you end up with super fluffy buns. I put mine on the grill anyway, to crisp up the inside a bit, so that’s perfect!

Place the buns on a wire rack so they can cool. If you baked in rings, make sure the buns are completely cold before you remove them. All the fluff makes them very fragile while hot.

Look at all the fluff:

the grooves on the bottom of the slice are permanent marks from the wire rack. that’s how soft the bread is!

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