Build a Better Burger: Homemade Ketchup, Homemade Buns! Yum!
Last Friday, I was poking around the Saveur web site, looking for…well, actually, I don’t remember exactly what I was looking for. Because I was sidetracked almost immediately by a link to a slideshow of Homemade Condiment recipes. Now, any of you who have been reading this blog for a little while probably know that I am completely ga-ga for making at home any kind of food you’d otherwise buy (see ricotta, yogurt, mayonnaise, pizza, pasta, pumpkin butter, and cannolis. I made the homemade Nutella in the LA Times a few weeks ago – it was awesome.) And so, here’s a little of how the rest of the weekend unfolded:
1. <clicking through the slideshow> Hello, Spicy Guinness mustard…I must make you! <bookmark> Click, click.
3. Cannot think about anything else except making homemade ketchup. Woke up in the middle of the night and immediately began thinking about homemade ketchup.
4. Saturday afternoon. Made homemade ketchup. Oddly obsessed by this project (as I am not, in general, an enormous ketchup fan, at least like some people I know. My brother went through a phase where he put ketchup on everything — and I mean everything — that my mom cooked for dinner. I used to look incredulously at his plate and say “but there’s a sauce on that, you don’t need ketchup!” Since then, my feelings about ketchup have been kind of pleasantly ambivalent, which is why it was a little odd that I was so struck by the need to make this ketchup. Again, I say, it’s this thing I have for making homemade versions of things you’d otherwise buy.)
5. Taste homemade ketchup. It’s lick-my-lips delicious. Now…wondering what to put said ketchup on.
6. Five minutes of digging through my freezer yields a pound of frozen pastured ground beef from Kingbird Farm. Jackpot! Burgers it will be.
7. Five more minutes of digging through said freezer reveals that I have no burger buns stashed away. Do not feel like going to store.
8. Still on a high from my homemade ketchup extravaganza, I now decide to make my own burger buns. Trusty Peter Reinhart has a recipe for them in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (which, by the way, is one of the best cookbooks I have in my collection. If you at all want to learn about baking bread, I can’t recommend the book enough.)
9. Burger bun making and burger bun baking commences. I’m literally dancing around the kitchen because the dough is a dream to work with and the buns, as they come out of the oven, are plump and round and so darn cute! Success.
10. Realize that amount of ketchup I made will not, in fact, be used up by just the burgers alone — even though I did make sliders (mini burgers) and will distribute the ketchup over a greater surface area. Begin to wonder what else I can cook that would be good slathered in ketchup.
11. Open the door of my little jelly cabinet pantry and see our potatoes at the bottom, still left from our CSA share, sprouting shoots like gangbusters. Realize I can kill two birds with one stone: potatoes need to be used, and spicy oven fries will be just the thing to slather with the ketchup.
12. Man, oh man, oh man. Burgers are sah-woon worthy! A little coarse-grain dijon mustard smeared on one side of the bun, topped with lettuce, skillet-browned patties, melted sharp cheddar, caramelized onions, and finished with a swirl of ketchup. B and I spend our Sunday night murmuring “mmmm”, licking the juices that dribble down our hands, and swooping the thick spicy oven fries through drifts of ketchup.
13. Go to bed happy.
A few notes:
- Sue has some really great tips over on Feelgood Eats about building a better burger. I especially like her philosophy of using grass-fed, humanely raised beef (you can taste the difference), handling it minimally, and finishing the burgers ever-so-briefly under the broiler just long enough to melt the cheese (when you’re making the burgers inside vs. a grill.)
- Maybe you don’t have a whole afternoon to make the burger buns, but the ketchup? Seriously folks, it’s super easy. Well worth the short amount of time it takes to make it…and if you’ve looked at the ingredients on some of the more mainstream brands of ketchup, maybe you’re as horrified as I am about the junk that’s included. Homemade’s better.
- And if you do have a few hours around the house, the burger buns are an absolutely delicious project. The dough is enriched with butter and egg, so it’s soft, tender, akin to brioche — delicious! — and you can make a big batch and freeze the ones you don’t use in a ziptop bag for future use. I have over a dozen buns frozen in my freezer now, ready for our next burger adventure.
- One pound of ground beef yields 6 sliders, perfect for two people with good appetites!
Adapted from Saveur
4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon
1/4 tsp. celery seeds
1/4 tsp. chile flakes
1/4 tsp. whole allspice
2 lbs. tomatoes, roughly chopped [or, you can use a 28-oz. can organic diced tomatoes if tomatoes aren’t in season]
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
5 tbsp. brown sugar
1 onion, chopped
1 anaheim chile, chopped [optional – I left this out and the ketchup was still great]
1 clove garlic
In a 3 or 4 quart saucepan, combine the diced tomatoes with their juices, salt, vinegar, sugar, onion, and chiles (if using.) Smash the garlic and add it to the pot. Wrap the cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, celery seeds, chile flakes, and allspice in a layer of cheesecloth; tie into a bundle and add to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and chiles are very soft, about 40 minutes.
Remove the spice bundle, then puree the mixture in the blender until smooth. Strain it back into the saucepan, and return to medium heat. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes or so, until the ketchup thickens and reaches your desired consistency. Taste and adjust the salt or acid as needed.
Let cool and store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator. Ketchup will keep for 3 weeks in the fridge.
Makes 2 1/2 cups.
Homemade Hamburger Buns
4 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk or milk, at room temperature
sesame seeds for the tops (optional)
Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Pour in the egg, butter, and buttermilk and mix with a large metal spoon until all the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a shaggy ball. You can trickle in a little water if the dough seems very stiff, until the dough is soft and supple.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop, where you’ll do your kneading. Knead for about 8 minutes, until the dough is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky. You can test if you’ve kneaded it enough by pulling off a little piece of dough, gently stretching and pulling it with your hands until it’s paper thin, and holding it up to the light: if the dough stretches and holds its shape without breaking, to the point where it’s translucent, it’s done. This is called the windowpane test.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Roll it around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let it rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size (I use an electric heating pad under the bowl, as we keep our house on the cool side.)
Remove the risen dough from the bowl and divide it into eighteen 2-ounce pieces (for slider buns) or twelve 3-ounce pieces (for standard size burger buns.) Shape the pieces of dough into rounds, transfer them to baking sheets lined with Silpats or parchment paper, and cover them with a towel. Let the buns proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until they’re nearly doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk together 1 egg with 1 teaspoon of water, for an egg wash. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash, and sprinkle with sesame seeds if you like. Bake the buns for 15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove them immediately from the pans and cool completely on a wire cooling rack (cool them at least 1 hour before slicing.)
Makes 18 slider buns or 12 regular burger buns.