It’s tempting to open this post by talking about the ubiquity of the hamburger. How, thanks to the combination of the tinderbox of social media and touchpaper of the well-trodden road from food-truck, to popup, to flagship restaurant, to national chain, burgers have become passé, cliched and frankly irritating.
This argument, of course, holds some water; in the seven years since Yianni Papoutsis first pulled his ‘MEATwagon’ into the garden of a London pub, serving up burgers inspired by food trucks from the USA and designed specifically to root themselves a million miles away from expensive, novelty ‘Gourmet Burger’ restaurants, with their huge hunks of dense beef, topped with thick, un-meltable slices of cheddar cheese, pineapple, garlic mayonnaise and god knows what else, that had found a home in the city in the preceding decade, a thousand other Burger restaurants have sprung up, in addition to the 16 ‘Meat’ restaurants that have come into being under Papoutsis’ own banner.
Here in Stockholm, perhaps just a few years behind, the same pattern is emerging; we have Phil’s Burger, Bun Meat Bun, Funky Chicken, Gnarly Burger, Lily’s Burger, Prime Burger, and heaven knows how many more besides, all turning out very good burgers (my favourite is Phil’s) to bustling, appreciative houses. If it is passé, nobody’s told the hungry masses yet.
But yes, I shall resist that temptation (oops), because of the simple fact that burgers are delicious, and we like to eat them. What is more, I like to cook them, and what is more, I’ve been looking for an excuse to learn to bake brioche burger buns for ages so, this morning, I did.
For 4 burgers, you will need:
- c. 500g of minced beef brisket (or anything else with a high fat content. If you’re really dedicated, mince your own)
- Four brioche burger buns, cooked to the recipe below (or, y’know, whatever you like. You get out what you put in with this one)
- 4 slices of processed ‘cheese’
- Half a red onion, thinly sliced
- 12 slices of pickle (if you cut ’em thin, you can do that out of one pickle)
- 8 leaves from a Little Gem lettuce, or whatever you have in the fridge (preferably as crunchy as possible)
- Salt and Pepper
After Googling around a little, I realised I didn’t have a great deal of choice but to use a US based recipe which, whilst I have nothing against the results, are a pain to follow thanks to their cup measurements and Fahrenheit temperature guidelines (also, if you’ll permit me to be deeply boring, I believe bread recipes should be written by weight, liquids included; for a medium in which a gram or two either way can affect the hydration of the dough, and therefore the result, measuring by volume seems, to be quite frank, stupid) and I quickly realised that the first full page of results were rip-offs of the New York Times recipe at the top of the page, which seemed as ringing an endorsement as I could hope for.
The recipe can be found HERE, so I won’t bore you with the gory details however, having made various attempts at making Brioche before I’d suggest that, if you have access to a stand mixer with a dough-hook, use it. It’s perfectly possible to make by hand, but for the sake of consistency, gluten development and the state of your kitchen table, avoid it where possible.
Regarding the patties, I’m a great proponent of the less-is-more approach. I have enjoyed burgers filled with any number of spices, onions, garlic, stuffed with cheese and the rest of it, but I think good beef, of the the correct fat content (i.e. pretty high), seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper and cooked properly are all that’s needed. I used minced Brisket, seasoned with salt and pepper and lightly (very lightly) mixed, then formed into spheres slightly smaller than a tennis ball (probably around 120g each, if you can be bothered to weigh them), then squashed down into patties around a centimetre thick, fried in a hot heavy based pan, flipped regularly til crisp on the outside but still extremely juicy within. As I fried the patties, the buns sat, cut-side-up under the overhead grill til patchy golden a-la-McDonald’s, but oh so much better.
The second I took the patties out of the pan, I topped each with a slice of processed cheese (on this point, I am virtually unshakable; A smear of gorgonzola, I can accept, but to try and ‘upgrade’ a burger by topping it with Montgomery’s Cheddar or some such is both a waste of good cheese and a good burger. Don’t do it. Processed cheese only, preferably Kraft singles).
My burger assembly rules are as follows:
- Raw Red Onion, sliced thin (yes, the jammy caramelised jobs are very impressive, but I think the hot, smoky rawness of a plain sliced onion do a job here)
- Gherkin (three slices each, cut from a whole pickle straight from the jar)
- Lettuce (I think Little Gems provide the requisite crunch, but use what you like)
- More Mayonnaise
We ate them with good old oven chips. I’m not ashamed.
Hopefully what you’re left with after all this is a burger to be proud of, and one you can’t get at the innumerable restaurants of the high street. Yes, those will be good, but nobody’s baking a small batch of buns and, just cooled, sliding a freshly formed and cooked patty into them. Some things, you can only really do yourself.