Last summer a friend gave us a baking book written by her brother-in-law, Keith Cohen, who owns Orwasher’s Bakery, a 100-year-old bakery in Manhattan that he bought from the original Orwasher family in 2007. Thrilled with the prospect of new bread recipes, we gorged greedily on the glossy pictures, mentally listing all the new breads we would make, but never quite rising to the challenge of a Challah or a Cabernet Rustica .
A while back, when burgers were mooted for dinner, I recalled salivating over the tan-crusted, milky-white soft hamburger buns from the book, and whipped it back off the shelf. We’ve been making our own burger buns for quite some time now, and while they tick many a box in terms of softness, taste and soakage of burger juices, there’s always that little niggling feeling that we could do better. While searching for the recipe I became engrossed in the story of Orwasher’s bakery, its history of serving the local Eastern European community, and Keith’s journey to recapture the original spirit of the Orwasher tradition and provide his corner of New York with authentic high quality artisan bread.
It’s not just a recipe book though, it’s a chronicle of the importance of bread to a community and an individual. It’s also a “how-to” bible on creating specific starters, bigas and levains for all kinds of loaves, explains traditional methods for mixing, kneading and shaping ethnic breads, and simplifies the concept of the Baker’s percentage. It is fast becoming our daily bread manual. Keith’s is a simple message echoed by all true artisan bakers – use high quality ingredients, either sourced locally or authentically ethnic, and don’t rush it.
These hamburger buns use a small amount of potato flour – new to us – which gives it a finer, softer texture than our normal buns. This was a revelation, as before we’ve always used either egg or milk to get that spongy, bouncy feel. The result is a pillow-soft bun with a light, slightly sweet flavour, perfect for enveloping a meaty, juicy burger… or just about anything, really.
The original Orwasher recipe uses much larger quantities than Ruby and I need to make, so we’ve scaled it back to our usual 1kg(ish) dough recipe, and after a little trial and error, adjusted the water to suit our flour (original recipe here). You may need to do the same. This is what works for us…
Orwasher’s potato burger buns (slightly adapted by Jack and Ruby)
Makes approximately 10-12 buns.
525g strong white flour
35g potato flour
Combine the strong white flour, water, sugar, salt and oil in a large mixing bowl. When thoroughly combined add in the potato flour and yeast. Knead this robustly for about 15 minutes by hand. If you’re lucky enough to have a food mixer with a dough-hook, then use this for approximately 10 minutes.
When the dough is nicely smooth and stretchy, roll into a ball and weigh it (this is the only way we can ever get equally sized rolls). This method doesn’t require an initial 1st prove so cut into c.100g pieces and roll into little domed balls. Place on a floured baking tray and leave to rise for up to 4 hours (yes, 4 hours! But you get spectacular results). The rolls should be at least double in size and pillowy. As usual, we put our tray inside a large plastic bag to retain moisture and stop a crust from forming.
Pre-heat your oven with baking stone to 200º celsius (the original recipe says 205º but our temperature indicator isn’t that precise) and bake for 15-16 minutes until darkly golden brown on the crust and puffed to perfection. Remove, place on a cooling rack and withhold the urge to gorge until room temperature and your burger is cooked.