Am I the only one that’s disappointed by the serious lack of beautiful burger buns available at grocery stores these days? It’s aisle after aisle of plastic wrapped buns; deflated, limp little things with as much flavor and texture as a cotton ball.
They are not cover worthy, that’s for sure.
Last summer Taylor and I found ourselves in need of some stunning buns for our book cover. And don’t give me any of that true beauty is on the inside nonsense, we’re talking about burger buns here. And sorry, but ugly buns just wouldn’t do. We searched high and low, bakeries and groceries, and every bun was uglier (and bigger) than the next.
Apparently I have very high standards when it comes to buns.
Making our own seemed to be the only viable option.
The recipe we ended up using for our burger hero shot (and many times since, including yesterday’s lamb burgers) comes from King Arthur Flour, although it took me a few tries to really get the results I was looking for. While they suggest you brush the buns with butter before and after baking, I found that an egg-white wash worked better with the poppyseed topping (butter just isn’t sticky enough), and it gave the buns a shinier overall appearance.
When making these buns, you can choose to make larger, standard-sized burger buns, or smaller, slider-sized buns. I have a thing for slightly smaller burgers and loved being able to custom-size my buns to my exact liking.
I can’t help it, I like little buns (and I cannot lie).
But beauty is only skin deep, so enough about looks, how do they taste?
So good, you’ll never buy store-bought again.
With a thin, chewy outer crust, and a soft and pillowy inside with just enough structure and density to handle a big, juicy burger. These buns won’t fall apart in your hands like a store-bought bun might. Buttery and flavorful, with a delightful crunch from the poppy seeds, they are most definitely worth the extra effort.
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As this year’s canning season draws near, I figured now would be a good time to start using up what’s left of last year’s preserves. It was, in essence, that objective that led us to create these extraordinary burgers. Rather than building from the ground (meat) up, and instead from the top(ping) down, starting with a rather unconventional topping incorporating the last jar of pickled cherries I had been hoarding since last summer.
We chose lamb out of necessity (we had a package in the freezer that needed to be used), and seeing as we both are somewhat averse to the gamey flavor that often comes with lamb, we did our best to incorporate other strong flavors that might help to mask this. Hence the addition of gorgonzola, but feta or goat cheese would work just as well. And same with the lamb, I think beef or turkey would work equally as well with the unique flavors in this recipe.
You know, if you’re so inclined.
I knew I wanted a pickled cherry “something” to top these burgers from the get-go, and I envisioned a rough chopped concoction, sweet and tart with chopped nuts and herbs. But what to call it? It wasn’t cooked, so not a compote. Too fine to be a salsa. It wasn’t quite a pesto. Relish seemed like the most fitting descriptor.
Just in case you don’t happen to have a jar of last year’s pickled cherries lying around, you could do a quick pickle, letting the cherries soak in the brine mixture overnight. Or use fresh cherries, which would make for a great fruity condiment, albeit sweeter and less savory than the original.
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I was seriously worried I was going to fail my own challenge.
Is that even allowed?
I’ve made 6 batches since I first announced this month’s kitchen challenge. Batch #1 (just a small test batch) was surprisingly successful. I’ll chalk it up to beginners luck.
Last weekend’s attempts, though, were disastrous. Frustrating. Infuriating.
Why did this happen? Who knows. I may have over-whipped my meringue. The few drops of gel food coloring could have destroyed them. I probably over-mixed and under-baked at least two of the three batches. My sour mood was mirrored in the cracks and hollows of the failed cookies.
In the end, after 3 miserable failures, I quit for the day, resigned to the fact that I might fail my own challenge. What kind of example would that set? But I was prepared to raise the white flag and declare defeat.
But, here we are, the day before my (self-imposed) deadline, and I figured I’d give it one more try. I invited my good friend Tabitha over for expertise and moral support (I swear she’s my macaron lucky charm). And sure enough, two batches came out of the oven looking mighty fine and tasting even better.
I have a suspicious feeling that my debacle last weekend may have been caused by moist almond flour. It seemed like the only factor that had changed between the semi-successful batch the weekend before (when my flour was brand new and fresh) and the disasters the next (when my almond flour had been stored in the freezer, thus coming out with a bit of condensation).
So this time, I spread out the flour on a cookie sheet and baked it for about 30 minutes at 170 degrees. Just enough to dry it out but not so hot that it toasted or cooked the flour.
Was that the key? Was that the only reason I failed so miserably before? All I know is, this weekend, it worked. And I’m giddy with the results. Next weekend? Who knows.
I refused to give up on my hibiscus macarons, which incorporated some dried hibiscus flowers that had been finely ground in a coffee grinder. A similar method can be used to incorporate freeze-dried fruit, or any flavored powder, really. I will say that even the failures tasted incredible. Tart and fruity, the hibiscus flavor comes through loud and clear. It also gives the cookies a charming speckled purple shell without the need for any food coloring at all (although you can add a bit of pink or purple coloring if you want a more vibrant cookie).
I did the chocolate batch partly because Naomi told me that sometimes chocolate macarons are easier. Something about the extra fat in the cocoa powder, or something. But for those of you who may have had a bit of trouble with your macarons, give a chocolate batch a try; you may have better luck. They basically taste like bite-sized brownie clouds. I topped mine with some cocoa nibs for a bit of texture (and to hide some of the lumps).
For my filling, I went with a simple ganache, which I infused with more hibiscus flowers (yes, I admit I have a problem). The resulting ganache is rich and floral. I could definitely see myself using this infusion technique (basically steeping the dried flowers in the cream as it heats) to make a hibiscus-flavored version of just about any dessert that incorporates milk or cream in some way.
Click through to get my recipe and see the incredibly creative submissions from readers!
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Good cookware is a gift, especially for someone who is in the kitchen on a daily basis.
During our early years cooking together, we went through cheap nonstick pans like they were disposable. Sure they only cost $20 from mega mart, but when you have to buy a new one every year because the finish starts flaking off into your scrambled eggs, well, that’s a waste of money (and eggs).
Slowly, as we became more and more serious about cooking, we acquired a few pieces of quality cookware, but we always had the cheap ones filling in the gaps between what we had and what we actually used. And we even noticed that some of our “better” pots and pans were beginning to warp and lose their finish after years of daily use. They were still usable, sure, but it wouldn’t be long before they needed replacing.
I must have sent out some good vibes into the ether because at last year’s Big Summer Potluck in Pennsylvania, my name was drawn as the winner of the grand prize: a set of Anolon® Nouvelle Copper cookware.
Once the set arrived, I excitedly packed up all our old pots and pans (the curse of a small kitchen) and shipped them off to my little sis, who was just moving in to her first apartment. Kitchen goodies are the best kind of hand-me-downs.
It’s been almost a year now and we couldn’t be happier with our Anolon® pans. I’ll admit it was not one of the brands on our radar, but it will certainly be my go-to recommendation for serious cooks. Yes, it’s an investment, but just think of how may $20 frying pans you’ve thrown away in the meantime.
A really good pan is worth its weight in gold, or in this case, copper.
We’ve really given these pans a workout, sometimes with as many as 3 or 4 pans going at once (as in the case of the Hibiscus Enchiladas I posted yesterday, seen cooking above). The non-stick finish is still as non-sticky as the day we unwrapped them.
Taylor’s favorite features are the flush-rivets. One of our old pans had rivets attaching the handle that seemed to build up gunk, and always required extra effort and attention when cleaning. And as our household’s head dishwasher, he definitely appreciates the extra thought that went in to such a design feature.
I’m so pleased with these pans. Even more pleased that Anolon® has so generously offered one of their 3 Quart Covered Saute Pans, valued at $129.99, to one lucky L&OO reader! This particular pan (seen above doing a bang-up job cooking chipotle tomato sauce) is one of our favorites. The high sides make it perfect for sauces or risotto, while the nonstick finish makes it ideal for frying delicate scallops or sunny-side-up eggs (and you know we’ve fried our fair share of those). It will quickly become the most-used pan in your kitchen.
So, what are you waiting for?
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