The bun of a hamburger is what draws me in. In terms of burger dynamics, it's your workhorse, a testament to the amount of love in the burger-maker's labor.
A slather of soft butter followed by a soft sizzle on a well-seasoned grill can resuscitate even a languid bun. Delicate crumbs form a gently toasted golden layer that gives way to a plush middle.
See also: - Burger Week Cometh
I spoke to the Clint Cooper on the issue of proper burger bunage. He's the proprietor of Village Baking Co. and supplies bread for many local restaurants and hotels, including Off-Site Kitchen.
His bread portfolio is decadent -- potentially life-changing. Cooper speaks casually about many of his breads, like the all-telling baguette and, unsung hero, kouign amann (a Breton butter pastry). But his disposition changed when I asked him about hamburger buns.
He leaned up in his chair with his elbows on his knees and looked down at the space between his shoe and boot (he had a broken ankle at the time), composing his thoughts, then just fired away like he's thought about this a lot.
"You want something that can really hold up the 80/20 mix of the beef, the lettuce, tomato and whatever else is on it, which mostly has to do with the water content," Cooper said. "Also a little sweetness is good because sugar will add softness to the bun. The marriage of those ingredients has to be perfect. Then the bun also has to be able hold up to being toasted. All of those things really have to work together."
Which might make help explain the ballyhoo over Nick Badovinus' burger at Off-Site-Kitchen. Several other popular burger spots around town have taken to baking and sourcing fresh-baked bread as well, like Liberty Burger, Hopdoddy and Smoke. Stackhouse uses a custom-made brioche bun, which is made to fit its patty perfectly.
Which brings up a good point, while a bun is important, it should never overpower the patty. We all have our magic ratio of how we like our beef to play with the bread, but more than 1:3 (beef to bread) is criminal, while 1:1 could easily render a your burger a sloppy dismembered mess.
Observer food critic Scott Reitz applies a similar theory, "I'm not scientific when matching up a burger and bun, but I do take the buns I've purchased for a particular burger session into account."
He prefers a patty that is slightly larger in diameter than the bun and a proportionate thickness.
And, of course, the bun must be slathered and toasted in an "absurd amount of butter."
Up next: some of Dallas' great buns. Stackhouse's custom-made brioche.
Liberty Burger. Give me fresh toasted buns or just give me a salad.
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Off-Site Kitchen's perfectly toasted, substantial and proportionate bun.