Brioche Hamburger Buns

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a workshop by the one and only Sandor Ellix Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation (essential reading!). I walked away from the workshop infused with inspiration and a head full of fermentation ideas. Of course it wouldn’t be a hands on workshop if I didn’t leave with a jar of bubbling veggies — a relish of sorts. The fermenting relish we created by hand during the workshop had numerous spicy New Mexico chiles1, onion, corn, tomato, sweet potato (cooked) and garlic added to the mix. After getting my hands dirty with mixing, mashing, and packing I began to ponder what I’d first like to use this spicy concoction on, and then it came to me: hamburgers!

Coincidentally, the upcoming weekend of July 4th has always been a big grilling weekend out here and what better way to celebrate our Nation’s independence than to fire up the grill and throw on some burgers and veggies. I’ve made hamburger buns several times in the past but have yet to formalize a recipe for my favorite version. This formula has evolved over time and is similar to my cinnamon roll recipe in that it’s based on an enriched brioche dough, but with changes to butter, milk and flour types.

Brioche Hamburger Buns via @theperfectloafWhat I like most about this recipe is its versatility. Not only can the dough be chilled in the fridge at multiple points before baking, once baked these buns keep very, very well for days after. If you happen to be planning an event you can easily make these a day or two beforehand and keep them wrapped up so they stay pliable and ready to slice the morning of. Additionally, these buns can be used for many more things around the kitchen than just hamburgers — they are secretly a dinner roll that’ll blow those store bought ones out of the water.

Let’s break out the butter.

Brioche Hamburger Buns Recipe

When compared to my cinnamon roll recipe you’ll first notice I reduced the butter a smidgen and also worked in a significant percentage of whole wheat flour. The added white whole wheat adds a subtle flavor boost to these, promoting them from just-another-hamburger-bun to more of a central player in the overall meal. Further, the whole wheat gives the buns more rigidity after they’re baked, helping them to support the hamburger patty, toppings and condiments. However, this recipe would work very well with 100% white flour or a different type of whole grain for the white wheat component — just be sure to adjust the milk percentage up or down to suit (e.g. 100% white flour might require less milk and some whole wheat varieties might need more).

Feel free to change the flour variety used, but be sure to adjust the hydration to suit

The schedule outlined below has times and temperatures listed for a same day bake. Meaning the dough is started in the morning and then baked in the late afternoon, ready for a late grilling session or early dinner. However, the dough can be retarded overnight in bulk to add even more flavor and make scheduling easier (more on this below).

Note that you don’t have to make a levain for this recipe. Just use your mature starter to get the mix going. However, make sure the night before when you refresh your starter you build up enough to cover the starter requirement below (185g).Brioche Hamburger Buns via @theperfectloafBrioche Hamburger Buns via @theperfectloaf

Vitals

Total Dough Weight 1200 grams
Yield 10 x 120 gram buns

Dough Formula

Target final dough temperature (FDT) is 74ºF.

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
278g White Bread Flour (~11.5% protein), Malted (Central Milling Artisan Baker’s Craft) 60.00%
185g White Whole Wheat (King Arthur Flour White Whole Wheat) 40.00%
162g Unsalted European Style Butter (Kerrygold Unsalted) 35.00%
185g Eggs (about 4 large) 40.00%
46g Fine White Sugar 10.00%
148g Whole Milk (cold, from fridge) 32.00%
10g Salt 2.30%
185g Mature, 100% hydration liquid starter 40.00%

Method

I used my Kitchen Aid mixer to mix this brioche dough. It’s possible to mix this all by hand but it gets a little tricky with the added butter. If you choose to do it by hand you could knead the dough in a bowl with a wet hand or even slap/fold on the counter.

1. Incorporation – 8:45am

Take out the butter from the fridge and cut into 1/2” thick pads and place in a small bowl. Let the butter come up to room temperature while mixing the rest of the ingredients.

Add the sugar, eggs (from fridge), milk (from fridge) and mature sourdough starter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk everything together until incorporated.

Add the salt and flour to the mixing bowl. Using the dough hook attachment, mix the dough on STIR (lowest setting) for 3 minutes until all the flour is hydrated and everything is incorporated. The dough should look very shaggy at this point but should not be overly stiff. You might need to add more milk, a little at a time, if the mixture is too dry.

Let the dough rest 10 minutes, covered.

2. Mixing & Butter Incorporation

After the 10 minute rest the dough will be strengthened further before adding the butter.

Mix 4-6 minutes on speed 4 (4 notches above STIR for me on my Kitchen Aid, medium speed) until the dough comes together and starts to pull from the sides of the bowl. It will most likely still stick to the bottom, but you’ll notice the dough will strengthen up and become slightly more smooth.Brioche Hamburger Buns via @theperfectloafButter temperature is important! At this point it should be soft to the touch but not melted (see above, right). It should not be too cold or it won’t incorporate easily, and conversely, if it’s too warm it’ll get greasy and melt. Use the freezer or the microwave (in short increments) to adjust the butter temperature if necessary.

Turn the mixer down to speed 3 and start adding the butter one pad at a time right where the dough hook meets the dough mass. Wait to add the next pad until the previous one is fully incorporated and continue until all the butter is worked into the dough.

Total mixing time for this step could take 8-10 minutes. The dough will still be slightly shaggy (see below) but this is ok because we will perform a couple sets of stretch and folds during bulk to further add strength. Additionally, you can see the dough does not look greasy from any melting butter. If your dough temperature is too high, pop it into the fridge for 15 minutes to help cool it down.Brioche Hamburger Buns via @theperfectloafOnce the butter is added, transfer the dough to a tub or thick-walled bowl for bulk fermentation.

3. Bulk Fermentation – 9:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

As the dough is bulk fermenting on the counter, perform a total of 2 sets of stretch and folds, spaced out by 30 minutes (the first one 30 minutes after you finish mixing). For each set do a letter fold with wet hands (pick up the North side and stretch up and fold over to the South, and so on).

After the second set of stretch and folds, place the covered bulk container into the refrigerator; chilling the dough for 1-2 hours in the fridge will make shaping much, much easier.

Here’s where the flexibility I mentioned earlier comes into play. You can let the dough chill in the fridge for 2 hours like I typically do, or you could leave it in the fridge overnight and shape the buns early in the morning to bake the next day.

4. Divide & Shape – 12:45 p.m.

Brioche Hamburger Buns via @theperfectloafPrepare a full sized baking sheet and another half sheet by lining them with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the fridge and gently dump to a lightly floured work surface. Using a scale and bench knife, divide the dough into 10 pieces. Then, using lightly floured hands, shape each piece into a taught ball.

I find shaping these to be very similar to how I shape pizza dough balls, but another method is to use a single hand and cup the dough ball down against the work surface. Then, move your hand in a small circle slightly pressing down on the dough as it moves around and slightly anchors to the bench (see above). Alternatively, you could shape each ball like you would a boule. Either way, be sure the dough has a fairly taut surface.Brioche Hamburger Buns via @theperfectloafOnce a ball is shaped, place it on the baking sheet so each is spaced out by 3″-4” or so. Using your hand gently flatten out each ball so they increase in diameter just a bit.

Cover the baking sheet with plastic to proof on the counter. I use these large plastic liners to cover my proofing baking sheets, they are even large enough to fit a full sized baking sheet inside.

5. Proof – 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Covered and on the counter at about 73-76ºF, these trays of dough should proof for about 2.5 hours.

Be sure to preheat your oven in the next step about 1 hour before the dough is finished proofing.

6. Bake – Preheat oven at 2:30 p.m., Bake at 3:30 p.m.

Preheat oven for one hour at 475ºF.

Brioche Hamburger Buns via @theperfectloafMake an egg wash by whisking a whole egg and a splash of heavy cream or whole milk. When the dough is ready to be baked, uncover the trays and paint on the egg wash with a pastry brush.

I mixed together 50% white sesame seeds and 50% poppy seeds for the topping of each bun. After the egg wash is applied spread some seeds on top as desired.

You don’t need to bake these on a pizza stone or steel, they’ll bake right on their own baking sheet. I do steam my oven in my usual way for these buns, described here in my post on how to steam your home oven for baking. You could possibly get away with just using a handheld spray bottle, misting the buns several times at the beginning of the bake.

Slide in the baking sheets and turn down the oven to 450ºF. Bake the buns for a total of 20-25 minutes at 450ºF. Remove the steaming pans after 10 minutes. Rotate the trays front to back and top to bottom halfway through the bake if baking both trays at the same time. Do keep an eye on these near the end, they may need more or less time depending on your oven.

Once baked, remove from the oven and let the buns cool on wire racks.

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier, this was the perfect storm of motivation for me to finalize this recipe and grill some hamburgers: the creation of a fermented relish, a holiday weekend approaching, homemade pickles in the fridge, and the pièce de résistance: homemade brioche hamburger buns.Brioche Hamburger Buns via @theperfectloafFor my hamburger I sliced each bun in half and spread on some butter before placing them crumb side down on the grill for a few minutes to get nice and crispy. I mixed up some grass fed beef with a dash of salt and sriracha and grilled each to medium. Then the burgers were topped with my Katz-fermented relish, homemade pickles, avocado, ketchup, and finally enrobed in the grilled buns. Mighty, mighty tasty indeed.

Crust & Crumb

The crust on these buns is crispy but not tough or unduly firm. There’s nothing more off-putting for me than a hamburger bun that’s totally soft and mushy; I want some texture! Happy to say these definitely do deliver, and grilling them for a few minutes with butter further amplifies this.

I like seeds as a topping for these, not only for the added splash of flavor but they add a desirable texture to the top. If you don’t like seeds, or prefer a different type, by all means omit or change the toppings to suit.

Brioche Hamburger Buns via @theperfectloafThe interior is soft and open with a wonderful yellow tint from the white whole wheat flour and rich butter. You definitely don’t want the interior of these to be too open, but even, full, fermentation is key to a light and airy bun. No dense spots and no gaping holes, the middle road.

Taste

With this same-day dough there’s no sourness to be found. I like this for many reasons but you can also play with an overnight retard to build more flavor into the buns themselves if desired. However, to me these are perfect just like this. They add subtle wheat & butter flavor to the overall hamburger, which is just what I wanted: a bun that brings more flavor to the stage without overpowering the meat and condiments. A well tuned concert of flavors and textures.


If something better exists for a weekend by the grill I might not want to hear about it. These burgers were heaven and I’m looking to do a repeat in the next few days. I can now safely say this formula finalizes my question of how to make buns at home.

Nice buns ya got there! Had to say it. Buon appetito and have a happy, and safe, July 4th!





  1. As is the custom here in New Mexico, if it’s not spicy let’s first make it spicy, then figure out the rest of the details.

  • Perfect timing, man. Will definitely make these for the upcoming bbqs.

    • Awesome! The summer of grilling has just begun over here 🙂

  • Allison Louise Bush

    Wow! Can´t wait to try these, I know they will be excellent 🙂

  • Shawn Fields

    This is frickin perfect Maurizio! I’ve been looking for a good brioche bun recipe for like 6 months and I coudn’t think of a better venue for one…. Thank you!!

    • Thanks, Shawn! I really like the whole wheat flour in these, but of course you could use just about any combination of flour as well. Happy baking!

  • Odd Rain

    I’d like to know how you propose to get twelve 120 gram buns from a dough weight of 1200 grams (actually
    1199 grams, according to your ingredients)?

    • Oops, thanks for catching that typo! Should be 10 buns @ 120g each with a total dough weight of 1200g. Regarding the 1199g total, there will be small numerical errors in the listed quantities as I didn’t bring everything out to the second and third decimal point from my spreadsheet and instead rounded up, or down, where appropriate.

      Thanks again and happy baking!

  • Odd Rain

    Also, you ask for four eggs, and their combined weight is 185 grams. My eggs weigh closer to 60 grams per, so is the number of eggs more important than their weight? One more of my eggs changes the hydration of the dough…or is one of the eggs for the egg wash, and only three eggs are used in the dough?

    • Yes, eggs are a tricky thing as each one has a different weight and thus will impart a different hydration on the dough. Four of my eggs came out to just about 185g, but I would just go with 4 eggs and if they weigh less than 185g know you might need a touch more milk to make up the difference. I’d hold back the milk, though, and see how the dough comes together, adding it in if it looks like it could use it.

  • Gina Wallace

    Might make this but use it for brat buns! My go-to Summer barbeque fave!

  • Rosa

    They are absolutely wonderful Maurizio, can’t wait to making theses Brioche Humbuger Buns, P.S. on the ingredients list it says (liquid levain ) and in one of your sentences it says (sourdough starter ) ??😯 which one is it so I can format the recipe and print it😯

    • Thanks, Rosa! Also, thanks for catching that, it should just be starter and not levain — I’ll make the correction. Happy baking!

      • Rosa

        Thank you Maurizio for fixing that and I also see that on the dividing and shaping section on the second sentence you still have 12 pieces it should say cut in 10 pieces I’m sorry but I did see it thought I’d just let you know.😉

  • Joe Giglio

    math math math
    if the total weight of the dough is 1200 grams how do you get 12 buns at 120 grams each? that would requiew 1440 grams of dough!
    I got that far and read no further yet.

    • Thanks for catching that, Joe! @odd_rain:disqus also spotted my typo–I’ve fixed it. It should be 10 buns @ 120g each for a total dough weight of 1200g.

      Happy baking!

  • Michelle Sweeney

    So, made these today… unfortunately I did not get much of a rise.
    I only baked 1/2 of the dough today, and the other half is in the fridge. I will try again tomorrow.

    • Ah, sorry to hear that! Very curious, I’ve made this many times and haven’t had issues with rise, even with the whole wheat. Any indication if the dough might have been under or, more possibly, over proofed? Here’s hoping for better performance on the next batch!

      • Michelle Sweeney

        It was all me. Todays bake was a much better. What a difference a day makes.

        Luckily I had divided the dough in half to save and bake the next day. (Today)
        Patience patience patience- not my best virtue, what a huge difference! Solution distract myself!!!
        I took the dough out of the fridge at 4:30 am, went for a bike ride at 6:30, returned at 9:30 and proof it did! The dough was soft and tacky but easy to work with, and an hour later they supported each other and rose nicely in the oven. Soft and nicely browned I have no doubt they will be delicious!

        • Ha ha, yes patience is almost mandatory with baking 🙂 I have trouble myself sometimes, though — totally normal! Really glad to hear they worked out well for ya!

  • Eric Miller

    Great Job! I can’t wait to make these tomorrow. I love the print options..

    • Awesome! Happy baking and have a great holiday weekend 🙂

  • Matt Weleski

    Thanks Maurizio! I made these today, with some modifications. I can’t digest dairy, so I subbed coconut milk for the whole milk, and Smart Balance spread for the butter. I also used Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour for the 40% whole wheat portion. I suspect the BRM uses a soft wheat berry for that flour instead of a hard wheat, so I was concerned the dough might not have enough strength. It seemed to work though. Shaping was very tricky, I had to be a little more deliberate and generous with the bench flour, but I was able to shape them up using the bench knife to push them around on an unfloured wood board (sprinkled flour on the bench knife to get it to release from the dough ball). End result: smashing success. They were the hit of the grillout today!

    • Hey, Matt — love the substitutions! Gad to hear that the buns turned out awesome for you. I always say the best part of a grill-out is not always the stuff on the grill but the bread that accompanies the meal. Maybe I’m just biased 🙂

      Thanks for sharing and here’s to more awesome bakes!

  • Ai Ling

    Just made these today and I love it! My son asked for seconds so that was awesome. I didn’t have a mixer so mixing by hand was truly tricky. But it was worth it. Like that it can bulk ferment in the fridge as I had to run some errands and ended up leaving them in the fridge for 6+ hours instead of 2 hours. Will definitely make these again.

    • Super, super glad to hear that! The dough is so flexible, and that’s one of the really nice things about it. Happy they turned out well — happy baking!

  • Tee Sing

    Wow, these brioche buns are fantastic, freakin fantastic! Your recipe is easy to follow. I did the fermentation in the fridge because of time constraints. Thanks for the tip about the oven. Mine is running a bit hot so I had to watch them during the last 10 min.
    A hand made burger with all the trimmings and the brioche buns- I’m in heaven.
    Thanks for your recipe and your web site is great.

    Tad
    Toronto, Canada

  • Tee Sing

    Wow, these brioche buns are fantastic. Your recipe is easy to follow. I did the fermentation in the fridge because of time constraints. Thanks for the tip about the oven. Mine is running a bit hot so I had to watch them during the last 10 min.
    A hand made burger with all the trimmings and the brioche buns- I’m in heaven.
    Thanks for your recipe and your web site is great.

    • Tee, thanks I appreciate that! I agree, these take that burger to the next level. You’re welcome and happy baking!

  • Ana Sofia Rocha

    Congrats! Beautiful and perfect as usual. People keep asking me for bread rolls but I think I will be in trouble if I say “I do”… this post may inspire me.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks so much Ana! These would be perfect bread rolls 🙂 Happy baking!

  • Alex

    Hi Maurizio,
    Your recipes are always fantastic! I made this for the holiday and they were a huge hit. Perfect toasted on the grill. They also made good sandwiches using leftover egg salad.
    I have a question about the type of starter. Does it matter whether I use a whole wheat or white flour starter for any given recipe? Having recently acquired a white flour starter, I leave them to ferment side by side and surprisingly, the white flour one seems to ferment faster and bubble more vigorously. It also seems to be more liquid than the WW, does this have anything to do with the flour weight? I feed them each 50 g flour and 50 g water every time.
    Thank you for having a wonderful site to learn from and admire.

    • Awesome Alex, super glad to hear that! Thanks so much for the kind words.

      There are differences to maintaining starters with varying flour types/ratios. The whole wheat starter should ripen quicker than the white flour variety due to the increased nutrition in whole grains, however, they will each vary visually in their fermentation. Typically a whole wheat starter won’t rise as high as a white one in a similar fashion to why whole wheat bread doesn’t rise as high as a bread made with predominantly white flour. The amount of hydration in the culture will also cause visual differences between the two (also keep in mind if you use the same amount of water the WW starter will absorb quite a bit more and will be more stiff, therefore won’t be as “frothy” on top).

      Hope this helps and happy baking!

      • Alex

        Thanks for being such a knowledgable resource!
        I’m thinking of converting the whole wheat to a 65% stiff starter, but how would you adjust the recipe that calls for a liquid starter? Would the levain build formula (for other breads, not the brioche) still be 100-100? Or 100-65? If so, then would i adjust the recipe to accomodate the 35 grams of water?

        • You’re very welcome 🙂 If you were making a levain, yes, you’d adjust the levain build to use less water (65g water, 100g flour, mature starter at some percentage) and then compensate for that lack of water in the final mix by adding in what’s missing. That’s it!

          For this recipe I don’t really build a levain, I just use some of my starter, but you could definitely do so if you’d like or schedule necessitates it.

  • Rita G

    Thank you for another out of bounds recipe. These were the star of the cookout! Everyone loved them. I appreciate your dedication to the website. I imagine it takes much time and energy in order to share your amazing recipes – not just recipes – your passion. The community you’ve created is rich and greatly valued. Thank you.

    • You’re very welcome, Rita! I’m pleased to hear they turned out so well for you — they’ve become a staple around here.

      I’ve met some incredible people through this site and I love the community and sharing nature it seems every baker has that stops by — it’s been an awesome journey. Here’s to the future!

  • Lynne A. Montgomery

    Maurizio, thank you so much for the bun recipe. Your detailed instructions helped me to make the buns perfectly. We ate buns while they were still warm; they are SO much better than anything store bought. I think your method of adding the butter one pat at a time while they are still cool enough to be solid, is what made the recipe work so well. I look forward to serving these to guests next. 🙂

    • Lynne, thanks so much for the feedback, I’m glad they worked out so well! I totally agree, these blow store bought buns out of the water, they’re not even comparable. Thanks again and happy baking!

  • gerar2par2

    Brioche has a minimum butter to flour content of 40%, if not it’s pain brioché.

    • Thanks for that info! Technically this wouldn’t be strict brioche, then, but perhaps it’s close enough 🙂

  • Susan Hoyer

    How long have you pushed the cold retard? I’d like to make these for an event, but I would need to bake them the next day when I get home from work. So about 20 hours after putting the dough together…excited to try them though!

    • I haven’t pushed it that far, but it’s definitely possible. You could try cutting back the warm bulk fermentation on the counter by 30 minutes or 1 hour, this would give the dough more “life” in the fridge to last longer before taking it out to finish the rest of the process.

      Happy baking and enjoy!

  • Carl H. Saebel

    Have you tried freezing them?
    Any ideas for a vegan approach?

    Maurizio I am in love with the spelt sourdough recipe! I still figuring out what’s the sweet spot for whole grains and white flour with the brands over here in Germany but man it’s the best bread I had in my life anyway!

    I appreciate your artwork of baking and sharing it so beautifully! Grateful regards

    • Hey, Carl! I have not personally tried freezing the dough. I have a feeling it would work, though, as brioche dough is pretty forgiving. I’m not very experienced with vegan substitutes but you could try omitting the butter and using olive oil instead. Of course it’d have a different flavor, but it might just work.

      Really happy to hear you’re enjoying my spelt recipe! It’s also one of my favorites — I really believe spelt (along with kamut) will always be stocked over here 🙂

      Thanks for the comments and happy baking, Carl!

  • Emma

    Hi Maurizio!
    I’ve just discovered your website a few days ago and I’m enjoying it a lot, so much that I decided to make these buns yesterday for today’s ‘barbie’ :-D. I made the dough yesterday, mixed organic white flour with manitoba, to add some strength, and also wholemeal. I did 1.5 the quantity (we were quite a lot!) and after mixing in the KA I couldn’t help a bit of Bertinet kneading, to feel the dough and really get the texture I felt confortable with. I let the dough on the fridge during the night and took it out early, let it get some temperature for one hour and then sized 16 100g buns. Let them raise for 3 hours, painted with egg, some white and black sesame seeds and to the oven in two batches. They came out beautifully, incredible how you can see them raise inside the oven (I had my doubts, since they hadn’t raised quite much during the 3 previous hours). Crumb was just as in your photos, not too thick and not very open, perfect to hold the burger. Flavour excellent, A real success!! Thanks a lot for the recipe and for the clear steps that make so easy to follow it.

    • Emma — fantastic! Your process sounds right on, and yes, sometimes it seems like there’s not much going on in the fridge but you’ll still almost always get a nice rise in the morning (plus more flavor and crust coloring). Thanks for the feedback and here’s to more future bakes!

  • Nicolas Ghantous

    hello there..baked mine today yet the first batch burned only 20 minutes baking the second batch got too dark after only 16.5 minutes also cracked bottom..any suggestion?

    • Ahh, bummer! I’d suggest you reduce the temperatures I have listed here by 25-50°F the next try. Each oven, and environment, is different and sometimes requires modifications.

      These buns have never come close to burning, nor cracking, in my oven. Have you ensured the temp in your oven is what’s set? Sometimes they deviate over time!

      • Nicolas Ghantous

        as per recipe preheat at 475 n baked at 450..I think my oven is no good…will try to lower the temperature next time..do you think they cracked because of high temperature? Thankful as usual

        • I’ve never seen cracking — perhaps it was a lack of steam? If it was more like a “rupture” it could be lack of steam or also slightly under proofed. Just some guesses!

          • Thomas Sievers

            Hi Maurizio and Nicolas,
            I’ve just baked a set of 5 (fisrt time doing this recipe) and I had the same problem (2 of them cracked).
            In those 2, the egg wash didn’t have milk (an experience). Other wise, the 3 whith egg wash + milk ended up great.
            I also didn’t put too much steam, which I think was a problem.
            Thanks for the tips!!
            Take care!