I’ll start by quoting Wikipedia:
“There have been many claims about the origin of the hamburger. The earliest known report in a newspaper is from July 5, 1896, when the Chicago Daily Tribune made a highly specific claim regarding a “hamburger sandwich” in an article about a “Sandwich Car”: ‘A distinguished favorite, only five cents, is Hamburger steak sandwich, the meat for which is kept ready in small patties and ‘cooked while you wait’ on the gasoline range.'”
No matter who invented the burger, let’s get one thing straight. It’s a wonderful dish and just because it can be prepared quickly doesn’t mean the work put behind it doesn’t take time. I want my burger made from fat beef, and to have a sweet sauce on it. And a fresh bun. All the rest you might put on there is a bonus.
For 6 buns you need:
- 1,5 dl of full milk
- 1 dl of water
- 40 g of unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- 280-330 g of flour (depends on the flour)
- 5 g of active dried yeast
- 20 g of sugar
- 5 g of salt
- Some more flour to put on your work surface
This is how you make the buns…
- Into a casserole, over medium heat, heat up the milk, the water, and the butter to 50°C. If the temperature is too low, the yeast won’t activate, and if the temperature is too high, the yeast will die when you pour the mixture over it.
- Pour the flour, the yeast, the sugar and the salt into a big bowl. Mix it up.
- Incorporate the warm liquids into the dry mix.
- Add the egg. Keep stirring.
- When the dough becomes homogeneous, pour some flour onto your work surface, and start kneading it until the dough becomes tacky and elastic. Stretch out the dough in the shape of a baguette. If it shrinks a little, like a rubber band, it means you kneaded it enough.
- Cut the dough into 6 equally big pieces. Shape them into balls, then flatten them with the palm of your hand to obtain buns of approximately 7-8 cm in diameter.
- Let the buns rest in room temperature about an hour or until they’ve doubled in size. If you have time, let them rest over night in the refrigerator instead. It will give the yeast time to develop the flavors, making the buns taste better.
- Preheat the oven to 225°C (if you have a hot air oven, a little higher)
- Cook the buns for 10 minutes. After half the time (5 minutes) open the oven and throw a glass of water into it. The cold water quickly lowers the temperature for a brief moment, so that the buns get nicely cooked on the inside without burning on the outside. It will also moisturizes the air in the oven, giving the buns a better surface. Remember not to drench the actual buns in water, throw it under the tray, on the bottom of the oven.
- Now take the buns out, cover them to soften them (if you don’t they will develop a crust, and I don’t want that but maybe you do)
For the caramelized red onion sauce you need:
- 4 red onions
- 1 star anis
- 250 ml of tomato sauce (passata di pomodoro, usually a can)
- 100 grams of sugar (about 1 dl)
- 25 grams of balsamic vinegar (about 1/4 dl)
- Salt to taste
- Some olive oil
This is how you make the sauce:
- Thinly slice the onions
- Add olive oil and the star anis. The star anis will give it a wonderful flavor that works excellent with meat.
- Fry the onions in the olive oil together with the star anis until the onions caramelize, meaning the sugars in the onion turn them brownish and it all smells wonderful. If it smells burned, you burned it! Lower the heat!
- Add the sugar, we want this to be sweet.
- Add the tomato sauce
- Let it simmer for at least an hour. Don’t cover it, we want liquid to evaporate and make it all thick and nice.
- Add the vinegar to balance the sweetness with some acidity.
- When it’s thick and darkened, the sauce is ready. Now add some salt to taste.
For the cheese you need:
- Well, cheese. One that melts nicely. I use cheddar.
This is how you melt cheese (I know you know how to, but this way is a little special):
- Pour water into a pot.
- Place some kind of heightened plate in it, so you can put things in there without them being under water. Alternatively, you can have less water and use containers with high edges. The problem is that they might break when standing directly on the hot bottom of the pot.
- Grate cheese and place it in a heat proof container.
- Put the container in there, and cover the pot. It will melt and keep hot, but never dry out because of the steam. You can prepare tons of perfectly melted cheese, and use it just before serving.
For the burger you need:
- Minced meat from a fat part of the cow. Don’t use lean meat, it will render dry burgers. I use minced meat from chuck steak. (150 grams per burger)
- Butter to fry the burgers in (or grill them if it’s grill season, but then brush the burgers with butter before and after grilling them to get that buttery flavor)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
This is how you fry a burger:
Some people like their burgers rare. Surprisingly enough, it’s far more common for “fine burgers” to be rare in Europe than in the US – motherland of burgers. My guess is that for a long time, Europeans have seen burgers as “bad fast-food”. When we started to make “finer burgers”, we used “finer cuts of meat”. Which… Well, happened to be the leaner parts. To make it less dry, we had them made rare. Or we’re just idiots. Or it’s just our preference. I don’t know, but I want my burgers well done and juicy. Five Guys knows how to combine those two criteria, so so can I.
- Heat up a pan with a lot of butter in it.
- Make nice burger patties.
- Fry them.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
As for the bacon…
- Heat up a dry pan.
- Put the bacon there, and fry it on both sides.
- Put it on some paper, and let the fat drain.
- You’re left with crispy bacon!
- Cut a bun
- Put a burger on there.
- The wonderful melted cheese.
- The wonderfully sweet sauce.
- The crispy bacon.
- Put the top part of the bun in the melted butter you fried the burgers in, to give it some extra flavor.
- And you’re ready to serve it or just it it right then and there!