3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
1 large egg
3 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (use 1-2 cups white whole wheat flour, if desired)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 tablespoons butter, plus more for the baking sheet
1. Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients except for the melted butter by hand, mixer, or bread machine until a soft, smooth dough forms. Cover the dough and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it’s nearly doubled in bulk.
2. Gently deflate the dough and divide it into 12 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball, then flatten it to a squat round blob about 2 1/2 inches across. (Another easy way to shape buns, besides rolling them into balls and flattening, is to gently deflate the dough and form it into a smooth 8-inch log. Using a serrated knife, slice the log into 12 pieces. Gently tug the edges of each piece underneath the ball of dough to form a squat ball.) Place the buns on a lightly buttered or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy.
3. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
4. Brush the buns with about half the melted butter (will give your burger buns a soft, light golden crust) and bake until golden, 12 to 18 minutes. As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, brush them with the remaining melted butter, which will lend the buns a satiny, buttery crust. Place the buns on a wire rack to cool completely.
Seeded Burger Buns Variation
If you’d like sesame or poppy seeds sprinkled atop your buns, brush the buns with the egg wash rather than the melted butter prior to baking as it’ll make the seeds adhere. Sprinkle the buns with the seeds and bake as instructed. (When you separate the egg, feel free to add the extra egg yolk to the dough for slightly richer results.)
Bread Loaf Variation
Follow the recipe through the first rise. Shape the whole batch of dough into 1 loaf and bake it in a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan for about 30 minutes at 350°F, or until it is browned, sounds hollow when tapped, and tests 190°F to 200°F in the middle. You may need to tent the top with foil if it starts to get too brown. If you don’t like sweet bread, you can reduce the sugar to 2 tablespoons or even 1 tablespoon with no other changes to the recipe.
Buns Size Variation
For slightly larger buns, divide the dough into 8 pieces instead of 12 and bake the buns for 15 to 18 minutes. And for those wee slider buns—about 3 inches in diameter–divvy the dough into 24 pieces and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
Darker, Shinier Buns
Brushing the buns with an egg white wash made of 1 large egg white beaten with 1/4 cup cold water before baking. There is no need to also brush the buns after baking as you do with the butter