We gladly fat our Tuesday for your hamburger today.


Unlike certain other sidekicks, Michelle is not usually a big fan of hamburgers. While the humble burger is usually held forth as an American icon, for Michelle it holds multiple potential failure points. The bun could be too toasted, too wet, too gummy or too stale. At a restaurant, it could arrive “dressed” with limp, lukewarm (possibly worm-carrying) lettuce, or perhaps a pale and/or tasteless tomato slice. The meat could be greasy, gamey, dry, or simply dull. Additionally, Michelle disdains the idea of adding cheese—something that, like quitting cigarettes, may have helped doom yet another Louisville-based business. Needless to say, hamburgers haven’t appeared on Gourmandistan’s tables too often. Then Steve started making things more unhealthy, and Michelle became more interested in burgers.

It started with the buns. This past Tuesday Steve decided to branch out from Bernard Clayton and see what could be found in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. He felt called by “Variation I” of Peter Reinhart’s “White Breads: Three Multipurpose Variations.” Steve played along nicely for the first part, even weighing ingredients instead of measuring and trying to pass the “windowpane test.” But he rebelled at the “mist the dough lightly with spray oil” part of the process. Ill-fated atomizers way back when literally left us with a bad taste in our mouths along with hopelessly gommed-up gadgets, and we’re not about to buy some highly suspect supermarket product. Instead, Steve greased his dough balls with lard at each stage of proofing and shaping. The result, he felt, were buns with a dark, slightly tough crust that felt wonderful in the hand and tasted even better in the mouth.

Hamburger buns

The buns’ first night had them holding lamb burgers, made from some surplus grind we had sitting around after a recent experiment (hopefully soon to be reported) with yet another dim sum. The lamb burgers were fine, but Michelle loved the lard-lashed buns so much she demanded another round the following night. Little did she realize the lard was just the first fat Steve would deploy to make the perfect burger.

On Wednesday Michelle came home bearing ground sirloin and bison, the two best-looking meats she could find at the nearby Whole Foods-ish market that sadly isn’t Whole Foods. Thinking the meat looked a bit lean for his taste, Steve decided to kick a bit of duck fat into the meat mix along with some salt and pepper.

Duck fat

Michelle split the day-old buns and loaded in yet more lipids by spreading them with butter, toasting, then smearing one buttery side with mayonnaise before inserting Steve’s “juicy” (OK, fat-laden) burgers. We topped the burgers with some onions caramelized in olive oil. (Is that another fat? Why yes it is!) And we had a yummy, juicy, surprisingly un-greasy hamburger that was possibly the best we’ve ever tasted.

Remember to save your fat, folks. It will, unlike Wimpy, most likely reward you in the future.



  • Servings: makes 12-14 buns
  • Print

(adapted from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice)

  • 21.5 oz. (4-3/4 c.) unbleached bread flour
  • .38 oz. (1-1/2 t.) salt
  • 1.33 oz. (1/4 c.) powdered milk
  • 1.66 oz. (3-1/4 TB) sugar
  • .22 oz. (2 t.) instant yeast
  • 1.65 oz. (1 large) egg, slightly beaten
  • 1.66 oz. (3-1/4 TB) room-temperature butter
  • Between 13 and 14 oz. (1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups) tepid water
  • A bit of lard (or other fat)
  • 1 egg whisked with 1 t. water
  • Sesame seeds

Mix the flour, salt, powdered milk, sugar and yeast together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the egg, butter and about 1-1/2 cups of water. Mix with paddle attachment, adding additional water if necessary, until the dough becomes soft and supple.

Replace paddle attachment with dough hook. Using a bit more flour if necessary, knead the dough for several minutes until it becomes smooth and slightly elastic.

Grease a large bowl with lard, then cover your hands with the stuff and smear it over the dough ball. Place the greased ball in the greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

Remove the dough from the bowl and separate into 3-ounce pieces, rolling them into round balls with lard-greased hands. Place the balls on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and press down lightly to form squat, slightly flattened shapes. Let the dough rest for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Brush the buns with the egg/water froth, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.


  1. This is a wonderful post!! I even read it out loud to Yes!Chef! And he was very excited about it, giving you guys a double thumbs up!He grinds his own blend of hamburger and now he wants to add duck fat to his mix! He always says, “fat equals flavor” and you do not need too much to get wonderful flavor.

  2. There is nothing more tragic than a dry piece of meat on a soggy or overly doughy bun. But — praise the lard! — this hamburger looks amazing. Wish I had one in front of me right now!

  3. If you are going to eat burgers, decadence is in order! I only eat those I’ve made myself, but never tried adding ‘bird fat’, I say this because I’m going to try this with my goose fat as it’s packed with flavour. Buns look great too. Thanks for the ideas!

  4. rrwriter

    Do you think the powdered milk is utterly (or udderly) necessary? I’m afraid of that stuff, for a variety of reasons. But on the other hand, I have been desperately trying out bun recipes for quite a while and have disliked every single result. Curious about your Gourmandistani take on the purposes and utility of that powdered white.

    • Rona: I am not the family bread maker, but… I understand it has something to do with wanting the benefits of milk (brown crust, soft crumb) but without the added water and potential problems with yeast-inhibiting bacteria that can be present in milk.

    • I’m really surprised he didn’t. I actually got the entirety of Steve’s fat collection out of the ‘fridge (which included both of those) to see if I could come up with a photo idea. But I figured only you and Steve would be really interested in such a thing. 😉

  5. Buns are so often over-looked in Burgerdom. They are every bit as important as the beef. Although I bake my own from a KAF recipe, Steve’s recipe sounds delicious and is one I have to try. Just have to find some good lard. All I ever see is the hydrogenated stuff. I just have to look a little harder, that’s all. 🙂

    • Of course, wouldn’t you know Steve renders his own lard? It is easy to do. Just a bit time-consuming. Probably easier to find some pig fat from a nice butcher than to find the non-industrial stuff.

  6. I so want to eat your burgers and buns! I have just ordered some nonfat dry milk so I can get serious about baking all these ‘Murican breads and I can’t WAIT to try this buns recipe! Will report back.

  7. Lovely buns! Lard-lashed? Duck fat? I’m in!

    It sounds like you are a harsh critic of hamburgers rather than not a fan. But disdain of cheese in burgers!? Cheese should be compulsory!

    Your meat and onion burgers look great but are a little too simple for my tastes. I like a tower that is embarrassing to eat and requires unhinging your jaw to bite into.

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