A salt free version of King Arthur Baking's Beautiful Burger Buns. These are soft and fluffy and have less than 5 mg of sodium per bun. For a little extra fiber, substitute 25% of the flour for whole wheat flour. Try them with low sodium pickles and low sodium barbecue sauce, ketchup, and/or mayo-mustard. Heinz also makes a sodium-free ketchup, and Westbrae has a sodium-free mustard (link to both from my Pantry Favorites page). I've found both at local grocery stores, but you can also get them online at Heart Healthy Market.
Servings: 16 small buns (about 3-3.5 inches in diameter)
Sodium: <5 mg per bun
Time: About 45 minutes active, 2-3 hours inactive.
418 g (3 1/2 cups) all purpose flour (see below for whole wheat)
37 g (3 tablespoons) sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable, canola, or olive oil
1 large egg
236 g (1 cup) water, room temperature
Optional seed topping:
2 tablespoons of any combination of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced garlic, or minced onion (I use them all)
Egg wash ingredients:
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water
Notes on ingredients and substitutions:
-For whole wheat buns: to add a little fiber, use 300 g (about 2 1/2 cups) all purpose flour, and 113 g (about 1 cup) whole wheat flour. The rest of the recipe remains unchanged. The only difference I found with using some whole wheat is that the buns don't get as puffy when they proof in step 5. They bake up a little bit flatter but they're still very moist and fluffy inside.
-Use a little less water: the King Arthur recipe calls for 3/4 - 1 cup of lukewarm water and instructs you to use the lesser amount in humid climates, and greater amount in drier climates. I'm in a drier climate but even when it's a (rare) humid day here, I still go with the full 1 cup of water. I do notice the dough is just a bit stickier but the result is a lighter, fluffier bun even if it's a little harder to knead. If you're not comfortable with a slacker dough then start with 3/4 cup water.
-For a richer, more buttery bun, substitute 2 tablespoons of softened butter for oil and substitute the water with up to 170 g ( 3/4 cup) of milk, and 56 g (1/4 cup) of water. In other words, you want 1 cup of liquid total, and 3/4 of that can be milk. I've tried substituting all the water for milk and the dough was really hard to work with. Use any milk you like but I've found that only 2% or whole milk make a difference in the flavor. This substitution will, of course, increase the sodium in the buns depending on the milk you use.
-Sugar: the original recipe also calls for 4 tablespoons of sugar, but I've found very little difference in flavor by cutting it down to 3 tablespoons. Cut the sugar to 2 tablespoons and there is a noticeable difference in flavor.
-Toppings: the seed mixture I like to use on these buns is basically an "everything but the bagel" mix without the salt. I always have some on hand because it's so good on a sandwich, eggs, noodles, even salads. Just mix equal parts toasted white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried minced garlic, and dried minced onions.
1) Combine all dough ingredients and let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes. The dough will be a bit sticky when first mixed.
2) Knead the dough by hand, mixer, or bread machine until it is soft and smooth. I do this by hand on a lightly oiled work surface and it takes me about 10-12 minutes. If you're kneading by hand, the dough can be a little sticky when you first start kneading but try not to add additional flour. Instead, just keep kneading and scrape the dough off your hands occasionally with a plastic scraper, or add just a little oil to your hands periodically. The dough will get easier to handle as you knead. Once it's ready, cover the dough and let it rise for 1-2 hours, until doubled in size. My dough is usually done rising after an hour. This picture shows the dough just after kneading, and then an hour later after it has doubled in size.
3) Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide into 16 pieces. First divide the dough into 4 pieces, and then shape each of those 4 pieces into a round disc. Then divide each round disc into 4 smaller pieces.
4) Shape each piece into a bun. Here are two different ways to shape your buns:
Each piece should be about 3-3.5 inches in diameter, and about 1/2 inch thick.
5) Place the buns on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with a dry kitchen towel, and let the buns rise for 40-60 minutes until they are puffy. Here they are puffed up after about 45 minutes.
Here are the whole wheat buns after proofing (and topping), note how they don't get quite as puffy as the buns made with only all purpose flour.
6) About 20 minutes before the buns have completed their final rise, preheat the oven to 375°F.
7) Apply the egg wash-whisk together 1 whole egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Right before baking, lightly brush the egg wash over each bun with a pastry brush. Sprinkle seed toppings on each bun. If you don't want to add seeds, brush with just the egg wash, milk, butter, or nothing at all.
7) Bake the buns for 10-12 minutes until golden and let cool on a wire rack. The picture on the left is made with all purpose flour, on the right 25% whole wheat and 75% all purpose flour.
-Use a scale to measure the ingredients whenever possible, especially flour. If you don't have a scale, King Arthur Baking has this great video on how to measure flour accurately.
-A note on kneading. Dough is tricky and there are so many variables that affect how your dough turns out. If you find the dough is too sticky to handle, flour your hands and work surface with 1 tablespoon of flour to knead it. The dough will get dryer and easier to handle as you continue kneading, so resist the urge to keep adding more flour or you'll end up with a very dry, dense bun. The dough is properly kneaded if it springs back after you poke it, and it doesn't tear when you pull on it. Here's another helpful video from King Arthur Baking.