Sandwiches range from really good to really bad. From chipotle chicken and juicy pineapple chunks smothered with tomato sauce and stuffed between two pieces of foccacia to, well, something far less exciting. The secret to a great sandwich is not as much the filling as the bread. Bread can make or break a sandwich. Bread shouldn’t just be a vehicle for tuna salad. It should be a fully equipped sandwichmobile.
Sandwiches are named after John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. Although it’s debatable about how the sandwich was invented, most historians believe that the Earl would ask servents to bring him slices of meat inside two pieces of bread so that he could eat while playing cards with his friends. His friends often asked for the same snack and later served “sandwiches” themselves at their parties.
What was once so regal is now often eaten in school cafeterias and on road trips. At least sometimes they have those neat toothpicks with the colourful plastic on top. Those toothpicks are unfortunately sometimes the highlight of the entire sandwich eating experience.
One of the best breads for sandwich making is challah, pronounced [HA-la]. Challah is a fluffy, egg-enriched bread that’s known for its softness. It’s sweetened with honey instead of sugar and is perfect just for eating alone, for sandwiches, and for the best French toast. Seriously, the best French toast. The day after I made these buns I cut them in half, soaked them in cream, egg, and some cinnamon and pan-fried them. It was great.
Challah can be so much more than French toast though. It can turn your weekend BBQ from drab to fab. This bread is perfect for chicken, beef, pork, really anything you want. It’s made the same way as regular challah bread except instead of dividing the dough into three ropes that are braided together for the classic challah loaf, the dough is formed into more manageable buns.
When I first made challah, a few years ago, I misread the recipe. I added an extra egg and therefore ended up adding a whole lot more flour than the recipe called for just so that the dough would not be a sticky mess. I lucked out though, because the dough was super easy to work with and made the best challah I’ve ever had. I’m sharing the amazingly delicious adjusted recipe with you guys.
This bread is really simple to put together and you can even use all-purpose flour. If you’re just starting to bake bread, this is an relatively simple beginner bread that tastes amazing. None of that fancy bread flour is necessary, although if you have some laying around feel free to use it instead. The dough doesn’t stick, is easy to knead, and is simple to form into buns. There is a secret though to shaping buns, whether for dinner rolls or for hamburger patties. If you just take a piece of dough and roll it, your buns will rise unevenly and become deformed (not to mention not very tasty).
Instead of rolling buns, you want to pinch them. Using the edges of your hands pinch and turn the dough so that the top stretches to make a smooth covering and the bottom is pinched together. The top of the dough will stretch and keep the air in as the buns proof. Never roll the dough, pinch the dough instead. This becomes clearer when you actually have a piece of dough in front of you.
I used these buns to make southwest chicken sandwiches with crispy chicken, plump tomatoes, rich avocado, melted cheese, and southwest sauce. To make it even better, you could toast the buns in chive butter. Do whatever you want with yours, but make sure it’s awesome. These buns deserve awesome. You deserve these buns.
A recipe for challah, except in hamburger bun form. You can use this recipe for regular challah as well. This bread has an extra egg for added flavour.
For the challah:
6 2/5 cups (~800g) bread flour, or more all-purpose flour
1¼ cups (310ml) warm water (around 100°F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
¼ cup (85g) honey
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ cup (60ml) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten for brushing
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
Prepare the challah:
Mix ¼ cup of flour, the yeast, the warm water, and the sugar together in a large bowl. Let stand until the yeast is foamy, around 5 minutes. Whisk in the honey, oil, eggs, and salt. Add the rest of the flour, about a cup at a time, until the mixture thickens. When it does, knead while adding in the rest of the flour or until the dough is only slightly sticky. Knead about five minutes or until smooth. Let the dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a clean bowl until it doubles (about two hours). Punch the dough down and knead for about five minutes on a lightly floured surface. You may need to add more flour. Divide the dough into eight pieces, and turn and pinch the dough using the edges of your hands. You want to stretch the top of the dough so it meets at the bottom using the edges of your hands. Do not roll the dough into a sphere. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, cover with a dish cloth, and let rise until doubled in size (about one and a half hours). Brush with the lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 325°F until golden brown, around 40 minutes. If the top is browning too quickly, tent it with tinfoil. Once you take it out of the oven, knock on the bottom of the bread. If it sounds hollow, it’s ready. If not, place it back into the oven.