I really like a good hot dog! Way back when I lived in Los Angeles I had all the routes to Pinks Hot Dogs on La Brea Boulevard memorized. My favorite was a kosher dog loaded with chili, sauerkraut, onion, and sweet pickle relish.
When it comes to the dog itself more artisan butchers are producing lovely sausages these days and one can still fall back on Nathan’s in a pinch. The problem for me has most often been the bun – soft, too short, little flavor. I’ve baked a lot of bread in my life but my experimental rolls for hot dogs were too flat and hard to separate. A while back I saw a pan for a New England style hot dog pan but the resulting shape was ‘wrong’ to my eye and in any case I am not willing to buy such a specialized pan.
It must have been my recent obsession with baguette baking that finally inspired the idea I had last week. Could I create a pan with the same channels as a baguette pan? Yep. I used foil and it worked so well I mostly wonder why the hell it took me so long to think of it.
So here is the pan;
And here is the recipe: The commercial buns that seem to have the most heft and texture all call themselves ‘potato’ buns. I decided to see if instant potatoes (a brand with no flavorings or additional ingredients) would work. (Next time I’ll use fresh potato to see any difference. I’ll boil 1 medium raw grated potato in the ½ cup water.)
6 Cups flour (I used 4 cups all-purpose and 2 cups white whole wheat)
1 TBLS sugar or honey
1 TBLS salt
1 TBLS yeast
8 oz unsalted butter melted (or lard or olive oil)
½ Cup instant potato flake
2 Cups warm milk
½ Cup warm water (maybe more if you use more whole wheat flour)
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl and mix well. I let the mix sit for 10 min or so before kneading it just to see if I need to add more flour or water; you want a fairly firm dough. Then I knead the dough for 8-10 minutes adding as little flour as possible.
Let the dough rise in a greased bowl covered with clear wrap and draped with a towel for at least an hour and a half.
In the meantime create your baking pan. Use heavy duty foil folded in an accordion pleat. Lay the foil in the pan, separate the sections and crimp the outside rim to the cookie sheet. Keep the top edges of each section an inch or so above the rim of the cookie sheet. Spray the pan sections with cooking spray. Have another cookie sheet ready to use as a lid for the pan during the first part of the baking.
When the dough has doubled, punch it down and divide it in half with the bench scraper. Put one half aside for the second batch. My ‘pan’ turned out to have 7 sections so I divided my dough into 7 pieces. Flatten each dough piece and tightly roll it into a log stretching it to make sure it will be long enough for your sausage after it has risen. Cover the formed rolls lightly with clear wrap and a towel and let rise for a half an hour. Set the oven to 375 degrees.
When the rolls are almost doubled in size gently remove the clear wrap and cover the whole pan with an upside down cookie sheet. This keeps the tops of the rolls from browning too fast. After 20 min in the oven remove the top cookie sheet and finish the baking for another 5 minutes.
Cool on a rack. When the pan is mostly cooled down form the second batch, let them rise and do the whole thing over again.
These hot dog buns can be frozen for several weeks.