I’ve been feeling a little… uninspired lately.
I hate to admit this because I’ve always been one who wants to put forth her very best, in all circumstances — whether at my job, in my relationships or in the kitchen. If I’m not feeling that natural sense of ambition or creativity, I chalk it up to a funk and try to fix it before I let anyone see the imperfections.
I hate to admit this because it means that, yes, from time to time, even this blog suffers the consequences of a worn-out, stressed-out me. Sometimes, it takes a lot of energy to whip up a recipe, type up a blog post and share it with the world. I so love every aspect of this process, but even things we love can bring along a little drudgery from time to time.
This often happens to me when there’s impending change in my life — not just the difference between what I ate for breakfast versus dinner, or a rainy day versus a sunny one, but real, permanent change. The kind of change that scares me; the kind where I don’t know what’s on the other side. The kind where I don’t have any — gulp — control. When that happens, or is about to happen, I can’t think about much else.
I share this with you because, well, the cat’s out of the bag: Elliott and I are moving back to the Chicago area once he graduates in June. We’re really excited about the move, but it was a bittersweet decision, to be sure. These past two years in Iowa City have been altogether wonderful, daunting, exciting, exhausting, surprising, stressful, refreshing, difficult and above all, truly life-changing. I think I’ve learned more about myself here than I did in all of college. I really mean that. Moving out completely on your own into the world will do that to you.
But now it’s time to go home.
I made these burger buns over the weekend, as Elliott and I made our finally final decision (it was a looooooong process) on where we would root ourselves in this next phase. It was therapeutic — kneading the soft dough, twisting it into coiled rolls, topping it with a flurry of crunchy seeds — knowing that whether I made this recipe here or elsewhere, the results would always be the same. I’m not sure what lies ahead for us when we move next month — maybe a lot of hardship, maybe more happiness, who knows — but what I do know is that I’ve got a good history of adventures to fall back on that remind me that, in the end, things will turn out pretty OK. And that is inspiration enough.
Seeded Brioche Hamburger Buns
Adapted oh-so-slightly from Smitten Kitchen
Yields: 8 4 to 5-inch hamburger buns
3 tablespoons warm milk
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
seeds, such as sesame seeds, poppyseeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. (optional)
In a small bowl, whisk together milk, yeast and sugar with 1 cup warm water. Let stand 5 minutes or until foamy.
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fixed with paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add butter and rub with fingers or blend with a dough blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add yeast mixture and 1 egg and stir until a dough forms. Remove dough from bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, elastic and slightly sticky, about 10 minutes (the dough should be slightly stickier than you’re used to with yeast breads so the buns don’t get too tough); OR, replace paddle attachment with dough hook and knead on medium speed, adding more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until dough begins to pull away from sides of the bowl and is smooth, elastic and slightly sticky, about 5-6 minutes.
Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl; cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Remove risen dough from bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Gently roll each dough piece into a 6 to 7-inch long rope; coil rope around itself into a bun and secure the end with your finger dipped in a bit of water. Place buns about two inches apart on parchment paper or silicone mat-lined baking sheets. Cover loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, set a large roasting pan filled with 1 inch of water on the lowest rack of the oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with another rack in the center. Beat remaining egg with a splash of water and brush on top of risen buns. Sprinkle with seeds, if desired. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through baking, until buns are a deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing.