Although I miss the gastronomical variety found in my country of origin and the UK, I am thankful that I have acquired the skills and the freedom to make my own creations in the country I love. Although I grow sadder and sadder each day, I am beyond thankful for everything I have been able to do and will do while in Europe. I have had a taste of my ultimate dream, and it will forever linger on my tongue. Although I pray every day that I will be able to return here soon, I need to remind myself to enjoy and appreciate the time I have left, in other words, the here-and-now.
Italian Inspired Burgers
(not really a recipe. Just a list of what I used to make the burger.)
1/2 kilo or 1 lb of ground beef or turkey
The following to taste: seasoning salt (Lawry’s!), pepper, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basilico, pepperoncini, fontina, and pancetta cubes
Mushrooms sautéed in butter or oil until soft and brownish
Lettuce, mayo, or whatever extra fixings you prefer
Mix the seasonings, cheese, and pancetta cubes into the ground turkey or beef. Do not overmix! Form 2-4 patties (depending on how big you want them). Cook the burgers to your desired doneness, and sautée the mushrooms while the burgers cook. Place additional cheese (if using) on top of the burgers during the final 1-2 minutes of cooking. Once the cheese has melted, transfer the burgers to a paper towel to remove excess grease (unless you prefer grease-soaked, burger buns). Place the mushrooms on top and any other fixings you prefer, and enjoy!
Hamburger Buns/Light Brioche Buns
1 cup (250 ml) warm water (~100 degrees F/38 degrees C) (I do not have a thermometer here, so I know it is ready if I can swirl my finger around in the warm water without feeling too uncomfortable.)
3 Tbsp (44 ml) warm milk
2 tsp (7 gms) active dry yeast (or 25 g/one cube of fresh yeast)
2 1/2 Tbsp (28 gms) granulated or caster sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups (381 gms) bread flour (farina di grano tenero per pane)
1/3 cup (42 gms) all-purpose or wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp (7.5 gms) table salt
2 1/2 Tbsp (35 gms) unsalted butter, softened
Sesame seeds (optional)
- Yeast Activation and Variation: If using active, dry yeast or fresh yeast: In a glass-measuring cup or a bowl, combine warm water, milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until bubbly for about five minutes. If there is no bubbling/foamy activity after 4-5 minutes, the yeast is most likely dead due to hot water or accidental introduction of salt. DO NOT PROCEED with the recipe, if the yeast is dead. Just start over. It is better to lose these 4 ingredients than to lose all that flour, butter, and time waiting for the dead dough to rise (it won’t…at least not enough). If using instant yeast: simply mix ALL ingredients, except for sesame seeds, together. There is no need to leave it in warm water for 5 minutes (most dry yeast powders I have encountered in Italy follow this method.).
- In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, lightly-floured counter (despite what many bread recipes state, try to use as little flour as possible to yield a more tender, hydrated bread) and knead by scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 – 10 minutes. The dough will be on the sticky side so be patient, and stay away from the bench flour! The dough is ready when it bounces back when you touch it or it creates a think film when you stretch a piece of it. However, if you kneaded consistently for 8-10 minutes, it is definitely ready.
- Shape dough into a ball, put a little bit of oil in the same mixing bowl, and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, clean shower cap, or a clean towel and allow it to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk for about one to two hours.(If you do not plan to make the buns immediately, you can place the covered dough in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. If it inflates too much, GENTLY push down the dough. Take the dough out 1-2 hours (depending on the temperature of the room) before you bake it.)
- Line a baking sheet with parchment/oven paper or Silpat. Using a knife or a dough scraper, divide dough into 8 equal parts (use a scale!).Gently roll each into a ball, and arrange them 2-3 inches (5 to 8 cms) apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic/cling wrap lightly coated in oil or nonstick spray, and allow buns to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours. (I froze half of my bun balls (haha). When I’m ready to use them, I will put them in the fridge one day before then take them out of the fridge 1-2 hours before baking them.)
- Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C) with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with one Tbsp (15 ml) water and brush some on top of buns. Alternatively, you could brush on the egg and then with your fingers, spray water on top while in the hot oven to create steam and bubbles on top of the bread, which is what I did). Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using.
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes. They should be golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.