The Ultimate Guide for Making Super-Soft Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns

Two Homemade Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns
You don't have to go without the buns if gluten free.
Here's how to make your own hamburger rolls.

Have you seen the price of gluten-free hamburger buns? I can't eat store-bought buns, due to the whole grains in them, but I was looking at them the other day for hubby. They can be convenient when we need a bun on short notice. Plus, right now, since we just moved to Texas, so we are living in a motel room.

Baking gluten free isn't convenient or possible right now.

I keep hoping I'll find products made with just white rice flour and starches, but I almost never do.

Udi's seems to have a corner on the market, when it comes to almost anything, but lately, I've been able to find Schar and Sam's Choice here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas.

When we tried Schar buns in Utah, we didn't care for them. We haven't tried the Sam's Choice ones because they are outrageously priced, and we've been saving up to move into a house. Like most gluten-free hamburger buns, you get four measly buns for the cost of a whole loaf of bread. That comes to more than a dollar each. More like a buck fifty.

Even for just the two of us, that's quite expensive, so over the years, I've been working on and reworking this hamburger bun recipe to make it more affordable.

While I like the convenience of being able to buy gluten-free hamburger buns in the freezer section at Walmart, Winco, and Kroger, gluten-free buns are not soft and tender like a hamburger bun should be.

They are also pretty stale. And often, crumbly.

This recipe for super-soft gluten-free hamburger buns started out as a gluten-free oatmeal bread I had created for the Making the Gluten-Free Diet Journey blog I used to have a few years ago. That recipe didn't make very good hamburger rolls. I had to do a lot of fiddling with and juggling the ingredients to get an acceptable bun.

Eventually, I came up with something suitable enough to post, but my efforts didn't stop there. Measuring out the assorted flours and starches every time I wanted to make a bun was a pain, so I created a gluten-free hamburger bun flour mix to make that chore easier.

In the process, I stumbled onto the secret behind getting super-soft gluten-free hamburger buns, so in this post, I'm going to share with you everything I know about making homemade gluten-free buns.



The Secret Behind Making Gluten-Free Baking Easier


It is a hassle to measure out all of the flours and starches in a recipe each time you want to bake, so one day I got smart:

I created a gluten-free hamburger bun flour mix to make that chore easier.

Since I already had a recipe developed, I was able to use the flour and starch measurements from the recipe to design the mix. Surprisingly, the mix made a drastic improvement in the softness and texture of the buns.

I think that was because when I measured out the mix, all at once, it resulted in less flour than when I measured out each individual ingredient alone.

We were thrilled!

However, life never goes the way you think it will.

Why I Had to Change the Recipe


Over time, I discovered that gluten-free grains were causing a lot of the issues and symptoms I had that still wouldn't go away, even after being strictly gluten free for 8 years. I found that out once I was able to pin the reactions to the store-bought gluten-free bread hubby was eating at the time.

After giving up:

  • sorghum flour 
  • brown rice flour 
  • flaxmeal 
  • and psyllium husks 

which were the ingredients in that brand's gluten-free baked goods, I actually started to improve.

Quickly.

But that meant I had to start all over from scratch with the previously posted hamburger bun recipe.

Using just white rice flour and starches is more economical than having to add both brown rice flour and sorghum flour to the mix, but the rice flour changed the softness and texture of the rolls. They also didn't raise as well as they used to. Sorghum really improves the rise of gluten-free bread.

As time went on, and I struggled to correct the imbalances in the recipe, I also came to realize I have permanent lactose intolerance. It's not just when I've been accidentally glutened, so recently, I stopped cooking with regular milk.

In addition to the milk change, I also had to switch the type of yeast I was using. Our local Costco doesn't sell instant yeast. What they have is bulk traditional dry active yeast.

While I also made other changes to that recipe for gluten-free hamburger buns, those two changes turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

The Secret to Getting Super-Soft Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns


Gluten-free baking is an art.

You've probably heard that before.

Unlike all-purpose flour that is made from different varieties of wheat and mixed with a little barley flour, white rice flour is just:

Well, white rice flour.

If you want your gluten-free baked goods to be the best they can be, you've got to do all that mixing and combining yourself. Unless you happen to hit the jackpot on the very first try, it's a lengthy trial-and-error process.

Each flour or starch brings a different property to the mix, so each time you make one little change, the outcome changes as well. This is why when I switched from a combo of brown rice flour and sorghum flour to all white rice flour, the buns changed their texture, taste, and softness.

Different flours and starches absorb moisture differently. Their abilities to work with Xanthan gum and create the network bread needs to hold its shape after baking is also different.

My all-purpose gluten-free flour mix I use for cakes and cookies won't produce the same results as a mix that is specially formulated for bread's unique qualities.

When you begin substituting your own ingredients for the ingredients and amounts called for in a recipe, you can get a totally different result than the creator did. This is one of the most misunderstood truths in gluten-free baking.

Published recipes have been specifically designed to work with a particular flour base, and when you change any of the flours or amounts in the recipe, the outcome won't be the same.

Hamburger buns and rolls need a different flour mix than bread does because, while they do need to be able to rise, the rise doesn't have to be as high and sturdy as it does for a loaf of bread.

For that reason, a hamburger bun flour mix can be heavier on starches, and thereby create a much softer product than a traditional gluten-free bread mix can.

I've found that the secret to making super-soft gluten-free hamburger buns is to use a flour mix that falls in between an all-purpose flour blend and a bread mix. It has to be sturdy enough to allow the bun to hold its shape after baking, but not as sturdy as a full loaf of bread needs to be.

Gluten-Free Hamburger Bun Flour Mix


This new gluten-free hamburger bun flour mix looks like it will make 5 cups of mix, but because of the margin of error you'll run into by trying to measure out the gluten-free flour and starches using a cup, instead of a kitchen scale, the exact volume will be higher.

Although, many gluten-free bloggers and professional cooks have turned to weighing their gluten-free flours and starches to avoid the issue, I have not tried that yet.

The mix uses only one flour and two starches. You can purchase each flour and starch separately, or you can take advantage of Authentic Foods' convenient gluten-free variety pack available at Amazon.

Ingredients:

2 cups finely ground white rice flour
2 cups tapioca starch flour
1 cup potato starch (not potato flour)

Measure out the flour and starches into the bowl of a stand mixer. I have a Kitchen Aid Professional 600 Series model, but a smaller one will also work. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can use an extra-large bowl and do the mixing by hand for this.

Turn the mixer on med-high, and allow the mixer to run for several minutes, until the flour and starches are well combined. If you're doing this by hand, don't rush the process. You'll need to stir this for several minutes.

Carefully transfer the flour mix to an air-tight container. I use an empty bulk cashew jar with a screw-on lid. Hubby buys his cashews in bulk at Costco, so I have a lot of these plastic jars. Since this recipe is made with white rice flour, it will store just fine on the counter for several weeks.

If you have a large family, you can double the recipe.

But you really need a stand mixer to do that.

The better the flour and starches are evenly distributed, the better the final product will be, so if you want to make a double batch without a stand mixer, use two bowls, so you can get it stirred up properly.

Do You Need a Stand Mixer to Make These Buns?


The dough of this burger bun recipe is quite wet, so you really won't need to have a stand mixer to mix up the dough if you don't already have one.

A 250-watt hand mixer with a dough hook will work fine.

Whatever you do, don't use regular beaters.

The dough will climb up the beater shafts and make quite a mess. I know. I tried that once.

But, only once.

Ordinarily, you do need a stand mixer to make gluten-free bread because the dough needs to be whipped full of air.

A hand mixer won't work well enough for most recipes because it won't have enough power to knead the dough and develop the Xanthan gum properly. Xanthan gum is used to replace some of the properties found in gluten, so it is essential that Xanthan work as it should.

How to Make the Perfect Hamburger Bun Shape


Before we get to the dough, we need to talk about how to make a hamburger bun shape.

Gluten-free dough will not hold its shape without a solid form to support it. As gluten-free dough rises, it will travel sideways once it reaches the top of the form you're using.

For the best gluten-free hamburger buns, you need a form with sides that are high enough that the dough will never reach the top.

Some people make strips of folded foil, and then tape the foil strips into a ring. That would work if you made the strips taller than you want your buns to be. The form really doesn't have to have a bottom because you could lay out the foil strips on a cookie sheet. Non-stick foil would probably work best for that.

I've seen other people use English muffin rings or muffin top pans for hamburger roll batter. I don't know if this dough will work with those types of supports because the dough is going to rise higher than the top of the English muffin ring or the sides of the muffin top forms.

Unlike other gluten-free doughs, this dough rises quite high.

What I use are 5-inch diameter custard cups, sometimes called ramekins.

Custard cups come in various diameters and heights, so they make the perfect solution for getting that traditional hamburger bun shape. Clean up is easy, and you don't have to remake new foil forms each time you want to make a bun.

In addition, the small custard cups pictured above are the perfect size for hamburgers for the kids. They also make a terrific Egg McMuffin for breakfast.

My Best Recipe for Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Hamburger Buns


Since I've now admitted to myself that I'm lactose intolerant, these buns are dairy free.

While you can certainly use milk to replace the water and coconut milk in the recipe, the dairy-free liquids have made all the difference in the way the buns turn out.

Before I started using coconut milk and water in these rolls, no matter what I tried, they always turned out a bit dense and mealy.

Make sure that you're using “real” honest-to-goodness canned coconut milk.

Don't get the stuff that says its coconut milk but has coconut extract and water listed as the first two ingredients. While the cheaper stuff, thickened with guar gum, might work for other recipes, for this, you need the real thing.

Also, make sure that you stir the cream that has solidified on the top of the can throughout the watery milk below. You need a coconut milk that is well mixed for this. I store mine in the refrigerator in a pint canning jar.

Note that the following recipe uses medium-sized eggs. That is what the recipe has been specifically designed to use. We get a 5 dozen rack of medium-sized eggs at WinCo for only $2.69, so I've started to incorporate the smaller eggs into our recipes.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup very warm water
2 tablespoons coconut milk (cold is okay)
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons white sugar
1-1/2 cups Gluten-Free Hamburger Bun Flour Mix (above)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons Xanthan gum
3 medium-sized eggs
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

In a large cup or small bowl, combine the hot water, coconut milk, yeast, and sugar. Stir the mixture as well as you can. If the yeast clumps up a bit, that's fine. It will still grow that way. Set the cup aside to bubble and grow.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a super large bowl), measure out the hamburger bun flour mix, brown sugar, salt, and Xanthan gum.

In another small bowl, combine the medium-sized eggs, oil, and applesauce. Use a wire whisk and whisk this up pretty well. If your yeast has bubbled nicely, add it to the egg mixture and stir well.

If your yeast hasn't bubbled by now, then you either accidentally killed the yeast (and you'll have to do that part again) or the yeast is too old and needs to be replaced.

Using the stand-mixer beater, and not the dough hook, turn on your stand mixer to medium-speed and let the mixer stir your dry ingredients together. You can do this by hand if you're using a hand mixer. Once the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed together, add your wet ingredients all at once.

Let the stand mixer slowly stir the ingredients together. Once everything is well moistened, turn the speed up to medium high and allow the KitchenAid to mix the dough for 3 to 5 minutes.

If you're using a hand mixer with a dough hook, start off at a very low speed, so everything doesn't splatter, and then raise the speed as you're able. With a hand mixer you will definitely have to beat the dough for a minimum of 5 minutes to incorporate enough air.

While the dough is mixing, use a little bit of shortening and grease the inside of your custard cups. This is one of the few places where I use shortening over non-stick spray, oil, or butter in my recipes.

Non-stick spray leaves the buns soggy, after baking. Oil and butter causes the buns to stick to the custard cups. If you wipe the inside of the custard cup with a little bit of Crisco shortening before spooning in the batter, you won't have any of those problems.

This recipe makes enough dough for 4 extra-large 5-inch custard cups or 6 to 8 small sized cups, depending on what you want to use the buns for. When I'm planning on making breakfast sandwiches, I normally make 6 small ones.

If you want to split the use for the buns, the recipe makes enough for 2 large hamburger buns and 3 to 4 smaller ones.

When the dough is finished mixing, it will look like a very thick cake batter. It will not look like traditional bread dough.

To take the guesswork out of how much dough to use in each cup, I try to smooth out the dough in the bowl as evenly as possible. Then, I take a butter knife and score the dough into pie-shaped wedges to equal the number of custard cups I'm using.

I then have a better idea of how much dough to scoop into each cup.

Divide the dough evenly among your 4 to 8 cups, then with a knife, spread the dough to fit the custard cup. Set the cups on a tray or the table, close together, and place a large piece of plastic wrap over the top of the cups. That will keep them from drying out as they rise.

I let them raise for 1 to 2 hours, depending on how warm the house is. You want the dough to rise up until it's almost at the top of the cups, but not quite. If you're in a hurry, the minimum rise you want is 3/4 of the way up.

When the dough has almost risen as high as you like, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake large cups for 20 minutes and small cups for 15. Remove the cups from the oven and allow them to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before you try to remove the buns from the cups.

Once cool enough to handle, remove the buns and place in a zip lock bag. I usually put one bun inside a sandwich-sized baggie. Allow the rolls to cool completely before using.

We like our buns slightly toasted, especially if using them for sandwiches, but the buns will be soft, so you don't really have to toast them if you don't want to.


*Inside an air-tight baggie, these gluten-free hamburger buns will keep on the counter for several days without drying out.

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