One of the things I miss most from my travels in the USA is the gourmet burger. And they are quite difficult to knock up at home. Here in mainland Europe, it’s impossible to find good burger buns. The ones sold in the shops here are weird, dry, flaky things that fall to pieces the moment you try to place anything on them. If you make a burger using them, most of the bun is still on the plate at the end.
So, I’ve been thinking for a while of developing a mash-up recipe. Taking the concept of a gourmet burger, but making it using all the ingredients and flavours of Tuscany. And so, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you … Tuscan Burger #1.
I say #1 because there are SO many different things that you could add to the burger to make it Tuscan that I am sure I will have several different versions within a couple of months. But this will always remain the original.
For the bun, I decided to go for focaccia. Not only is it of the right consistency, but it contains all the flavour of olive oil that start to make the burger taste Italian. For the hamburger itself, I went for a simple patty of local beef, but flavoured with one of my favourite Tuscan ingredients: fennel seeds.
Other flavours added were Tuscan salami, San Marzano tomato (from the garden) and of course, truffle. This was via a lovely truffle butter which I used to moisten the buns and hold the sandwich together. And finally, I added cheese. But not just any cheese, my favourite creamy caciotto from a local farm called Montemercole.
So accompanied by oven-roasted chips and a good bottle of Vernaccia di San Gimignano that was last night’s dinner. I should have made extra. The recipe’s below if you’d like to try it. Buon appetito!
Preparation time: 20 mins
Rest time: 2 hours
Cooking time: 20 mins
Total time: 2 hours 40 mins
For the focaccia buns:
250g plain flour
12g fresh yeast
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
extra virgin olive oil for brushing
fleur de sel
For the hamburger:
500g beef mince
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 egg, beaten
For the accompaniment:
red onion, sliced into rings
San Marzano tomatoes, sliced
Make the focaccia buns:
- Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Mix using a dough hook until they come together and then continue to mix for five minutes.
- Cover your hands in olive oil, make the dough into a ball, and place it into a bowl.
- Cover with a damp cloth and leave for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size
- Knock the air out of the dough and then divide into four equal pieces. Make these into balls and then flatten into disks. Leave to rise again for another 30 minutes.
- Paint the top of the dough with olive oil and then using your fingers, make dents in the buns.
- Sprinkle with fleur de sel and bake at 200 C for twenty-five minutes.
- Paint the top with olive oil and then put back in the oven for another five minutes.
- Paint the top with a final layer of olive oil and then leave to cool completely.
- Slice in half horizontally.
Make the hamburger:
- Place the beef mince in a large bowl.
- Add the fennel seeds.
- Add the egg and then mix thoroughly.
- Divide into four equal portions, make them into balls, and then flatten into hamburger shapes.
- Place in the fridge for at least one hour.
- Cook in your favourite way. Preferably on a barbecue.
- Butter both sides of the bun with the truffle butter.
- Place onion rings on the lower side of the bun.
- Place the hamburger on top.
- Place a slice of cheese on top of the hamburger.
- Place a slice of salami and two slices of tomato on top of the cheese.
- Place the top of the bun on and serve.