Summer time is BBQ season and with that comes homemade hamburger and hot dog buns.
A question I often receive through this blog ( especially during summer time ) is why do my hamburger/hotdog buns crumble and fall apart?
There are a couple of reasons for this. The exact answer for this can only be given if a recipe and a process is presented. For the sake of this article the reasons for any type of dough falling apart or crumbling after baking can be narrowed down to a few categories as listed below from most common reasons to least.
- The bread/buns were not stored properly and had dried out.
- The bread/buns were not allowed enough time to cool before cutting
- The dough was not kneaded long enough
- Old Flour or not enough gluten in the flour
- There was a mistake during scaling of the raw materials before baking
- The liquids to flour ratio in the recipe is incorrect.
- Too many fats in the recipe
As you can see there could be a multitude of reasons for a crumbly dough. Lets break down these reasons so we can assess why ” your ” hamburger/hotdog buns or any dough for that matter is crumbly.
The buns were not stored properly
Hamburger or Hotdog buns or any baked dough for that reason does not stay soft and fresh for very long. This is the reason why bakeries bake bread daily. I mean, who doesn’t love a fresh loaf right out of the oven right?
Of course the reality is that most people do not buy or make bread daily. This is why it is important to store your bread properly.
For long term storage I would suggest freezing your bread/buns in an airtight bag. Freezing bread should be done when the bread is fresh right after it has cooled and not days after you have baked it.
If you buy or bake bread about twice a week then keeping bread in a closed paper bag and then placing the paper bag in an open plastic bag and keep the bags out of direct sunlight is the best way to keep it fresh.
Bread should stay fresh for about 3-4 days Max.
If you would like more tips on storing bread we have a full article dedicated to it right here.
The buns were not allowed enough time to cool before cutting
One of the toughest things to withstand in life is cutting into a hot loaf of bread when it is still hot. I mean, all that work, that smell and now you have to wait! no way, im digging into this bread right now. This is what our brain is telling us.
Bread must be allowed enough time to cool. If your buns/bread has not cooled down for at least 4 hours before cutting you risk the reason of letting lots of moisture to escape the bread/bun resulting in a loss of moisture and a dry dough which in turn will lead to crumbly buns or bread.
To cool bread properly it must be set on a screen and have airflow from all directions including underneath the bun/bread.
The dough was not kneaded long enough
Kneading a dough is more than just combining ingredients. Sure that is one of the functions. But in order to properly knead a dough it must be done for long enough so it can 1.evenly mix ingredients and 2. form a gluten mesh.
A gluten mesh is crucial for a dough. Without a proper gluten mesh the dough will fall apart and besides crumbling you can run into many other issues such as dough rising,holding its shape and many more issues.
Make sure you knead the dough long enough so it passes the windowpane test .
TIP: If you use a mixer to knead your dough make sure that it is not set on high speed for too long in order to rush the gluten mesh to form more quickly. Mixing dough on high speeds for prolonged time can cause other ingredients such as yeast to fail during baking.
Old Flour or not enough gluten in the flour
When baking just like in cooking it is preferred to use fresh ingredients. If you woke up in the morning and had the urge to bake some buns for today’s BBQ but only have an old bag of flour that has been sitting around for god knows how long I strongly suggest running to the store and getting a new more fresh bag of flour.
It could very well be that your flour is no longer good to use and that the proteins which contain the gluten have dried out and broken down.
Choosing the right flour can be tricky at times. Try flour that says “bread flour” on it as these flours usually tend to have a higher protein content in them ( approx 11% or higher ) or use enriched white flour which should do the job as well.
Some supermarkets do sell Gluten additives for flour. These can help add gluten to your flour if you cannot find anything with a high protein content on it as stated before 11% or higher.
There was a mistake during scaling of the raw materials before baking
I can’t tell you the number of times I see mistakes made during scaling. Scaling raw ingredients seems easy enough, but a small distraction can cause a mistake that you will not realize until it is too late.
When I started baking I was told that before I start scaling ingredients I have to make sure that:
- My work area is clean
- I work with a recipe and not rely on memory
- There are no distractions around me
- Scale every ingredient separately.
I strongly suggest rewriting your recipe on a sheet of paper and use it as a checklist when scaling. After you scale each ingredient, strike it out from your list. This way if someone distracts you during scaling you can always stop and know where you left off when you come back.
The liquids to flour ratio in the recipe is incorrect.
It could very well be that the recipe you have is not very good and that the liquids to flour ratio is incorrect. Either the recipe was incorrect or that you have scaled it out incorrectly.
The flour to liquids ratio in hamburger/hotdog buns should be around 60% – 65% liquid to 40% – 35% flour. This is an approximation and of course there are different variations but generally speaking these are the percentages to follow.
Also, a mistake I often notice with beginning bakers is that they scale out ingreadients correctly but during kneading they keep adding flour in order to prevent the dough sticking to their counter. Slowly more and more flour is added throwing off the balance and eventually causing your dough to be more crumbly.
Just remember, when you first hand knead a dough it is very sticky. As the gluten mesh forms and ingredients incorporate the dough will not be as stickly. So avoid adding too much flour during kneading.
Too many fats in the recipe
Lastly, too many fats in a recipe can cause a bread to be more dry and eventually crumbly.
Fats when used in the correct ratios will make a dough more soft and give it that “melt in your mouth” feel. Fats also help a bread be more crispy.
Too many fats on the other hand can make a dough more crumbly after baking. This is because the fats can hinder the formation of a gluten mesh and create a crumbly result.