Recipe summary

Hands-on time:
20 mins. to 35 mins.
Baking time:
17 mins. to 20 mins.
Total time:
3 hrs 37 mins. to 4 hrs 25 mins.
Yield:
10 buns
The Midwest has a number of culinary traditions, and when I lived in Chicago I discovered a few of them. One of the biggest surprises was hot dogs. People in Chicago are very, very serious about hot dogs. The number of toppings and the specific sequence of layering on the dog of your choice were practically mind-boggling.

First of all, there was the Chicago Red Hot, "dragged through the garden." This meant a Vienna Beef Frank, topped with (in order, please) yellow mustard; sweet green pickle relish; chopped onion; chopped fresh tomato or tomato wedges; a kosher dill pickle spear; "sport" peppers (tiny pickled hot green peppers); and celery salt. This is the dog you'll find at Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs.

Other vendors strayed off the trail somewhat, but in general a Chicago hot dog may have onions, sauerkraut, hot peppers, mustard, and the brightest neon green relish you've ever seen riding on top. Sometimes chili, sometimes cheese. Ketchup? Well, all right, if you really must; people in Chicago are way too polite to scoff at you, but you will have branded yourself a non-native at the least. And a potential sissy at worst.

Needless to say, the carrier for this megalopolis had to be substantial: no undersized, spongy supermarket dog buns for this creation, no sir! In the Windy City you'll find a big, chewy poppy seed bun that has enough oomph to support the skyscraper constructions that Chicago natives depend on for a quick lunch. Here's our version. — Susan Reid, Baking Sheet editor.

Once you've made the buns, be sure to read our blog on creating a Chicago-style hot dog.
Volume Ounces Grams

Buns

  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 3 tablespoons King Arthur Easy-Roll Dough Improver or Baker's Special Dry Milk; optional, but helpful for shaping buns
  • 4 tablespoons butter OR 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 large egg yolk, white reserved for topping

Topping

  • 1 large egg white, reserved from the dough
  • 2 teaspoons cold water
  • poppy seeds

Directions

  1. 1) Combine all of the dough ingredients, and mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine set on the dough cycle — until the dough is smooth and satiny.
  2. 2) Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it's doubled, about 90 minutes to 2 hours.
  3. 3) Divide the dough into 10 pieces; if you have a scale, they'll weigh about 72g each. Shape each piece into a rough 3" log, and let the logs rest, covered, for about 10 minutes.
  4. 4) Working with one piece of dough at a time, flatten it, and fold it in half lengthwise, sealing the seam. Repeat: flatten, fold, and seal. By this time the log will have elongated a bit; flatten it one more time, making a 6" oval that's as even as you can get it.
  5. 5) Lay the bun on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, laying the buns about 3/4" from one another, for soft-sided buns; or farther apart for buns with crust all around.
  6. 6) Cover the buns lightly with greased plastic wrap, and let them rise until they're noticeably puffy but not doubled, about 1 hour. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350F.
  7. 7) Mix the reserved egg white with 2 teaspoons cold water, and brush the mixture over the top of the risen buns. Sprinkle heavily with poppy seeds.
  8. 8) Bake the buns for about 18 minutes, until they're golden brown. They may seem slightly "damp." That's OK; that means they'll stay nice and soft as they cool.
  9. 9) Remove the buns from the oven, and place them on a rack to cool. To serve, split lengthwise, add grilled hotdogs, and the condiments mentioned in the recipe's introduction.
  10. Yield: 10 buns.
  11. This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XIII, No. 5, Summer 2002 issue.

Tips from our bakers

  • Can you substitute another type of seeds for poppy seeds? Or leave the seeds off entirely? Of course; you just won't have an authentic Chicago hotdog bun.
  • Can you make these buns with whole wheat flour? It'll change their texture and flavor, but sure. Start by substituting 2/3 cup whole wheat flour for 2/3 cup of the all-purpose flour. If you like the result, substitute a greater amount of whole wheat next time.