"What is YOUR problem with hot dog buns?" That's how my brother greeted me, using that uniquely half-derisive and half-bemused tone of voice that siblings reserve to taunt each other. A some-time lurker, he'd read my hot dog bun rant. Here's the thread -
Since the Fourth of July celebration is upon us and we have most of the summer ahead, I thought it might be helpful to post about the hot dogs and buns served for a Memorial Day weinie roast. Using a tip from the boards, the night before I picked up natural casing Miller's franks and smoked beef dogs, http://www.millerhotdogs.com/millersp... , at Smart & Final on Clement St. in San Francisco. The 2.5 lb. packages of the natural casing products at this store are not in the same section as the skinless Miller dogs and other hot dog brands, so if you don't see them, ask. When I noticed the racks of hot dog buns in the store, I realized I'd forgotten to pick up some buns from Downtown Bakery in Healdburg. I couldn't bring myself to buy balloon bread and decided to call Acme in the morning.
Memorial Day morning, I checked with Acme in Ferry Plaza and found out that they're down to the last eight hot dog buns already. I tried to reserve them but learned that phone orders were not permitted. I'd need to shop somewhere else for more anyway, and turned to an older thread about hamburger buns for some guidance -
My next plan of attack was Whole Foods (mentioned in the thread above) on California St. in San Francisco. There I found the Whole Foods house brand for a white bun, and also Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted wheat and Rudi's Organic whole wheat. All three are free of transfats, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial preservatives. The package weight was nearly identical across the brands with the Whole Foods buns having the largest dimensions and the Alvarado Street, the smallest. We toasted the buns on the grill while grilling the dogs.
The Whole Foods bun had the wholesome taste of real ingredients and wasn't mucked up with too much sweetness. Tender and with more air incorporated in it than the wheat buns, it will appeal to those who prefer a lighter and more neutral-tasting bun with their dog. Even though light in texture, it still had good integrity and didn't compact down to nothingness when you bite into it or get water-logged and fall apart from the juiciness of the condiments. The largest sized bun of the three, I found it too large and cavernous for the skinny and long franks and better proportioned with the larger diameter Miller's smoked beef sausages. With more capacity for holding fillings and condiments, it would be a good choice for making chili dogs.
The Alvarado Street sprouted wheat bun was the smallest sized with the densest texture in relation to weight. It had the most character and flavor of the three, that is, it's good bread in its own right with a coarse, moist crumb and nutty/yeasty taste. The smaller size made it the best proportioned for the skinny franks. Also, it had the least apparent sweetness and matched well with the slightly sweeter spicing of the franks versus the smoked sausages. It won my personal taste test, but it might be somewhat too assertive and firm to the bite for traditionalists.
Rudi's Organic did a good job too. These were relatively tender and light with mild wheat flavor. This bun had the most sweetness of the three, and would probably be out of balance if you use ketchup, sweet pickle relish or other sweet condiments on hot dogs. I considered it the compromise bun, combining qualities of the other two, if you wanted to serve just one type of bun. Yet, I would rather have the Whole Foods or the Alvarado Street for what each does best than the Rudi's.
After the cook-out, I had the leftover buns on my kitchen table for nearly a week (freezer and refrigerator too full!). The Alvarado Street was the first to sprout mold. Other than that, all three kept quite well and didn't turn hard. They perked up nicely with toasting. In fact, the Whole Foods buns ended up at a wine tasting. We sliced and toasted them, and they were fine as neutral palate cleansers.
Comparing these three to other local brands, I'd say that I prefer the Whole Foods bun to Lafayette's The Cake Box (also sold at Andronico's) for a white bun. The Cake Box bun is moister and feels a little gummy in texture. I don't recall Acme's. The bun from Downtown Bakery continues to be a favorite for its more yeasty, and fuller-flavored white bread with good tooth style. Also worth mentioning is Lombardi's French Bakery in Petaluma which makes an excellent hamburger bun though I don't know if it bakes hot dog buns as well.
Happy Fourth to all, and please nominate your favorites!