Serious Eats: Recipes

Bread Baking: Chicago-Style Hot Dog Buns

[Photograph: Donna Currie]

When I moved away from Chicago, I thought that the lack of poppy seed hot dog buns in my new hometown was something I could remedy by looking harder when shopping. It took awhile for me to figure out that poppy seed buns aren't popular outside Chicago. Everywhere I asked about them, I got quizzical looks, but no buns.

Some hot dog vendors elsewhere sell Chicago-style dogs with poppy seed buns, but grocery stores don't sell them at all. Ever.

Of course, my answer is to make my own.

Tips on Making this Recipe...
by hand-kneading »
in a stand mixer »
with a food processor »

The instant mashed potatoes in the bun recipe are my secret weapon for making fluffy buns, and the semolina adds a nice depth of flavor. Much better than store-bought buns, for sure.

Quick Shine is a baking spray that's used to create a shiny crust, and it also helps toppings adhere. It's handy to have on hand if you do a lot of baking, but it's not necessary. A simple egg wash—an egg beaten with a bit of water—will do the same thing. On the plus side, the egg wash is a completely natural product, but on the negative side, it can be a waste of an egg if you don't have a lot of bread to brush.

Of course, the poppy seeds are optional, so you can skip the egg wash if you don't want seeds.

If you're looking to make a Chicago-style dog, the traditional condiments are: relish (neon-green preferred at some locations), onions, yellow mustard,
tomatoes, sport peppers, celery salt, and a cucumber or pickle spear
. On a poppy seed bun, of course.

Needless to say, you can leave off what you don't like. Not every hot dog place in Chicago offers all the toppings I listed, and some offer even more. I've come to like my home made pickle relish better than the vivid green commercial product, even though it's not traditional. But the one condiment that's traditionally taboo on a Chicago dog is ketchup. Use it at your own risk.

And now, you can make your own poppy seed buns.

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