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.
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.
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 cup instant mashed potato
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1/4 cup semolina flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Poppy seeds
- Egg wash or Quick Shine
Mix the water, yeast, sugar, and instant potatoes in the bowl of your stand mixer. Let stand for about 15 minutes until it is bubbly and frothy.
Add the salt, bread flour, and semolina, and knead until the dough is smooth and is becoming elastic. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 20 minutes, then add the oil and knead until it is fully incorporated and the dough is shiny and elastic.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and sprinkle some cornmeal on a sheet pan.
Flour your work surface, and knead the dough briefly, then divide it into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a log 5-6 inches long, depending on how big your hot dogs are. Keep in mind that the buns will expand in length as they rise and bake.
If you want poppy seeds or other toppings, brush the buns with an egg wash (one egg beaten with a tablespoon of water) or spray with Quick Shine to help the seeds adhere. You can also spray or brush the tops with water to make them sticky, but I find that I lose a lot more seeds that way.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown.