Soft cocoa burger buns

Want to step up your homemade burger game without having to compromise on fluffy bread? This recipe is for you. These delicious soft cocoa burgers buns will easily become one of your favourite baking projects.

Working with new ingredients and different cooking techniques is part of my everyday job and something I love doing because allows me to put my chemistry hat on in order to find out what is really going on in a recipe. That’s why doing all the testing (and taste-testing) required for these cocoa brioche buns has been quite an enjoyable experience for me. It all started a couple of years ago while I was working on my recipe for classic soft burger buns: I wanted to create something different for some photos I was working on, so I tried to add cocoa to my existing bread recipe. After a couple of attempts, I had a recipe that worked well but I knew it was far away from being what I wanted. Due to lack of interest and being busy with work, I ended up forgetting about it.

A few weeks ago, I made a deliciously decadent chocolate cake for my boyfriend’s birthday and the idea of cocoa bread popped right back into my mind. I found my old notes forgotten in the middle of a notebook and started planning a route to develop my recipe for the most delicious fluffy cocoa burger buns.

The previous buns were a bit dry, couldn’t hold their texture for longer than a day and, in terms of flavour, they were closer to rye bread than cocoa buns. They also didn’t have the right texture for getting that perfect burger bite. I know you can use many kinds of bread for burgers but here we are talking about soft brioche-style buns, so they had to tick all the boxes.

Thankfully, there is a kind of bread that I learned to master in the past couple of years: Japanese milk bread (also known as Hokkaido milk bread or Shokupan). This bread is famous for its softness and pillowy texture and it’s made using the Yudane method. The secret behind this soft bread is called Tangzhong: a simple roux-like paste made using a combination of water or milk and flour cooked until the starches in the flour gelatinize and the paste thickens. In this way, you are adding a gel into the dough that helps to retain moisture inside the cooked bread but you are also inhibiting some of the gluten from forming: the result is a bread that is extremely soft and lasts for longer compared to regular loaves.

Introducing the use of Tangzhong into my recipe for cocoa burger buns has been the first change I made (having already tried this technique for the classic buns). Then I worked on both ingredients and raising/baking times to get a final result I was happy with. All this recipe development work now allows me to share with you some useful details about substitutions and consequent changes in texture and flavour profile.

Here’s the ingredients list for these delicious soft cocoa burger buns:

As you can see, this recipe calls for both milk and water but there are some substitutions you can make on this point and they all work well.

These might seems small details to you but it’s just another proof of how each ingredient has a different effect on the final result and this is due to their chemical composition and role in the recipe. You can find more information about baking and food chemistry in my recipe for classic burger buns.

Soft cocoa burger buns

Ingredients – dough:

*I separate from this amount approx. 1 tsp of egg and keep it in the fridge for the final egg wash.

Ingredients – Tangzhong:


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