Monday, July 05, 2021

burgers and dogs

So almost by accident, I ended up having a July 4th meal—one burger with sauce, pickles, and Gruyère; and one chili dog. This meal—in which I cooked for more than just me—was an all-day project, and I didn't eat until 10 p.m., which is later than I've been eating for the past three weeks (normally not past 1 p.m.). A lot about today threw off my rhythm, in fact, so I'm going to have to write the day off as a cheat day. Didn't want to do that, but that's how it turned out.

The morning started with the weigh-in that I reported, but was followed by a double dose of SlimFast, a few handfuls of nuts, and the rest of my beef jerky. So by this point, I was already over my calorie limit, although I hadn't strayed into high-carb territory. Tired from Saturday's walk, I ended up napping a bit before finally dragging myself out of bed and going shopping for some final supplies. On the agenda: making burger and hot-dog buns, burger patties for me and the coworkers, one hot dog for myself, hot-dog chili (Coney Island-style... ish), sugar-free ketchup, sugar-free barbecue sauce, and sugar-free Shack Sauce (if you're unfamiliar, Shack Sauce is the burger sauce used at Shake Shack; here in Korea, there have been Shake Shacks for a couple years; they're good but overpriced).

I approached the making of the keto buns with great curiosity but, as it turned out, not enough caution. The dough I used had no wheat flour in it, but it was still a yeasted dough, so it rose... and rose. I should have put my dough balls into a much bigger tray to give the dough room to rise, but instead, I put the dough in a small cake pan that proved to be too small, and the dough balls all grew into each other. I shrugged after trying to pull them apart without deflating them, and baked them as they were—stuck together. The result was a mess, and I have only myself to blame. I ended up with mutant hamburger buns, separated with a knife and looking freakish in shape. Believe it or not, these are actually baked through:

They don't look done, do they?

The hot-dog buns turned out much better because they got containerized right away. They didn't rise as much as the burger buns for whatever reason, but they showed impressive oven spring during baking. I also baked the buns using both the top and bottom burners, producing a much nicer-looking result.

As I waited during certain phases of the bread-making, I worked on my sauces. Below is a pic of my homemade, sugar-free ketchup (the sweetener is erythritol, a granulated sugar alcohol that looks like table sugar and produces a "cool" effect on the tongue the way mint does). The ketchup isn't quite as keto as it could be, and "sugar-free" may be a bit misleading: the tomato paste was regular tomato paste, so there were natural sugars in that. That being said, no further sugar was added. Behold my ketchup, which tastes pretty good (recipe found online):

And below is a steamy picture of the barbecue sauce I made (same source). I had to make a double batch of ketchup first so I could both have some ketchup for Friday and use some ketchup to make the barbecue sauce, which also tasted pretty darn good:

Below is the Shack Sauce I made. To bring it closer to Mississippi Comeback Sauce, I added some sriracha. Otherwise, it's pretty much the Shack Sauce recipe:

Burgers in the raw (200-gram patties):

And next up is the burger I fixed for myself using one of the mutant buns. So let's talk about taste: all in all, I wasn't impressed with the bread. I did see, in a comment below the Keto King YouTube video about the keto buns, a complaint that they turned rubbery once they cooled, and that was absolutely true. This is another in a list of problems when making keto bread (too eggy, too coconutty, too psyllium-husky), and why it's hard to find keto-bread recipes that behave like actual bread. This bread turned out to be chewy and rubbery, and it also had a faint aftertaste that was vaguely bothersome. So I won't be serving this to my coworkers, and I'm glad I went through the experience of making the bread and trying it out. And since it's keto bread, I didn't suffer much, in terms of blood sugar, from the experience.

The burger patty, by contrast, was fantastic, but I always make a decent burger. I don't belong to the school of thought that says you never season your patties until right before they go on the grill or skillet: I add herbs and seasonings well in advance and give them a chance to get to know the meat. None of this last-minute bullshit for me. Anyway, aside from the bread, the burger was good. I added my homemade burger sauce and homemade BBQ sauce:

Too bad you can't see the pickles.

The hot-dog buns turned out much better, at least visually:

You can really see the flaxseed meal on the surface. And the little tins I bought did their job and molded the buns exactly the way I wanted them to look. If I ever make real hot-dog buns, I will use these tins again. They're great.

Below is the Coney Island-style hot-dog chili I made. I forgot to take one of the onions I'd bought, grind it up, and put it into the chili, so I threw in a bunch of dried onion flakes instead. I think they worked well enough. Now apparently, with this chili, you're not supposed to put cheese on top, but according to tradition, you are supposed to put minced onions on top. Well, you know me: I'm not an onion lover, so fuck that. I just raw-dogged it—bun, dog, chili. That's it. Here's the chili:

Here's the naked dog, a Kirkland frank that's far too big for the bun, but I wouldn't have it any other way because there's nothing sadder than a hot dog too short for its bun:

And here's the chili dog, having attained its final form (FYI, no added sugar):

Even though the chili dog looks good in the picture, and even though the hot-dog buns baked better, as a batch, than the burger buns did, the chili dog's bun was still rubbery and unpleasant to work with. So despite how good the Keto King recipe looked in the video, in the end, it turned out not to be so great. This may be partly my fault for having botched part of the burger-bun preparation, but I think a lot of the problem comes from the recipe itself. The final product doesn't exactly taste or behave like bread, and this is the same flaw I've encountered with other keto-bread recipes. I'm going to try Joe Duff's rather simple bread recipe next (it's based on almond flour), but frankly, I don't have high hopes. I may have to just content myself with keto tortillas and pancakes when it comes to bread and pasta replacements. Speaking of pasta, I'm going to try the Keto King's keto pasta, but there too, I'm no longer that hopeful. In his video, the pasta looks like a duck and quacks like a duck... but does it taste like a duck? I guess we'll find out together.

But the chili itself was awesome, as was the burger patty, and so were the sauces. So all of that worked out great; it was mainly the bread that fell down. So for Friday, what I'll probably do is buy regular bread for the troops, and I'll eat my burger and chili and hot dog breadlessly. Sucks, but that's life, and I'll save myself a few calories in so doing.


John Mac said...

I'm an old man now, but throughout my long life, I had never once heard of someone making their own ketchup. I'm glad I lived to see this post!

Despite the bread disaster, it looks like it was an amazing day in the kitchen. I'm somewhat in awe because I can't imagine even attempting such an endeavor. Would you ever consider opening a "hobby" cafe when you retire? My impression is that's what John Kim is really doing--he took a pub (pool table, dart boards, etc.) and turned it into one of the high-quality eating establishments in town. I think as much for the love of creation (his menu changes frequently) as it is for profit.

You know, keto bread strikes me as being in the same genre as vegan beef. It would never work for me I fear. When I was doing low carb, I just ate my burgers without the bun. You get used to it...

Anyway, good job! Those burgers and chili look amazing.

Kevin Kim said...

I continue to search for a decent keto-bread recipe. Maybe I'll find one.

I've had fleeting thoughts about restaurants and food trucks before. The food-truck notion is especially appealing (a lot of us watched "Chef"), but I don't know whether I could take the pressure of high demand.

Charles said...

As an avid baker, I do find myself wondering if you are ever going to find a good keto bread recipe. I imagine that you might be able to get something that resembles bread--perhaps a distant, inbred, backwoods cousin--but I would be surprised if you ever found a truly workable substitute. So in that regard I guess I'm with John on this, although I am actually more optimistic about vegan beef than I am about keto bread.

In the future, if you ever want to get together on a cheat day and have some bread, let me know and I'll be more than happy to bake something for you. Just call me the Devil's baker.

Kevin Kim said...


It's funny how something can behave like something else in certain ways, yet not be that thing. I mean, when I first saw that Keto King video, my first thought was that what made his bread stand apart was the use of yeast: most keto breads use a combination of eggs and baking soda. (In fact, Joe Duff's recipe, which I'm going to try next, is something like a soda bread.) But it's obvious to me now that yeast alone isn't enough to make something a true bread. Bread from wheat flour or any other standard grain has a combination of springiness and rip-apart-able-ness that's hard to emulate, so maybe you're right: maybe there's no way to ever simulate that properly, such that I'll never find truly decent keto bread. I think part of the problem may be the inclusion of xanthan gum and any fiber, like psyllium, that swells greatly upon exposure to water.

I did stumble upon some videos that touted King Arthur Flour's keto flour, but then I watched a video that was heavily critical of the flour, which isn't truly keto.