Welcome to some special Friday burger content!
Burger King in Brazil released a BK Barbie combo last week with a “pink burger” which in my opinion is just barely leaning toward pink (Burger King marketing photo below). It’s a regular beef burger patty with crispy bacon, cheddar cheese, and a very pink-colored sauce. Their burger was released in combination with a certain pink-themed movie that was just released this week called Barbie. I think we can do it pinker.
This week I’m attempting to make the pinkest burger that I know how to make and I’m also going to make sure it still tastes like a great burger. Keep reading and I’ll show you how I made all the components for your own Barbie burger adventure.
We can OUT PINK Burger King’s burger!
We’re going to tackle a simple not-so-pink burger sauce, a melty hot pink cheese, and a bun that will match the pink in Barbie’s logo. Let’s get into the process and let’s make some burgers that Barbie and Ken would be excited to bite into.
The only thing pink is the sauce, which seems sort of lame to me.
First, we need some buns. But not regular buns, we need some really pink buns. Maybe even some hot pink ones.
Hot pink buns
It appears that Burger King has made pink burger buns before, but from what I can gather this was only in Thailand. They ran a Black and Pink promotion for Valentine’s Day earlier in 2023 and the Pink version was deep-fried salmon, special sauce and cheese on a pink bun. I’m sure it probably wasn’t super easy to source the pink bun, but the Brazil Barbie burger sure could have used one.
I’m sure you could use food coloring to change any burger bun recipe to a pink burger bun, but I wanted to make pink-colored buns without food coloring. I opted to remove all the water that I typically put into my bun recipe and replaced it with beet juice instead. For this recipe, I used a brand of juice called Beetology, in particular Beetology’s Beet + Cherry juice blend. It worked stunningly well. You can get a 6-pack at that link or by clicking this image.
Slight spoiler alert: I used the same beet juice for changing the color of my cheese below as well. One bottle/jar did the coloring work for both buns and cheese.
I’m fairly positive you can find some sort of beet juice at most grocery stores these days but if you can’t, you should be able to find it at health food stores or a fancier grocery store like Whole Foods. Just make sure it’s 100% juice.
Just like my regular burger buns, you need a one-hour bulk rise time and then another one-hour proof time after shaping the buns. I bake these at a slightly lower temperature for slightly less time than my regular burger buns because you want absolutely zero browning on these. I did use an instant-read thermometer though to ensure I cooked the buns fully.
Once the beet juice is mixed in with the other ingredients, it’s treated exactly like other dough. As I said before, you need to bake it as low in temperature and as quickly as you can to avoid any color darkening in the oven.
I knew we needed to make pink cheese. Just making pink sauce would be exactly what Burger King Brazil tried to pull off. So, it was the cheese that we needed to tackle next.
I bought a bit of sodium citrate for this blog post. This is the first time I’ve used it, but sodium citrate is a powder that is used in the food world to regulate acidity and emulsify oils. In the non-food world, some sodium citrates can help keep donated, stored blood from clotting.
So, sodium citrate has a lot of interesting capabilities, but it also can help encourage cheese to melt evenly by reducing the acid of cheese and strengthening the fat to water emulsion, which means it’s super helpful in removing the ability for melted cheese to clump up.
You can use this ability to turn pretty much any shredded cheese into a smooth and melty cheese sauce. Or you can add sodium citrate to some liquid—in this case beet and cherry juice—and then blend it in with practically any sort of cheese and turn it all into cheese slices that will melt very easily.
To create sliced cheese, we only need three things: liquid (beet and cherry juice), cheese (Monterey Jack and white cheddar), and sodium citrate.
I used the Modernist Cuisine method for making cheese slices and once again, just like in the bun creation, I used beet and cherry juice in place of any liquid that might be in the sliced cheese recipe. You can find this sliced cheese recipe at Saveur which credits the Modernist Cuisine at home as the source. That Modernist Cuisine book is practically 90 bucks so I guess you can just use my recipe, which I borrowed from the Saveur recipe. This is all down below in my full Hot Pink burger recipe.
If you look closely at the image above, you can see the texture from the silpat on the finished cheese slices. The photos below show the texture of the plastic wrap that I used to cover the cooling cheese in the fridge. But neither texture lasts when things start to get hot. The cheese quickly starts to melt.
Another thing I can point out since we’re comparing photos is how difficult it seems to be to capture the color pink in a photograph. There were major issues for me in getting the same color from photo to photo. Maybe someone can explain this to me, but it seems like it was a white-balance issue. Some photos might show things as pinker than others. But believe me, this burger was super pink.
Question: does this cheese taste like beets?
Answer: no, it tastes like cheese. I was surprised but there’s no trace of earthy beet flavor and absolutely zero sweetness as well.
I have a lot of pink cheese slices left. What in the heck am I going to do with them!?
Not very pink burger sauce
In the grand scheme of things, this sauce isn’t very pink. It’s nowhere near as pink as the Burger King version. I could have used food coloring, a lot of extra ketchup or more of the beet and cherry juice, but I wanted this sauce to taste good, so I simply made a version of my typical burger sauce without mustard and diced pickles. I used a little juice from a jar of sport peppers, which adds vinegar and a tiny bit of spice as well as thins the sauce out just a bit to make it the consistency of a normal burger sauce.
The sauce is mostly mayonnaise with ketchup and smoked paprika that might be giving it its tiny bit of pink color.
My not-so-pink sauce ingredients:
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon pickle juice (I used sport pepper juice)
Normally I would toss some mustard and diced pickles into this sauce, but I didn’t in this situation. If you want my typical special sandwich sauce for a burger, you can find that here:
Hot pink cheeseburgers (aka: the Barbie burger)
I typically shoot an Instagram reel of the process of making these sandwiches and the one I created for this sandwich is here: pink as heck burger reel.
Now we will bring a hot patty of meat into the pink cheese and pink bun to create Barbie’s cheeseburger.
Below are a bunch of photos of a burger that Barbie might make for Ken. Or Ken might make for Barbie. Or my wife has informed me that there’s a doll named Midge that might have made burgers for both Barbie and Ken!
Anyway, the recipe is below to make the pink bun, pink cheese and burger at home for yourself!
If you were creating the pinkest burger ever, you would probably want the inside of the burger patty to be a bit pink as well, but I missed the mark on that just a smidge. Turns out when you’re cooking and recording video with your phone, taking photos with your camera, and trying to keep up with the kitchen cleanup, it’s hard to stay on top of everything!
Here’s the full recipe for a hot pink cheeseburger you can make at home. If you try it, must show me photos. I’m pretty sure that’s the law!
Here's a burger that Ken would make for Barbie. Or maybe Barbie would cook these for Ken? I'm not sure if Skipper is old enough to cook yet, but either way, these are the pinkest burgers you can make!
Ingredients:Hot pink burger buns
- 280 grams all-purpose flour (2 1/4 cups)
- 17 grams granulated sugar (1 tablespoon)
- 8 grams salt (1 teaspoon)
- 6 grams instant yeast (2 teaspoons)
- 38 grams butter, room temperature (3 tablespoons)
- 175 grams beet juice (or a beet juice blend - 3/4 cup)
- sesame seeds (optional)
- 7 to 8 ounces Monterey jack, shredded
- 7 to 8 ounces white cheddar, shredded
- 14 grams sodium citrate (a heaping tablespoon - see notes below for links to order)
- 1⁄2 cup beet juice, or a blend of beet and other juices
- 1⁄3 pound ground beef
- 1 hot pink bun (from above)
- 1 slice of hot pink cheese (from above)
- condiments of your choice
- lettuce, pickles and tomato (all optional)
Hot pink burger buns: in a large bowl or the bowl of your mixer, weigh out and add your all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, and instant yeast and stir to combine all your dry ingredients making sure there are no clumps.
Add the butter and the beet juice to the dry ingredients.
If using a stand mixer, knead for 8 minutes on medium speed. If you are kneading by hand, you will need about 15 minutes of kneading after all the ingredients are incorporated together.
The dough should be smooth and a little bit sticky.
Place your pink dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let dough rise in a warm place for 1 to 1.5 hours. The dough should be doubled in size.
Remove dough from bowl to a lightly oiled counter and divide into 6 pieces. I like to weigh my buns at this point to keep them all fairly consistently sized, and I usually get 6 buns that are all between 85 and 90 grams each.
Roll each of your six pieces of dough on the counter until you have 6 balls.
Add each ball to a parchment-lined sheet pan.
Press down the top of each ball with a lightly oiled hand or the lightly oiled bottom of a mixing cup or small pan. If you want very tall and round buns, don't flatten them at all. If you want medium-height but still rounded buns press down only a little. If you want flat buns as you see in fast food restaurants, you should flatten each one fairly flat.
Cover your buns with lightly greased plastic wrap or a second sheet pan flipped over on top of the pan you're using.
Let the shaped buns rise for another hour or hour and a half until they are nearly doubled in size.
Near the end of your final proofing time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (177 C).
If you want to add sesame seeds, put a little water in a bowl and paint it carefully on top of each bun. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top of the buns and the water should help the seeds stick to the top.
Bake your buns for 12 to 14 minutes rotating the sheet pan halfway through the baking time. I typically bake for 7 minutes and then rotate and come back in another 5 minutes to make sure they aren't browning. At that point your buns should be done all the way through, you're just trying to make sure they stay pink and do not turn brown.
Remove the buns to a cooling rack to cool before slicing.
Hot pink cheese: add a greased or silpat lined sheet pan to your oven on its lowest setting. Mine is 150 F.
Add beet juice to a medium-sized pot and bring to a simmer.
Add sodium citrate and stir to combine.
Slowly add all the shredded cheese, stopping to stir the cheese into the sauce after every handful. Once all the cheese is added, using an immersion blender, blend the sauce to a smooth consistency. If you do not have an immersion blender, you can pour the sauce into a regular blender or food processor. Be very careful doing this because the sauce will be very hot.
Once the sauce is blended, carefully pour the sauce over the warm sheet pan and shake the sheet pan to allow the sauce to spread out. You may need a knife or offset spatula for this. Once the sauce is in a consistently thin layer, cover the sheet pan in plastic wrap and move to a refrigerator to cool.
Once the cheese is fully cool, you can carefully remove it from the sheet pan and slice the cheese into 3.5-inch squares or whatever shapes you desire. To store the cheese, place a piece of parchment or wax paper between each slice and store it in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
Cheeseburger cooking and assembly: place a medium skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.
Butter and add your sliced buns face down on the warm pan or griddle to lightly toast them. Keep an eye on them to make sure you do not brown them too much.
Form a third pound of ground beef into a thin patty (about a 3/4-inch thick) that is a little bit wider than one of your buns (or as close as you can get). Salt and pepper the ground beef patty and place the seasoned side down in the hot pan. Season the second side and allow the patty to cook, untouched, for 3 to 5 minutes.
Flip the patty and add a slice of hot pink cheese to the top of the patty. Cover the pan to help the cheese melt and cook the second side for at least 2 minutes. If you're worried about undercooking the burger, cook the second side for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove the patty to a plate while you assemble the rest of your burger.
Add any condiments to the bottom bun and top the condiments with lettuce if using.
Add the pink-cheese-topped burger patty on top of the stack and then add pickles (if using). Add additional condiments to the top bun and use it to cover everything, completing the burger.
Serve and enjoy.
Check back on Monday for a new sandwich!
Yeah, we’re sending out another blog post and newsletter in just three days. Subscribe for free to get a sandwich email zipped straight into your inbox.
You can also join my small community on Patreon to support this blog and get behind the scenes content about future sandwiches.