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Morning Buns

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Recipe adopted from Cook's Country.  [Recipe makes 12 buns].

As you might have noticed, this blog has been rather quiet over the past few weeks (apologies).  Between breaking my finger and getting a lovely winter cold, being in the kitchen wasn't all that feasible despite wanting to be.  As of today though, the cold is completely gone and the hand is healed to the point that I can finally use it without a splint!  To celebrate, I'll do my best to give you a few more posts than usual this week.

I decided to kick off the weekend with a baking recipe that's a bit more ambitious than most.  For those who aren't familiar with morning buns, picture a cinnamon roll, only replace the doughy texture with a light and flaky texture similar to croissants, and replace the icing with some cinnamon sugar.  You may think that sounds easy enough, but to get that light and flaky texture, you need a croissant dough.  And to get a quality croissant dough, it helps quite a bit to have an industrial sheeter to produce all of those layers of butter.  Luckily, the lovely folks at America's Test Kitchen have already realized this dilemma and have come up with a technique that home bakers can use to replicate the texture of a croissant.  Instead of adding a layer of butter on top of dough and then halving and rolling continuously, they figured out a way to create thin discs of butter throughout the dough.  So how'd it work out?

Let me begin by saying that my standards for morning buns are high...like crazy high.  This is due to the fact that the bakery I work at makes their own croissant dough (completely from scratch) resulting in some darn good eats.  So with that, I'll say that these turned out great, but they're definitely different than what I'm used to.  For one, they're about half of the size (which I'm fine with considering the amount of butter used).  And as far as the texture, the outsides had that semi-hard, flaky, buttery quality that I was hoping for, but the insides reminded me more of a cross between a moist coffee cake and sponge cake.  Again, very good, but different.  I wonder now if I would have baked them for an additional 10 minutes (the longer of the two recommended baking times), if the insides would have dried out slightly, resulting in the texture I was going for.  If that doesn't do it, someday I want to make croissants at home, and I would devote some of the dough to a few morning buns.  Have any of you ever made something similar at home?

INGREDIENTS:

15 ounces (~3 cups plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons ice water
1 large egg yolk

3 1/2 ounces (~1/2 cup) sugar
3 1/2 ounces (~1/2 cup) light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon orange zest, finely chopped
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 1/2 ounces (~1/2 cup) sugar plus 2 tablespoons cinnamon, for dusting

DIRECTIONS:

In a large zip-lock bag, add the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and sliced butter.  Seal and shake until all of the butter is coated.  Press out any excess air, and reseal.  Use a rolling pin to roll over the bag, flattening the butter.  Open the bag, reseal, shake, press out excess air, and repeat once more.  Transfer the bag the the freezer temporarily.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sour cream, orange juice, ice water, and egg yolk.  Add the flour mixture to the large mixing bowl and stir by hand to combine.  [Side note:  Do not use a food processor or stand mixer for this step.  The goal here is to keep the flattened pieces of butter intact, as they are key to the flaky layers in the end product].  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead only until a ball is formed.

Roll out the dough until a 20" x 12" rectangle is formed.  Dust off any excess flour, and then fold into a tight log, starting with the shorter edge.  Press down on the log and use a rolling pin to roll out a 12" x 4" rectangle.  Wrap in plastic wrap, and transfer to the freezer for 20 minutes.  While the dough is chilling, grease your muffin tin with cooking spray.  In addition, combine the sugars, orange zest, cinnamon, and vanilla in a small bowl.

When the dough is ready, remove from the freezer and place onto a lightly floured surface.  Once again, roll out to a 20" x 12" rectangle, with the longest edge facing you.  Dust off any excess flour, and mist the dough with a spray bottle full of water.  Evenly spread the cinnamon sugar topping over the dough, leaving an inch border on the edge closest to you.  Begin stretching and folding the dough into a tight cylinder, starting with the edge furthest from you.  Once you get close to the clean border, spray the border with a mist of water.  Finish rolling, and then pinch the dough along the seam to ensure that it won't open up.  Using a bench knife (or serrated knife), trim off and discard 1/2" from each side of the log to clean it up.  Divide the remaining dough into 12 equal discs.  Transfer each disc into the muffin tin, cut side up.  Cover with plastic wrap, and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Once properly cooled and rested, remove from the refrigerator and let rest on the middle shelf of your oven.  Place a 9" x 13" pan on the bottom shelf of the oven, and fill with boiling water.  Close the oven door, and let the morning buns proof for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.  Remove from the oven, and preheat to 425° F.  Once up to temp, bake for 5 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 325° F.  Continue baking for 40 to 50 minutes, or until deep golden brown.  Remove from oven, and let rest for 5 minutes.

While they're resting, combine sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  After 5 minutes, remove each morning bun from the muffin tin and toss in cinnamon sugar.  Let rest another 30 minutes before serving.

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