Morning Buns

When we went to San Francisco last fall, one of my “must-do’s” was Morning Buns at Tartine.

If there is a more beautiful bakery than Tartine, I am completely unaware of it. Natural light streaming into the window where the bakers are mixing dough. Cases full of cakes, pastries, bread pudding, quiches and breads that make you more hungry than when you came through the door. Oversized cups brimming with hot coffee. A chandelier made of bread. And the smell is so intoxicating. It’s one of those places where you have breakfast and wish you could just stay until you were hungry for lunch.

I wanted to recreate that Tartine breakfast at home in Nashville, so I looked up a recipe for the morning buns online. I didn’t have enough time to make croissant dough, but I remembered Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Processor Danish Pastry. Pastry made for danishes using your food processor. Could anything that easy really work?

Baby. This pastry dough might be my favorite discovery of 2010.

So, what are Morning Buns? They’re like cinnamon rolls, but they’re made with croissant dough. Very, very rich and buttery. There’s cinnamon in the filling, but it’s mixed with orange zest to brighten the flavor. And after they’re baked, they’re not glazed. They’re rolled in sugar, so the outside has a little sugar crunch.

“Decadent” isn’t a decadent enough word for them.

You make it by pulsing your flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a food processor. Then you add your butter, and pulse it just a little. You should still see half-inch chunks of butter. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl, fold in your liquid ingredients, and put the dough into the refrigerator overnight.

Is it a pretty dough when it goes into the fridge? NO! It’s a chunky, funky mess. You’ll probably want to throw it directly into the trash, but stay with me. The next day, as you repeatedly roll out the dough and fold it like a business letter, it will get smoother and smoother. You’ll still be able to see chunks of butter through the dough, and that’s a good thing. It means your dough will be flaky, like it’s supposed to be.

Once your dough is ready, you roll it out, spread it with butter, sprinkle on the filling, and roll it up, just like you would if you were making cinnamon rolls. Then, slice the roll into 1 1/2-inch rounds (sometimes I use a McCormick® spice tin for measuring), and place each slice into a buttered and sugared muffin tin. Let the buns rise, bake them, and roll them in sugar. Yes, more sugar. Just think of it as magic sparkle dust.

We really couldn’t wait until the buns had cooled to have a taste. Jeff picked one up, and we pulled it apart like a wishbone. OK, maybe more like two jackals fighting over a fresh carcass. Can you blame us? The bun was flaky, rich, buttery and sweet – everything a Morning Bun should be. And now we don’t have to fly cross-country to share one. Or even make croissant dough.

Processor Danish Pastry. Put it on your “must do” list for 2011.

Morning Buns

Adapted from Tartine via 7x7SF

Makes 12

  • 2 pounds Processor Danish Pastry (original recipe calls for croissant dough), recipe below
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • Zest of 2 medium oranges
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, melted
  • Extra white sugar for coating muffin cups and for rolling finished buns
  1. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, white sugar, orange zest, cinnamon and salt. (Mixture will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or in the freezer for a month.)
  2. Prepare a 12-muffin capacity muffin tin by generously brushing bottom and sides of each cup with melted butter. Put a teaspoon of sugar in each muffin cup and swirl to coat evenly. Tap out excess sugar.
  3. Roll out Processor Danish Pastry into a 1/4-inch thick, 6-inch-by-18-inch rectangle, with the long side in front of you. Brush dough with melted butter, and sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over the whole rectangle—the sugar layer should be about 1/8-inch thick. (You may have some of the mixture left over.)
  4. Starting with the long side of the dough, roll rectangle into a cylinder. Cut cylinder into 1 1/2-inch discs. Fit each disc into the buttered and sugared muffin tins so that the swirl pattern is visible on top. You may have some extra rolled bun dough left over or just choose to bake fewer buns (if you do, cut them all and freeze individually on a pan). Once frozen, place in a resealable plastic bag and store in freezer. (To bake buns that are frozen: Prepare pan as above, let buns defrost in the prepared cups (this will depend on how warm your kitchen is, about 45 minutes), then continue with step 5.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Let buns rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
  6. Place the muffin tin on a cookie sheet covered with parchment or foil to catch any drips while baking.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops are well browned and the sugar melted. (If you use croissant dough, it will take about 45 minutes.) Remove pan from oven and immediately turn buns out onto a clean baking sheet or work surface.
  8. Let the buns set for 5 to 10 minutes, then toss in a bowl with some sugar to coat. These buns are best eaten the day they are made. If eating the next day, heat them up first in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes before serving.

Processor Danish Pastry

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s “How to Be a Domestic Goddess”

Makes 2 pounds

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups white bread flour
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) rapid-rise yeast or 1 tablespoon fresh yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into thin slices
  1. Pour the water and milk into a measuring cup. Add the egg, beating with a fork to mix. Set aside.
  2. Set a large bowl near your food processor.
  3. Using your food processor, pulse the flour, yeast, salt and sugar just to combine.
  4. Add the cold slices of butter. Process briefly so that the butter is cut up a little, though you still want visible chunks of at least 1/2 inch.
  5. Transfer the mixture into the large bowl, and quickly add the contents of the cup.
  6. Use your hands or a rubber spatula to fold the ingredients together, but don’t overmix. Expect to have a gooey mess with some butter lumps pebbling it.
  7. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, put it in the refrigerator, and leave it overnight or up to 4 days.
  8. To Turn the Dough Into Pastry: Remove the dough from the refrigerator, let it get to room temperature, dust your surface with bread flour, and roll the dough out into a 20-inch square. Fold the dough square into thirds, like a business letter, turning it afterward so that the closed fold is on your left, like the spine of a book. (It will still look like a hot mess.)
  9. Roll the dough out again into a 20-inch square, repeating the steps above 3 times. (Each time, it will get smoother and better looking.)
  10. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, if you haven’t already done so at the earlier stage), or refrigerate half to use now and put the other half in the freezer to use later.