Happy New Year! I’m kicking off 2019 and year 4(!) of this blog with my current favorite breakfast pastry: sourdough enriched morning buns!
Morning buns are sort of a mash-up between a cinnamon roll and a kouign amman/croissant. They’re rolled and shaped like cinnamon rolls, but made with laminated dough and dusted with sugar so you get a gorgeously flaky exterior and a softer, caramelized center. I love the variety of textures in this pastry! Morning buns are also a great place to start if you’re new (like me) to laminated doughs! The final dough doesn’t have to be rolled quite as thinly as if you were making croissants, and you don’t have to individually shape each pastry — just slice, proof, and bake!
This morning bun recipe uses a yeasted laminated dough, which involves making a regular yeasted enriched dough (spiked with sourdough starter for flavor and strength) and folding it around a block of butter. You then give the dough-butter package several rolls and turns to create hundreds of thin alternating layers of dough and butter. When the proofed morning buns hit the hot oven, the yeast combined with the steam from the butter help give these pastries their beautifully golden flaky layers.
Originally I tried making these pastries with “quick” danish doughs (Nigella Lawson has a famous one); and while they tasted good, I really wanted to see how much different they’d be with the real deal. In the end, I vastly preferred the fully laminated dough and think it’s worth the extra time and effort.
I won’t beat around the bush: laminated dough is a bit fussy to work with and requires attention and precision. If you’re anything like me, it’ll take you several tries to get a product you’re reasonably happy with. But if that doesn’t scare you off, I’d say go for gold and give fully laminated a shot! Even if your pastries aren’t perfect, they’ll still probably taste better than most things you can buy in the store…and they are incredibly satisfying to make! Just choose a couple days when you can relax and focus and have some fun in the kitchen. Plus, once you’ve gotten the hang of laminated dough, it will open up a whole new world of homemade danishes, croissants, and other delicious pastries you can produce in your very own kitchen.
A few notes:
- Dough and butter temperature is really important for successful lamination. You basically want the dough and butter to be similar consistencies so they will roll out easily. The butter should feel cool and pliable — not melty or brittle. If the butter is too cold, it will crack into pieces and if it’s too warm, it will melt into the dough. I’ve had best success with a butter temperature around 55-60F at the start of lamination. I recommend reading through this post for lots of great lamination tips and information.
- Along the same lines, you will want to rest the dough in the fridge between turns just long enough so the dough can relax and the butter can firm up enough to roll out without melting. In my cool Canadian kitchen in the winter, this takes about 30-40 minutes. If you’re in a warmer climate, you may need longer. At any rate, if it’s feeling at all soft and squishy, refrigerate it an extra 5-10 minutes. And if you feel the butter breaking up at all, let it sit for a few minutes at room temperature before rolling out.
- The dough will get increasingly more difficult to roll out as you do more turns (all that rolling is essentially developing the strength of the dough). Use firm, even strokes and don’t be afraid to flip the dough back and forth to make sure you’re rolling evenly. You may need to rest the dough in the fridge halfway through the final roll.
- Before you start lamination, make sure you have a large and clear work surface. You’ll also want to have a long rolling pin, measuring tape / ruler, and pastry brush handy along with a bowl of extra flour for dusting your surface and pin.
- Do your best to maintain sharp corners and edges throughout the lamination process as this will give you the best results. Don’t be afraid to use your hands to tug the dough a bit to get it into the right shape.
- Use good quality European style butter, at least 82% butterfat. Not only will this make your pastries taste better, but the lamination process will be easier. In my experience, European style butter is noticeably more pliable and less prone to breaking.
- My family really enjoys raisins in these morning buns, but they do have a tendency to fall out when you’re dusting the finished pastries with sugar. No big deal, just push them back in. Or leave them out entirely if you’re not into raisins. Feel free to play around with the filling spices as well — some lemon or orange zest would be lovely, or add some ginger and nutmeg for warmth.
- These pastries proof best in a warmish (~80F), humid environment. The oven with the light turned on and a bowl of hot water next to the sheet of pastries is my go-to spot. You don’t want it too hot, however, or the butter will leak out.
- I usually make these pastries over two days. On day 1, I build the levain in the morning. I mix the dough in the afternoon and do the turns before going to bed. Then in the morning, I do the final roll out, shaping, proofing, and baking. You can also do the final roll and refrigerate the dough on a large sheet pan overnight, but don’t fill and shape the morning buns until you’re ready to proof and bake as the sugar will liquefy.
Sourdough Enriched Morning Buns
For the levain:
- 44g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
- 75g water
- 134g bread flour
- Mix and ferment at room temperature until ripe (6-12 hours). The levain should roughly triple in size, and the domed top should be slightly flattened.
For the final dough:
- 361g bread flour
- 135g milk
- 77g egg (about 1 1/2 large eggs, or 1 egg + 2 egg yolks)
- 60g sugar
- 10g salt
- 7g instant yeast
- 41g unsalted butter, softened*
- All of the levain
- 310g unsalted butter, cold (roll-in)*
For the filling and coating:
- 75g granulated sugar
- 75g light brown sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 100g raisins, optional
- Pinch of salt
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- Additional granulated sugar for dusting the tins and rolling the finished pastries
*For best results, use a European style butter with at least 82% butterfat
- Mix together the final dough ingredients (except the roll-in butter) until combined, about 5 minutes on low speed using a stand mixer or 8-10 minutes by hand. The dough shouldn’t be at full gluten development (it will gain strength through fermentation and rolling), but it shouldn’t be sticky. Flatten into a rough rectangle, place on a baking sheet (I really like quarter sheet pans for this), wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to overnight).
- About 30 minutes before you want to begin lamination, take the roll-in butter out of the fridge. Slice into pieces and pound into an even 7.5″ square using a rolling pin. An easy way to do this for me is to draw a 7.5″ square on a piece of parchment, flip it over (so you don’t get marker or pencil into your butter), put the butter inside the square, and place another piece of parchment over it. Pound and roll the butter until it is an even square of butter, using a bench knife to clean up and sharpen the edges/corners as you go. Place back into the fridge to firm up for about 10-15 minutes before beginning lamination (see notes above).
- Remove the dough from the fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11″ square. Remove the butter from the fridge and place it in the middle of the dough like a diamond. Fold the four flaps of dough over the butter to seal it in, pinching the edges to seal.
- Roll the dough into an 8″ x 24″ rectangle, flouring the dough and pin as necessary. You shouldn’t need too much flour, but use as much as you need so nothing sticks. (Just brush off any excess flour with a pastry brush before folding.) Do a single book fold by folding the top third of the dough down and the bottom third up over the middle, using a bit of water to “glue” down the layers. Before folding the top edge down, trim the edge to expose the butter (you can save the scraps and bake them off in a mini loaf pan at the end!). Give the dough a 90-degree turn so the opening is on the right, cover with plastic, and rest in the fridge for about 30-40 minutes to relax and chill.
- Do two more book folds following the step above, chilling the dough 30 minutes after the second fold and at least 90 minutes (or overnight) after the third and final fold.
- When you are ready to proof and bake, prepare a muffin tin by brushing each cavity with some of the melted butter and dusting with granulated sugar. Mix together the sugars, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
- Remove the dough from the fridge onto a lightly floured surface. Allow to sit for a few minutes. Roll the dough into a large rectangle about 13″ x 18″ (it should be about 1/4″ thick). Rotate the dough so a long edge is facing you. Brush the entire surface with the rest of the melted butter, then sprinkle it evenly with a generous layer of the sugar mixture (you probably won’t use all of it, but don’t be stingy) and raisins, if using. Use the rolling pin to gently press the sugar and raisins into the dough. Starting from the long end closest to you, roll up tightly like a jelly roll. (If the dough is starting to feel soft at this point, chill for about 10 minutes to make cutting easier.) Slice into 1 1/2″ pieces and place buns cut side up into the prepared tin.
- Cover the morning buns with lightly oiled plastic wrap and proof until very puffy and jiggly, about 2 hours at warm room temperature (see above). About 1/2 an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 425F.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375F and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes or until the buns are deeply golden and the centers register at least 200F. (If they are browning too quickly, tent with a piece of foil halfway through baking.) Cool the buns in the pan for a couple of minutes, then carefully remove and roll each bun in the remaining sugar mixture (I add an additional ~75g granulated sugar). Morning buns are best consumed fresh out of the oven, but any extras can be stored in an airtight container and reheated for about 5 minutes at 350F the next day or two.