It certainly will be when you wake to the smell of this week’s entry emerging from the oven. A generous ribbon of cinnamon runs throughout Morning Buns, imparting a warm, soothing sweetness that embraces not just the tongue, but also the nose, aromatically, long before it. All the more meltingly delicious when the butter that makes these so flaky blends with the cinnamon to create a streusel of sorts.
The secret, as with many baked goods, is in using a fair amount of butter. The colder the better, as the longer the butter stays cold before it melts, the lighter and airier the muffins will be. A brief stay in the freezer first will do the trick, and then a rolling pin works the butter into the flour just until the latter flakes, as pictured below:
Afterward, the remainder of the wet ingredients go in, the dough is briefly kneaded, then it goes back into the fridge to keep the butter chilled. It may be a bit of trouble to produce, but the buns are flaky and tender enough to introduce blissful amnesia along with the first bite. Of course, if you’re not the one doing the baking, all the more extraordinary!
Better yet, orange juice and orange zest give Morning Buns a brightness that’s as beautifully evocative as is the cinnamon. They’re magnificent when paired with freshly-squeezed blood orange juice, as pictured at the top-center of this week’s photo. The juice’s mild berry-like sweetness accents the other flavors quite well.
These rolls’ full potential for perfection wasn’t anticipated when the recipe was taken from The Cook’s Country Cookbook, else they would have come to you much sooner, years perhaps, before they did. Still, they’re here now, waiting to lure the household downstairs, bounding from bed enthusiastically, even amidst the gray winter cold. Not just good morning. Great morning!
For the dough:
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) instant yeast
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices, then put in the freezer for 15 minutes
- 1 cup sour cream, chilled
- 1/4 cup orange juice, chilled
- 3 tablespoons ice water
- 1 large egg yolk
For the filling:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
- 2 teaspoons ground cinamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Start with the dough. Combine in a large zip-top bag the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add the butter to the bag, seal, and shake until the flour coats the butter. Force all the air from the bag, seal again, then roll over it with a rolling pin. Shake the bag again to redistribute the butter, then roll over it once more with the pin. Repeat this until the butter flakes, as pictured in the introduction, about five to seven rolls.
Pour the bag contents into a large mixing bowl and stir in the orange juice, water, egg yolk and sour cram until just combined. Turn out onto a floured counter and knead until an smooth, cohesive ball forms. Roll dough into a 12-inch X 20-inch rectangle.
Starting with the short edge, roll into a tight cylinder. Pat cylinder flat into a 12-inch X 4-inch rectangle, transfer to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap, then put in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, populate a muffin tin with paper liners and douse with cooking spray. Create the filling by mixing all the filling ingredients in a medium bowl.
Place the dough on a floured surface and roll into a 12-inch X 20-inch rectangle. Sprinkle evenly with the filling, leaving 1/2-inch border uncovered. Starting with the long end, roll the dough into a tight cylinder, pinching the seam lightly when you finish. Trim and discard half an inch of the dough from either end. Cut the remaining roll vertically into 12 pieces, each being about 1-and-1/2 inches wide.
Place each piece, cut side up, into one of the muffin liners. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, up to 24 hours.
When you’re ready to bake, remove the middle rack from the oven, leaving one about a third of the way up and the other, 2/3 of the way. Place a large baking dish on the lower rack. Remove the plastic from the muffin tray and place it on the upper rack. Pour three cups of boiling water into the baking dish and close the oven door. After about half an hour, the rolls should be puffed and increased in size. Remove the baking dish and discard the water, and also remove muffin tin. Heat oven to 425°.
When the oven reaches temperature, place the muffin tin on the lower rack. Bake until the buns begin to rise, about ten minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325°, then bake until golden-brown, about 40 minutes. Rotate tin about halfway through baking.
Let the muffin tin cool on a wire rack for five minutes, peel off the paper liners, and serve.