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How to Make Morning Buns

Why this recipe works Unlike cinnamon buns, the filling of which is tucked within an enriched bread dough, morning buns typically start as croissants. A buttery, flaky croissant rolled up with cinnamon sugar? We couldn’t think of a reason not to make them—except for the amount of work they required. For an easier path to a sweet breakfast, we thought of the technique used for “blitz,” or quick, puff pastry; instead of laminating layers of butter between layers of dough, we cut up the butter, combine it with the flour, and incorporate it with a rolling pin. To adapt this for a flavorful, yeasted, croissant-like pastry, we simply added a packet of yeast, plus a little sugar, to the dough and let the buns rise before baking them. The technique made pastries with many layers, but it also made a mess. To contain the process, we sealed quarter-inch butter slices in a zipper-lock bag with the dry ingredients and then rolled everything right in the bag. Incorporating sour cream into the dough made it more supple and easy to roll, and provided richness without greasiness. A blend of brown and white sugar gave the filling a subtle molasses flavor; orange zest contributed a lovely floral aroma. And we liked the hint of citrus in the filling so much that we exchanged some of the water in the dough with orange juice. If the dough becomes too soft to work with at any point, refrigerate it until it’s firm enough to easily handle.

  • makes 12 buns
  • rising time 1 to 1½ hours
  • baking time 45 minutes
  • total time 3 to 3½ hours
  • key equipment rolling pin, rimmed baking sheet, 12-cup muffin tin

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dough

  • 3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 24 tablespoons (12 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch slices and chilled
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream, chilled
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces) orange juice, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 large egg yolk

filling

  • ½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed (3½ ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1). For the dough Combine flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in 1-gallon zipper-lock bag. Add butter to bag, seal, and shake to coat. Press air out of bag and reseal. Roll over bag several times with rolling pin, shaking bag after each roll, until butter is pressed into large flakes.

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2). Transfer mixture to large bowl and stir in sour cream, orange juice, ice water, and egg yolk with wooden spoon until combined. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds.

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3). Press and roll dough into 20 by 12-inch rectangle, with short side parallel to counter edge. Roll dough away from you into firm cylinder, keeping roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go.

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4). With seam side down, flatten cylinder into 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Transfer to parchment paper–lined rimmed baking sheet, cover loosely with greased plastic wrap, and freeze for 15 minutes.

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5). For the filling Line 12-cup muffin tin with paper or foil liners and spray with vegetable oil spray. Combine all ingredients in bowl. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and roll into 20 by 12-inch rectangle, with long side parallel to counter edge. Sprinkle with sugar mixture, leaving ½-inch border around edges, and press lightly to adhere.

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6). Roll dough away from you into firm cylinder, keeping roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go. Pinch seam closed, then reshape cylinder as needed to be 20 inches in length with uniform thickness.

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7). Using serrated knife, trim ½ inch dough from each end and discard. Cut cylinder into 12 pieces and place cut side up in muffin cups. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours. (Unrisen buns can be refrigerated for at least 16 hours or up to 24 hours; let buns sit at room temperature for 1 hour before baking.)

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8). Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Bake until buns begin to rise, about 5 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Continue to bake until buns are deep golden brown, 40 to 50 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking. Let buns cool in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and discard liners. Serve warm.

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problem The dough lacks distinct layers.

solution Make sure your ingredients are fully chilled.

The key to getting many-leaved buns using this “quick” pastry technique is to roll multiple layers of butter between multiple layers of flour. The butter melts in the oven and creates steam, forcing the layers apart. However, if the dough or the butter is too warm, the butter will simply coat the flour, creating a cohesive dough without the necessary striations. Be sure to fully chill the butter as well as the sour cream and orange juice so that the dough stays cool.

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