I'm terrible at Christmas. Birthdays too. When it comes to gift giving, it is rare I make it to the finish before dropping hints to the recipient as to the present that's been purchased with them in mind. In dire cases of eagerness, I end up breaking down and giving presents early. It might be smart for me to purchase two sets of gifts at the get go.
The trouble is, I get so excited at the giving, that I fail miserably at the waiting.
In the case of sugar buns, I waited as long as I could. That ends today.
I was hesitant to mention another butter-sugar-and-oh-have-some-more-butter bread when we were on with brioche so recently, but when those brioche were welcomed with such enthusiasm I tucked such qualms aside.
Plus, sugar buns don't need my help. They state their own case.
I've been making sugar buns for a good while now. And before that, I had a long history with cinnamon rolls, including a dark period in high school involving a scandalous fling with those monstrous ones they sell at the mall. I'm not proud. I returned to homemade for a time, until we parted ways after a disappointing batch one Christmas morning.
They only returned to our circle when Benjamin, my eldest, had a less-than-impressive meet-n-greet with a cinnamon roll from a shop. I attempted to salvage their burgeoning friendship by baking cinnamon rolls with him, thus rekindling my affection anew ... which was stoked ablaze soon after with an introduction to Tartine's morning buns. That proved the tipping point; cinnamon-sweet breakfast breads and I were back to spending time in each other's company.
I tried the Tartine recipe with croissant dough. I saw somewhere the suggestion of swapping in Danish dough, and thought it an excellent one. Then I found a like-minded individual who suggested a cheat's method for Danish dough, and it proved to be what I was really looking for. Laminated doughs, rather than the bread dough usual for cinnamon rolls makes for a pull-apart delicacy that traditional buns sometimes lack.
Over all those twists and turns, there's been tweaking and fiddling, shifting and settling into the relationship. And, wherein through the course of such intensive decided companionship, it was determined that the balance of butter in the dough and swirl is crucial — a too generous of a quantity much makes these buns open up between their swirls and crisp, with a sharp shattering of the crumb. I prefer softness at their coiled centres, a doughiness beside the crunch of sugar. (That is not to say that these buns include only a miserly serving of butter, as the proportion could hardly be called stingy.)
An addition of whole wheat bread flour encourages softness and adds weight, and almond extract contributes a mellow something or other that reminds of bostocks when it meets up with the orange zest that spikes the filling. I double down on that nuttiness, upping the ante with browned butter too.
Speaking of that filling, it's rare I go for cinnamon alone when baking. Which is surprising, as again back in high school I was big time crazy for Big Red gum, and thought cinnamon hearts better than chocolate. In those dramatic years, it was the full hit of cinnamon and nothing else. At present, however, I consider cinnamon best in combination with the other aromatic, warm-bodied spices that share a shelf by our stove. And so, nutmeg, cardamom and ginger tag along.
And thus we began a kinship with these sugar buns.
As for the moniker, sugar buns comes from Benjamin; who, in his six-year-old wisdom, declared the final tumble in granulated sugar is what makes these buns his favourite. Since he was part of the reason I welcomed cinnamon rolls back into our kitchen, he deserved the honour of naming.
That said, if it floats your boat you could call them "mixed spice rolls with brown butter and orange zest," but sugar buns is less of a mouthful. And, well, easier to say when your mouth's full. (That's the type of joke that makes my boys giggle, it might even get a real belly laugh, so excuse the pun. It's for them. But the buns, I'm giving those to you.)