These Croissant Buns make for an excellent baking project for a cozy winter weekend. Start by making a homemade laminated dough on Friday evening and they’ll be ready to devour over the weekend.
I’ve had an obsession with buttery, flaky pastries for as long as I can remember. I like to complain that we don’t have a decent bakery here on the island, but really, it’s a blessing in disguise. I would never be able to demonstrate enough self control to live in a place that has homemade pastries available anytime I want.
However, sometimes I really do wish there was a good bakery nearby in order to instantly satisfy my cravings for all things buttery and flaky. Because making them yourself? It’s far from instant. This recipe falls under the “labor of love” category. If you, like me, love buttery, flaky pastries and long, challenging baking projects, then this post is for you. Read on.
Morning buns aren’t super common here on the east coast. They’re much more of a midwestern / west coast thing. They fall into the same category as cinnamon rolls, but morning buns tend to be a little lighter, not as sweet, and usually made with a puff pastry or croissant-like dough. I made this recipe first since it had “best” in the title, but it used more of a brioche dough, and while they certainly weren’t bad, they just weren’t what I was after. That’s why I’ve specified croissant morning buns in the title, because that’s what these are: a glorious mashup between a croissant and a sticky bun.
Croissant dough is what’s known as a laminated dough, like puff pastry or danish. Lamination refers to the process of rolling and folding thin sheets of butter in dough to create puffed layers and crispy flakes once baked. This is perhaps one of the more intimidating baking procedures, and while I’m certainly no stranger to the struggle, it’s a fun and rewarding technique to learn. Don’t get frustrated if yours don’t turn out perfect the first time – it’s normal. Baking, like anything else, is a practice. But unlike most other things, even when the results are less-than-perfect, they’re usually still pretty delicious – and that always counts as a win in my book.
This recipe is a slight adaptation from the famous Tartine morning buns. Tartine is the be-all-end-all of the bread and pastry world. My friend Brieann used to work at their flagship bakery San Francisco and a few years ago she gifted me one of their cookbooks. The Tartine books are all beautiful and intensely detailed for anyone seriously interested in baking, whether as a career or hobby. While I am technically a professional and I did take a baking class in culinary school, I still consider myself to be more of a hobbyist when it comes to baking. I love working with my hands and experimenting with different techniques, but I find it too finicky and frustrating to ever do on a larger scale.
This recipe isn’t quite as labor intensive as it may seem, but it does take a good bit of time, most of it inactive. Your best bet is to start on a Friday evening, work on it all day Saturday, and then have it ready to bake off Sunday morning. As long as you don’t have to leave the house for longer than an hour on Saturday, the process can actually be pretty leisurely, and definitely a lot of fun.
The first step of the recipe is to make a preferment, which adds structure and flavor to the dough. From there, the dough is made and then the lamination happens. This step is the trickiest, but don’t let it scare you. The key, as I’ve learned, is to have the butter at the right consistency. You want it somewhere between firm and soft, cool, but not cold, and definitely not warm. It needs to be malleable enough to spread into an even layer, but not so soft that it’s like icing a cake. The best way to achieve this is by beating cold butter in a stand mixer for a few minutes. Focus on getting this right and you shouldn’t have any problems.
The butter gets spread out onto the dough and then folded again and again. This is what creates all those gorgeous flaky layers. After each fold or “turn”, the dough will need to chill a bit before doing it again. The folding itself is really pretty quick and easy, but it’s the overall process that can seem daunting.
The laminated dough then gets rolled up with a filling of (more) butter, cinnamon, sugar, and orange zest, then gets plopped into a buttered and sugared muffin tin. Once baked, the dough puffs up to become light and crisp, while the butter and sugar caramelize together to create the most incredible flavor and texture. The shattering crunch of the outer layers, the tender inner crumb, the sticky sweet caramel on the bottom, and the little bits of butter that gush out when you bite down. Come. Onnnnnn.
These morning buns are everything you could ever want on a lazy Sunday, and I promise they are most definitely worth the effort.Print