Coconut Cherry Breakfast Buns

A pile of Coconut Cherry Breakfast Buns sprinkled with toasted coconut
“Can you FEEL that?!” he asked – his breath in my ear. He wasn’t asking about the sex. Yes, I could feel the pleasure of him inside of me, but this was something…electric. I was astonished to discover he could feel it as well – a tingling running through both of us like an unbroken current of charged energy. We fit together in a way that transcended the physicality of the act. I wasn’t new to good sex, yet this was the first time I understood the power of true chemistry – a shared, tangible connection, separate and unique from emotions like love.

I’m older wiser now and understand there are a rare few whose chemistry mixes so profoundly with mine – men who, at the careless brush of their hand along my skin, cause my blood to shimmer. Unbelieving that I am the only one transfigured by this rush of sensation, I want to grab them, look them square in the face, and ask, “Can you FEEL that?!”

Moving outside my bedroom and into the safer confines of my kitchen now, my second favorite chemical reaction is the combining of yeast and sugar (or, in the recipe below, honey). Officially called enthanol fermentation, it’s the delicious result when yeast and sugar get their boogie on. I’m pretty sure, when it happens, yeast rubs up against sugar and asks, “Can you FEEL that?!” Their chemistry results in yeasty breads, rolls and buns – transforming a few simple ingredients into something transcendent, like these Coconut Cherry Breakfast Buns.


Coconut Cherry Breakfast Buns

Mildly sweet breakfast buns stuffed with toasted coconut, Morello cherries and spices.


Ingredients

  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup Morello cherries or other canned/jarred cherries, drained well and chopped
  • ½ cup toasted coconut, plus more for decorating
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon water

Directions

  1. In the microwave, heat the milk and honey until warm (105⁰ – 110⁰ F). Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour, salt, cinnamon and cardamom in a large bowl.
  2. Add the butter and vanilla to the milk mixture (it should be foamy by now) and then stir into the flour to create a shaggy dough. Cover and let dough rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the dough to your work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 12-15 minutes. Pat the dough into a disk, sprinkle with cherries and coconut and press into dough. Roll the dough up like a sausage encasing the fruit and then lightly knead to distribute the fruit well. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to proof in a warm spot until doubled in size, about one hour.
  4. Divide the dough into 8 even pieces, roll into round balls, picking off any fruit on the outside that is exposed, and place each bun on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and proof again until risen, about 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake for 17-22 minutes until buns are dark golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. For glaze, combine sugar and water and microwave until sugar dissolves. Brush warm buns with glaze and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Buns are best served slightly warm.

Best Coffee Cake Muffins

These muffins have the ideal 50/50 ratio of streusel to cake that every proper coffee cake should have – and the muffin portion is so light, rather than eat the streusel and throw away the muffin– it begs you to eat the whole thing…and perhaps even go for another. No health–redeeming qualities – this is pure morning indulgence.

coffe cake muffins with streusel topping

“Good morning, Sunshine,” the dawn nudges me through my bedroom window. I roll to my left, away from the light, and burrow deeper under the duvet, hoping the patiently waiting kitties outside my bedroom door haven’t heard me stir. I’ve made this bed too much of a sanctuary to leave these sweet dreams and warm warren of covers so easily. I sleep in a freezing-cold room, a habit I learned from my mother. Each evening, I throw my window wide open to the night air, and if the eve isn’t cold enough, I supplement with A/C as well. Sixty-seven degrees – ideal sleeping conditions for coveting a deeper snuggle, but not a temperature that beckons throwing the covers off each morning. I wear nothing but a tank top and panties, ensuring the need for my well-insulated nest. I surround myself with no less than four pillows – two under my head, one that I drape myself over, like a lover, and a fourth on standby, in case one escapes to the floor during the night. My blanket is “microplush,” my duvet, goose down. I arrange myself beneath the warmth and weight of these friends, creating a womb for dreaming, and dread the morning that always seems to come too soon.

A steaming cup of coffee brought to me in bed, with just the right amount of milk – my favorite morning treat, but not a pleasure I’ve experienced lately. If I want coffee, it’s up to me to leave this nest and brew it. Caffeine alone will not tempt me from my lair, but coffee and one of these muffins does the trick.


Best Coffee Cake Muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins
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These muffins have the ideal 50/50 ratio of streusel to cake that every proper coffee cake should have – and the muffin portion is so light, rather than eat the streusel and throw away the muffin– it begs you to eat the whole thing.


Ingredients

    Crumb topping
  • ½ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • Batter
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large eggs
  • ⅔ cups full-fat plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Make crumb topping: Mix both sugars, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir to blend. Add flour and toss until clumps form. Set aside.
  2. Make Muffins: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin tins with papers or grease with butter. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until well combined. Add yogurt, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until blended. Add flour mixture in 2 additions, beating just until incorporated.
  3. Fill each muffin tin ¼ full of batter. Sprinkle ½ of crumb topping over. Cover topping with remaining batter, smoothing as evenly as possible. Cover with a thick layer of remaining topping. Do not overfill.
  4. Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean and topping is deep golden brown and slightly crisp, about 25 minutes. Cool and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Fig and Orange Sweet Buns

Soft, fluffy, lightly sweet buns studded with dried figs and candied orange peel – the ideal accompaniment to a steaming mug of coffee.

A woman holds a basket of Sweet Buns

Is there any better partner to a steamy mug of coffee than a warm, yeasty, enriched-dough treat like buttery brioche, cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, yeasted coffee cakes, fruit-studded Christmas stollen or panettone? I think not!

And although the process of making enriched dough can be, well…a process, it’s one of my favorite types of baking. You can’t rush yeasted doughs, you can’t cut corners. They need time – time for kneading, time for proofing. They require a lazy afternoon at home tending to your bread. Even if you want to cross things off your to-do list during those hour-long proofs, somehow you’ll find yourself curled up on the couch watching a TV program waiting for your dough baby to “double in size.” And, ahhh, the smell of yeast dough baking in the oven – if home could be captured in a scent, this would be it for me.

The best part? After the kneading, proofing, and baking – nothing beats the satisfaction of popping a home-baked, oven-warmed, roll, bun, or slice in your mouth, accompanied by a freshly-brewed cup of coffee, of course. I had planned on bringing these beauties to the office, but decided to keep them for my weekday morning cuppas instead.


Fig and Orange Sweet Buns

Soft, fluffy, lightly sweet buns studded with dried figs and candied orange peel.


Ingredients

  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup dried figs, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup candied orange peel, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Decorator or pearl sugar

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and honey until warm (105⁰ – 110⁰ F). Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour, salt, and cardamom (if using) in a large bowl.
  2. Add the butter and vanilla to milk mixture (it should be foamy by now) and then stir into the flour to create a shaggy dough. Let dough rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the dough to your work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 12 minutes. Pat the dough into a disk, sprinkle with figs and orange peel, and press into dough. Roll the dough up like a sausage encasing the fruit and then lightly knead to distribute the fruit well. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to proof in a warm spot until doubled in size, about one hour.
  4. Divide the dough into 8 even pieces, roll into round balls, picking off any fruit on the outside that is exposed, and place each bun on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and proof again until risen, about 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the buns with beaten egg and liberally sprinkled with decorator sugar. Bake for 17-22 minutes until buns are dark golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you want to add a bit more sweetness, drizzle with confectioners sugar icing.

Pumpkin Spice Couronne

Pumpkin Spice Couronne – a French sweet dough ring filled with pumpkin, warming spices and toasted pecans – just in time for autumn.

A ring of pumpkin spice couronne glazed with icing

“I have Pumpkin Kringle at my desk,” she confided conspiratorially. All I could envision was an obscene mishmash of holidays that somehow culminated with a roundly obese Santa Claus in a pumpkin costume shacked underneath her desk. “Who exactly,” I wondered, “is Pumpkin Kringle?”

“You know what pumpkin kringle is, don’t you?” she inquired when I responded with a blank stare. (Ah, thank goodness, she said “what” rather than “who.” Pumpkin kringle, whatever it was, wasn’t a person at all!)

A kringle, I discovered that day, is a ring of Danish pastry dough filled with nuts or fruit, in this case pumpkin, which is baked and then iced. Racine, Wisconsin is the mecca of kringles and, hers, thanks to Trader Joe’s, was an ideal specimen of Racine’s baking prowess.

Now please don’t be confused, the recipe below is decidedly NOT a kringle. The recipe below is a Couronne, a French filled sweet bread. I only mention the kringle because it was the impetus for my foray into couronne baking this weekend. After I nibbled a bit of the kringle…okay, full confession, after I devoured two thick slices, I started dreaming about enriched yeast doughs, I started dreaming about breakfast sweet breads, I started dreaming about Paul Hollywood’s apricot couronne (which I’ve been meaning to make!), I started dreaming about pumpkin spice season (now!) and well…this just happened.

There’s really nothing more lovely than hand-kneading a supple enriched yeast dough.  I love the texture of it under the heel of my hand, which is a good thing since my Kitchen Aid Pro Mixer died last week.


Pumpkin Spice Couronne

  • Servings: One Couronne
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A rich French sweet bread filled with pumpkin, spices and toasted pecans.


Ingredients

    Dough
  • 2 cups strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons fast-rising yeast
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon full-fat milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Filling
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 Tablespoon white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground clove
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • Zest from ½ of an orange
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup toasted chopped pecans, plus more for topping
  • Glaze
  • ⅓ cup apricot jam
  • ½ cup powdered sugar

Directions


1. Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the salt to one side and the yeast on the other (salt can slow yeasts reaction so keep them separate in the beginning). Add the butter, milk and egg and stir to combine.
2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 6-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and supple. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rise until at least doubled in size (1-2 hours).
3. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a medium saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar and heat over medium heat until melted. Add puree, flour, cinnamon, ginger nutmeg, clove and salt and stir over medium heat until mixture is thick and sticks to the spoon. Remove from heat; add orange zest, vanilla and pecans. Set aside.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll the dough into a rectangle, 13” x 10”. Spread the pumpkin filling evenly over the dough to the edges. From the long end, roll up the dough tightly, jelly-roll style. Roll it back and forth lightly to seal the edge.
5. Cut the dough in half lengthwise, leaving it joined just at one end – like a pair of legs. Twist the two dough lengths together, somewhat tightly and then join the ends together to form a circle. Transfer to a baking tray and cover with plastic wrap or a plastic baking bag.
6. Let proof for at least an hour or until the dough has doubled in size. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes (internal temperature 185). Place on a wire rack to cool.
7. Heat apricot jam in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, sieve and brush over the couronne to glaze. Mix the powdered sugar with enough water to make an icing. Drizzle over the couronne and sprinkle with remaining pecans.

Slow-Cooker Spiced Apple Butter

Extra apples? This easy slow-cooker apple butter requires minimal stirring and fuss – and makes the house smell wonderful while it bubbles away.

Easy apple butter
Blame it on baking ADD, but when I spied a few empty jam jars piled next to the basket of homegrown apples, my thoughts quickly turned from classic apple pies and apple frangipane tarts to jars of thick, slow-simmered, spiced apple butter. Since the slow-cooker does most of the work, I was back to baking in no time while the scent of slow-cooked apples wafted through the house.


Slow-Cooker Spiced Apple Butter

  • Servings: Two half-pint jars
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Extra apples? This easy slow-cooker apple butter requires minimal stirring and fuss - and makes the house smell wonderful while it bubbles away.


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. apples
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Peel, core and dice apples. Place in a slow cooker on low. Cover apples with sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, Chinese 5-spice, and salt.
  2. Let simmer on low for 10-12 hours, stirring every hour or so, until very dark and very thick. Spoon in jars and refrigerate. Keeps for 3 weeks. Freeze for 6 months.


Apple Butter

Blame it on this sight.