Breakfast pastries are, without doubt, my greatest weakness. For most other temptations I'm able to exercise at least some restraint, but a tray of breakfast pastries fresh from the oven? Well, let's just say that it's probably good for my health that I don't live in Paris...
Morning treats are for the most part sweet, and so when I came across Dan Lepard's flaky butter buns I was really keen to give this savoury pastry a crack.
A little bit like a croissant, these enriched, yeasted buns are prepared slowly, with the dough first left to ferment overnight before being layered with butter, and then shaped and baked.
The term 'bun' is apt, as the lighter lamination and rounded shape makes them more dense than you'd expect with a pastry, but the layering gives the dough a lightness, which sets them well apart from your typical bread-based roll. Further still they have a gorgeous mottled crust that crunches into a beautiful, flakey mess—one of my key measure of a good quality pastry—and the flavour of the butter does indeed shine through.
Being more of a bread than a pastry they take well to accompaniments, and while Dan suggests serving them warm, stuffed with a piece of crisp bacon—a most delicious combination of rich, soft dough and salty, smoky pork—I have to admit that, fresh from the oven torn and steaming, my favourite was a simple sweet dollop of tangy grapefruit jam. Seems that, when clouded by the heady aroma of rich buttery pastry, my brain's going to take some convincing that a breakfast treat can be anything but sweet...
FLAKY BUTTER BUNS (Adapted ever so slightly from The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard. Makes 10 buns)
- 500 g white flour
- 1.5 tsp sea salt
- 275 g milk, slightly warmed
- 20 g fresh yeast
- 175 g butter, unsalted
In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. In a second bowl, whisk together the milk and yeast, and then pour the liquid in with the dry ingredients. Mix with your hands until you have a firm dough then leave, covered with a cloth, for 10 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly-oiled surface and knead for 10 seconds, ending with a smooth, round ball. Return the dough to a clean, lightly-oiled bowl and rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Repeat this kneading step once more, then cover the dough and leave to prove in the refrigerator overnight.
The following day, remove the dough from the refrigerator and leave at room temperature for 1 hour to lose some of its chill. At the same time, remove the butter and allow it to soften to a consistency similar to that of the dough. Once you've brought up the temperature of the dough, on a lightly-floured surface roll it out into a rectangle 1-cm-thick. Cut the butter into thin slices and cover two-thirds of the dough. Fold the remaining third over to cover half of the butter, then fold the dough over to cover that (as though you were folding a letter). All the butter should now be wrapped up inside the dough. Lightly flour the dough on both sides and then carefully roll out into a 1-cm-thick rectangle. Repeat folding the dough in by thirds and then leave, covered, in a cool place for 1 hour.
Roll out the dough once more, but this time fold in by quarters (a book fold). Fold each end in so that they meet in the centre, and then fold these sides on top of each other. Cover and leave to rest in a cool place for a further hour.
To shape the buns, roll the dough out on a lightly-floured surface until 1-cm thick. Cut circles measuring 10- to 12-cm in diameter from the dough and pull the edges in towards the centre, pinching them down to get a round or oval bun shape. Place the buns smooth-side-up on a baking tray lined with parchment and leave to rise, covered, in a warm place for 1.5 hours.
To bake, preheat the oven to 200°C. Bake the buns in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes or until crisp and light brown in colour. Leave to cool on the tray.