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Photo by: Joseph De Leo
These whimsical buns remind me of my college days at the University of Michigan, when Dorothy Temme, our family’s loving housekeeper and an awesome baker, sent them to me in care packages. Although I’ve adapted the recipe a bit and added more sour cream for extra richness, the unique look of the buns remains the same. Unlike many yeast doughs, this one contains baking soda, which enables the buns to brown despite the presence of sour cream. (Because sour cream is an acid, it can inhibit browning.) Each bun resembles a cluster of bubbles like the clusters children blow on carefree summer days.
You can mix the dough, knead it, place it in a large bowl, cover the top of the bowl securely, and refrigerate it for 8 hours and up to overnight before shaping. When you are ready to shape the buns, remove the dough from the refrigerator, gently punch it down, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, shape the buns, set aside to rise for an hour, and then bake as directed.
To make the Sour Cream Yeast Dough:
Sprinkle the yeast over the water in the bowl of a stand mixer; set aside for 5 to 10 minutes until bubbly. Add the butter, sour cream, sugar, egg, and vanilla to the yeast mixture and stir to combine with a rubber spatula.
Attach the bowl to the mixer, and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat in 2 cups (9 ounces/255 grams) of the flour, the salt, and baking soda on medium-low speed until incorporated, 30 to 45 seconds. Add the remaining ½ cup (2¼ ounces/65 grams) flour and beat until a smooth, moderately soft dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and satiny, about 3 minutes. At first the dough will be sticky. Add no more than 1 to 2 tablespoons additional flour during the kneading to combat the stickiness. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (about 70 degrees F) until doubled in size, about 1 hour. The dough is ready when a finger gently pressed into it leaves an indentation. Meanwhile, prepare the pan and make the Cinnamon-Sugar Coating.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 12-cup standard muffin pan with nonstick spray, then flour the cups, tapping out the excess flour. Or, butter and flour the cups.
To make the Cinnamon-Sugar Coating:
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon; set nearby. Place the melted butter in a small, shallow dish.
To shape the buns:
Gently punch the dough down to deflate it. Form it into a long cylinder, and divide it into 12 equal portions (each portion is about 1¾ ounces/50 grams). Using kitchen scissors, a small metal spatula, or a dough scraper, divide I portion into 6 equal pieces, and then shape each piece into a ball. One at a time, roll the balls first in the butter and then in the cinnamon sugar. Arrange 5 balls next to one another in a circle in each prepared muffin cup, and then, using a fingertip, poke the sixth ball down slightly in the center.
Repeat with the remaining 11 dough portions. Loosely cover the buns with plastic wrap and set them aside in a warm place (about 70 degrees F) until puffy and doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. The dough is ready to bake when a finger gently pressed into it leaves an indentation.
Bake the buns until golden, 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 to 8 minutes. Then tilt the pan and gently tap it on a counter to release the buns. If necessary, slip a knife blade between the pan and the bun to release. Transfer the buns to a wire rack.
To make the Translucent Vanilla Glaze:
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla until smooth and just the right consistency to apply a thin glaze over each bun. If it is too thick, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
The buns can be warm or at room temperature when you glaze them. Slip a sheet of waxed paper under the rack holding the buns to catch any drips. Using a pastry brush, coat each bun with the glaze. Serve the buns warm or at room temperature.
For the best taste and texture, serve the buns the same day they are baked. For longer storage, bake as directed and let cool completely after baking but do not glaze. Place the unglazed buns in a sturdy airtight container, label with the contents and date, and freeze for up to 2 weeks. To reheat, wrap the frozen buns in aluminum foil and place them in a preheated 300 degree F oven until heated through, about I0 minutes, Make the glaze and glaze the buns while they are warm.
Nutritional information is based on 12 servings.
Nutrients per serving (% daily value)