Pillowy and softly aromatic, the buns are a wonderful morning or teatime bread to have with good jam and sweet butter.
Smaller rolls may be assembled and baked in a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan. To do that, divide the dough into 24 even-size pieces, then assemble the dough balls in four rows of six each. Increase the baking time by about 5 minutes so the larger pan of rolls bakes through entirely.
Servings: 20 2 1/2-inch buns
- For the dough
- 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (may use low-fat)
- 2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, plus more for greasing the proofing bowl and baking pans
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 3/4 cups flour, plus 4 tablespoons or as needed for kneading
- 2 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
- For assembly
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup turbinado sugar (may substitute granulated sugar), mixed with 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg)
For the dough: Combine the yeast, 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar and the warm water in a heatproof measuring cup. Allow the mixture to stand until swollen, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Combine the buttermilk, 1/3 cup granulated sugar and the brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat; cook for about 6 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugars and warm the milk through. The buttermilk will appear slightly separated; that is okay. Transfer to a medium heat-proof mixing bowl and add the butter, stirring until the butter has almost completely melted. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm, then add the eggs, vanilla extract and swollen yeast mixture; mix well.
Whisk together 4 3/4 cups of the flour, the nutmeg and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast-buttermilk mixture, stirring with a flat wooden paddle to combine. (The dough will be scraggly at this point.)
Flour a work surface with 2 tablespoons of the additional flour. Turn the dough onto the surface and knead for 7 to 9 minutes, until smooth and resilient. The dough should be moderately soft. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over the dough as necessary if the dough is overly sticky (though it should be somewhat tacky to the touch).
Liberally grease a large bowl with unsalted butter.
Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat it with butter on all sides. Use (clean) kitchen scissors to make several cuts in the dough, then cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
Uncover the dough and discard the plastic wrap. At this point, the dough can be used immediately or folded over itself and compressed lightly, secured in lightly buttered plastic wrap, bagged loosely and refrigerated overnight. (Note that the second rise of the formed rolls will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour longer if you use chilled dough.)
Use butter to grease two round 8-inch cake pans.
To form the rolls, place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half, then cut each half into 10 equal pieces, creating 20 pieces total. Smooth each piece into a plump ball by rolling it briskly on a work surface under the palm of your hand. Place 10 balls of dough in each of the prepared baking pans, assembling them in an outer ring of 7 balls and an inner ring of 3 balls.
Cover each pan of rolls loosely with plastic wrap. Let the rolls rise at room temperature for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until almost doubled in bulk. The rolls will merge as they rise.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove and discard the sheets of plastic wrap covering the rolls.
Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until set and golden. The rolls will rise nicely as they bake. Place the pans on cooling racks and let stand for 15 minutes. Gently (the rolls are quite tender at this point) invert each pan of rolls onto a wire rack, then invert again to stand right side up.
For assembly: Brush the top of the rolls with the melted butter; let stand 2 minutes, then sprinkle with the sugar-nutmeg blend. Serve warm.
From cookbook author Lisa Yockelson.
Tested by Susan Kovach Shuman.
Email questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.