In late 2003, when I found out I'd be moving from the Boston area to California, the cookbook author I'd been working with made a referral. "Call Flo," Lora had said. "I hear she's got a new book contract."
"Flo" was baking guru Flo Braker, past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, baking columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, and author of The Simple Art of Perfect Baking and Sweet Miniatures. And she'd indeed just started another cookbook. Might she want some assistance?
My role in this book was decidedly minor, but I get to did follow its development over time. I got great insight into how hard authors work on their craft, and how long a cookbook pregnancy lasts. (Let's just say it's more than nine months.) Plus, the snacks at meetings are really, really good.
Baking for All Occasions offers recipes like Pumpkin Ice Cream Profiteroles with Caramel Sauce; Butterscotch Spiral Coffee Cake; and Banana Split Cream Pie. My personal favorite? The Cinnamon Bubble Buns, which lasted just long enough for me to snap their portrait.
If you've got guests this week, put these glazed cinnamon buns out for your holiday breakfast and stand back, coyly, ready for raves. Just set at least one aside for yourself -- preferably in a dark corner, behind the fondue pot, or somewhere else where no one will ever think to find it.
Recipe for Flo's Cinnamon Bubble Buns
Adapted from Flo Braker's Baking For All Occasions, Chronicle Books (2008).
Plan ahead as this recipe takes time. Consider making the dough in the evening and shaping the buns the next morning. Then task little ones with rolling the pieces into balls and smothering them in cinnamon-sugar. I've changed almost nothing in this recipe (except the amount of cinnamon-sugar in the coating) but have compacted the directions ever so slightly for space. What follows is decidedly Flo's.
Makes 12 buns
Sour Cream Yeast Dough
2-1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water 100-110 degrees
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons for kneading, if necessary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Translucent Vanilla Glaze
1-1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
To make the dough: Combine the yeast with the water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside until foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the butter, sour cream, sugar, egg, and vanilla and stir to combine with a rubber spatula. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment, twist on the bowl with the yeast mixture, and add 2 cups of the flour, salt, and baking soda. Mix on medium-low until incorporated. Add the remaining 1/2 cup flour and beat until the dough is soft and smooth.
Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is no longer sticky (you may need to add 1 to 2 tablespoons more flour), about 3 minutes. Place it back in the mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm spot for about an hour, until doubled in size.
Put a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Spray and flour a standard 12-cup muffin tin.
To make the topping: In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Place the melted butter in a small dish nearby.
To shape: Punch down the dough, then form it into a long cylinder. Divide it into 12 equal portions, each one weighing 1-3/4 ounces. Divide each of the 12 portions (I use a bench scraper) into sixths, and roll each little piece into a ball. Roll the balls first in the butter, then in the cinnamon-sugar. Place in the muffin cups. Repeat, placing all 6 balls in the same muffin cup, roughly 5 on the perimeter and 1 in the center, but I found that being particular with the placement wasn't really necessary.
Repeat with the remaining 11 dough portions. When you're done, each muffin cup will be filled with 6 little cinnamon/sugar/butter coated balls, or "bubbles."
Cover the muffin tin with plastic and let rise for about 40 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until golden. Let cool for a few minutes, then remove the buns with the aid of a spoon or a thin knife blade. Place on a wire rack.
To make the glaze: Stir the sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Add a drop or two of water if necessary. Use a pastry brush to coat each bun with glaze, or just drizzle it with a spoon (as I did).
Serve immediately, or later in the day. These will not last -- not because they can't (they can), but because you'll eat them very, very quickly.