Have you noticed how some coffee cakes aren't sweet at all, except for the topping? Then you have some that are far more dessert than breakfast. This got me thinking about other items in the "dessert bread" family: cinnamon rolls, almond coffee cake, streusel, strudel, and buttery breads. It wasn't a day for whole grains, that's for sure.
Instead of a loaf, I opted for buns. Fine-grained and soft-crumbed, these are a tad buttery with hints of vanilla and almond. The topping is sweet, but there's not too much of it—just a few crumbly nibbles on each bun. They're perfect with a little butter, but also really nice alone as a to-go snack while running out the door.
About the author: Donna Currie has been cooking for fun and writing for pay since the days when typewritten articles traveled by snail mail. When she combined those talents in a food column for a newspaper in her area, she realized that writing about food is almost as much fun as eating. She writes the blog Cookistry and has joined the Serious Eats team with a weekly column about baking.
- For the dough:
- 1 cup milk, scalded and cooled
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 4 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 13 1/2 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) flour, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
- For the topping:
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Combine the milk, yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and about 1/3 third of the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add another third of the flour and knead with the dough hook until the mixture gets stringy and elastic. It will be a very wet, gloppy mess, but you'll see the gluten developing. Add the remaining dough ingredients and continue kneading until they are all incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubles, about 90 minutes.
Line an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, covering the bottom and extending up two sides, for easy removal of the buns. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide the dough into nine equal pieces, and roll each into a ball and place them in the baking pan in three rows of three. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl. Mash them together with a fork until the mixture resembles wet sand.
When the buns have risen, sprinkle the topping on the buns. If the buns aren't touching, you'll have some topping on the bottom of the buns after they bake, but that's fine. Try to get most of it on top of the buns, however. Bake the buns at 350°F until they are nicely browned, about 30 minutes. Remove them from the pan, peel the parchment off the bottom, and let them cool, at least a little bit. The topping is a little chewy when it's still warm, but after cooling it is very crumbly.