This recipe takes 36 hours from start to finish (mostly resting and refrigeration time). The first step is quick. The following day is the most labor intensive; set aside 3 hours for rolling in the butter and making the layers. Bake the buns later that day or refrigerate shaped buns, wrapped securely, and wait until the next morning to savor them (in that case, let the buns sit at room temperature for 45 minutes before baking). The buns are sold at A&J King Bakery in Salem, whose owners, Andy and Jackie King, have just published their first cookbook, “Baking by Hand.”
Vegetable oil (for container or pan and wrap)
5 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
1½ cups lukewarm water
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
⅓ cup skim-milk powder
2 teaspoons instant yeast
Extra flour (for sprinkling)
1¼ cups (2½ sticks) cold unsalted butter (keep refrigerated until using)
1. Oil a rectangular container or small roasting pan (11-by-7-inches).
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.
3. In another large bowl combine the water, soft butter, milk powder , and yeast. Swish the liquids around with your fingers until the milk powder dissolves. Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture. Mix by hand for about 30 seconds, until the dough comes together into a shaggy mess. Then mix for another 30 seconds until the flour is evenly incorporated.
4. Place the dough in the container or pan, cover with oiled plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise for 2 hours.
5. Dust the dough with a bit of flour and push the dough into the corners of the container so it is an even rectangle. Cover with the oiled plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and for up to 24 hours.
6. Cut a piece of parchment paper that measures 11-by-7-inches. Remove the cold butter from the fridge, stack it into a rectangle on the bottom half of the parchment. Hit it vigorously with a rolling pin. As the butter flattens, fold it over onto itself and continue pounding to form a rectangle of butter that begins to fill the bottom half of the parchment.
7. Fold the top half of the parchment over the butter and roll the butter into a neat rectangle within the confines of the parchment. The butter at this point is 55 degrees. Test it by using an instant-read thermometer inserted into the butter. If it’s too cold let it warm up at room temperature and if it’s too warm pop it back in the fridge.
8. Generously flour a counter. Take the chilled dough from the refrigerator and with the shorter edge toward you, tip it onto the counter. Lay the butter on the bottom half of the dough, peeling off the parchment paper. Make sure no butter hangs over the edge of the dough.
9. Take the top of the dough and fold it over the top of the butter. Pinch the edges of the dough together to completely enclose the butter. With an open hand, gently but firmly press down on the dough to make it thinner and to press the dough and butter together a bit before rolling it out.
10. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to a 12-by-22-inch rectangle, alternating strokes top to bottom and side to side. Lightly sprinkle flour on top and underneath the dough as needed to prevent sticking. Brush off any excess flour to keep the layers from gumming up during baking.
11. Make your first “envelope fold”: Take the right side of the dough and fold it ⅓ of the way across to the left. Brush off any excess flour before bringing the left side over on top to line up evenly with the right edge of the dough.
12. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to it, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 45 minutes (no longer or the butter will get too hard).
13. For the second fold (this is also called a “turn”), position the sheet pan so that the open seam is farthest away from you and flip the dough out onto the counter. Position the dough so that the largest open seam is now farthest away from you. Repeat the rolling procedure you did before, rolling it to a 12-by-22-inch rectangle, making the same alternating strokes, top to bottom and side to side. Brush off any excess flour and fold it the same way you did the first time. Transfer to the baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
14. For the last fold, do all the steps just as you did for the second turn. The dough will get harder and harder to roll out with each turn, but be persistent in rolling it to a 12-by-22-inch rectangle. Slide onto the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.
Baking spray (for the muffin pan)
3¼ cups sugar
2 tablespoons molasses, or more to taste
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
½ cup walnuts or pecans (optional)
1. Spray a muffin pan with baking spray. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons molasses. Mix with your hands until the sugar is moist and coated. Add the cinnamon and continue to blend with your hands. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons more of molasses, if you want a deeper caramel flavor. Cover and set aside.
3. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it to a 10-by-25-inch strip. Cover with the sugar-molasses mixture, spreading it almost to the edges of the dough.
4. Position the dough so a long side is parallel to the edge of the counter. Start rolling the dough on the left side. Instead of rolling up the whole piece of dough like a jelly roll, you’re going to roll up the dough halfway on the left side. Then move to the right a little and roll the center up halfway. Then roll the right side up halfway. This is the way to get the roll tight. Then continue by rolling up the dough section by section the rest of the way.
5. Use a serrated knife or a pastry scraper to cut eight 4-inch buns. If using nuts, divide them evenly among the bottoms of 8 cups. Place the buns, cut sides down, in the cups, leaving 4 cups empty. Let the buns rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
6. Set the oven at 375 degrees.
7. Set the muffin pan on 1 parchment-lined sheet. Bake the buns for 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, or until the buns are golden brown.
8. Invert the muffin tin onto the clean parchment-lined sheet. If there is sugar left in the tins, tip it over and drizzle it onto the buns.
Adapted from “Baking by Hand”