Makes 14 buns
For lazy weekend mornings or brunch, these warm, rustic, vanilla-scented buns are shaped from a simple buttermilk dough (like one you’d use to make biscuits). Roll it into balls, putting all the seams on the bottom, then roll in sugar. Mark each with an “X” before baking so they can expand in the oven. They look like mini Irish soda breads with crunchy crusts but taste like lightly sweetened biscuits. The dough is flavored with the seeds from half a vanilla bean along with vanilla extract, though the taste is subtle in the finished buns. Serve with butter, preserves, and berries or split them and use as the base for individual strawberry shortcakes.
|2||teaspoons vanilla extract|
|2¼||teaspoons baking soda|
|¼||teaspoon baking powder|
|¼||teaspoon cream of tartar|
|⅓||cup granulated sugar|
|½||cup (8 tablespoons), cold unsalted butter, cut up|
|Extra flour (for sprinkling)|
|Extra granulated sugar, spread in a shallow dish (for coating)|
1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Pour the buttermilk into a bowl. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and use the tip of a paring knife to tip the seeds into the buttermilk. Add the yolks and vanilla extract.
3. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar. Whisk well to combine them. Scatter the pieces of butter over the flour and use a pastry blender or 2 blunt table knives to cut the butter into the mixture until it forms smaller pieces.
4. With your fingertips, rub the mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until the mixture holds together.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Patting the dough with flour as necessary, shape the dough into a rough log. Divide it into 14 even-size pieces. Shape each into a ball with all the seams on the bottom. For the best baked shape, plump the balls with the palms of your hands to give them height.
6. Roll each ball in the sugar to coat it lightly. Arrange 7 balls on each baking sheet, placing them 3 inches apart. With a small sharp knife, cut an “X” on top of each ball.
7. Bake the buns for 25 minutes, or until set and golden. Transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Lisa Yockelson