Bakery Crumb Buns

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Complex

  • Makes

    20

    rectangular buns

Appears in

When I was a child, these crumb buns were available in any number of local bakeries near where we lived. Born a crumb-topping addict, I always looked forward to slowly picking off large pieces of the generous topping to enjoy first. Somehow there was always enough still stuck to the cake below to provide a second course from the bun. Although I learned to make many different and delicious types of crumb toppings in the ensuing years, none of them ever had the rich, dense quality of the one I remembered. It wasn’t until I came across a book about commercial baking by William J. Sultan that I discovered the secret: The fabulous crumb topping contained a small amount of almond paste—just enough to impart the dense richness I remembered. Also the weight of the topping exceeds the weight of the cake below—that’s how you get buns that offer the two-course experience.

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Ingredients

Sweet Yeast Dough for Buns

  • cup milk
  • 5 teaspoons (2 envelopes) active dry yeast
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)

Crumb Topping

  • 3 ounces (about 1⅓ cups/75 grams) almond paste, cut into 12 pieces
  • 1 large egg white
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks/225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • Confectioners’ sugar for finishing
  • One 12 × 18-inch (30 × 45-cm) jelly-roll pan, buttered and lined with parchment or buttered wax paper (or substitute two 9 × 13 × 2-inch (23 × 33 × 5-cm) pans)

Method

  1. To make the dough, heat the milk in a small saucepan until it is just lukewarm, about 110°F (45°C). Pour the milk into a small bowl and whisk in the yeast. Set aside.
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, salt, spices, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. With the paddle attachment, beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating smooth after each addition.
  3. Decrease the speed to lowest and beat in ½ the flour. Stop and use a large rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl and beater. Beat in the yeast mixture. After the liquid has been absorbed, beat in the remaining flour. Scrape down the bowl and beater, then beat the dough for 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
  4. Beat the dough on low to medium until it is smooth and fairly elastic, about 2 additional minutes. Scrape the dough into a buttered bowl and turn it over so that the top is buttered. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of the room.
  5. While the dough is rising, prepare the crumb topping. Combine the almond paste and egg white in the bowl of an electric mixer. With the paddle attachment, beat on low to medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in the sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Beat in the butter a couple of tablespoons at a time, beating smooth after each addition. Stop and scrape the bowl and beater several times while adding the butter.
  6. Decrease speed to the lowest and add the flour 1 cup at a time, stopping and scraping down 2 to 3 times. Scrape the crumb topping into a large bowl and use your fingertips to break it up into ¼- to ½-inch (⅔- to 1-cm) crumbs. Set aside at room temperature.
  7. After the dough has risen, scrape it out onto a floured work surface and pat it into a rough rectangle. Lightly flour the dough and gently roll it into a 10 × 16-inch (25 × 40-cm) rectangle.
  8. Use a bench scraper or a knife to cut the dough into twenty 2 × 4-inch (5 × 10-cm) rectangles, cutting five 2-inch (5-cm) wide strips on the 10-inch (25-cm) side and cutting across every 4 inches (10 cm) on the 16-inch (40-cm) side.
  9. Arrange the buns on the prepared pan, 5 across the 12-inch (30-cm) side of the pan and 4 down the 18-inch (45-cm) side. Leave about inch (¾ cm) all around each bun—they will grow together as they rise and bake. If you are using two 9 × 13-inch (23 × 33-cm) pans, arrange the buns in 2 rows of 5 in each pan, spacing them as in the larger pan.
  10. Brush the tops of the buns with water and scatter on half the crumb topping—it doesn’t matter if some falls between the buns. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the buns rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour at room temperature.
  11. About 20 minutes before the buns are completely risen, set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C).
  12. Scatter the remaining crumb topping over the buns and bake them until they are well risen and the topping is deep golden, about 30 minutes. If you are using 2 pans, put them into the oven smaller side inward, leaving a space between them. About halfway through the baking time, turn the pans back to front so that they bake evenly.
  13. Slide the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes, then slide the buns out of the pan, still on the paper, onto a rack to cool.
  14. Immediately before serving, lightly dust the buns with confectioners’ sugar and gently pull them apart—they will easily separate from one another. If any resist, use a small paring knife to cut them apart.

Serving

Arrange the buns in a napkin-lined basket to serve them for breakfast, brunch, or tea.

Storage

Keep the buns loosely covered with plastic wrap on the day they are baked. Wrap and freeze for longer storage. Defrost, reheat at 350°F (180°C) for about 10 minutes, and cool before serving.