Morning Bun Recipe: Kugelhopf Breakfast Rolls

Pulled from the oven on a weekend morning, these rolls are an absolute show-stopper. And that's even before you dip them in melted butter and roll them in cinnamon and sugar! We love to eat them slowly, pulling off one tender piece at a time and taking sips of coffee in between. Pure buttery bliss.

The inspiration for these yeasty morning rolls comes from the kugelhopf I recently had at Bread and Chocolate Bakery in Newton, Massachusetts. My husband and I were in town visiting friends, and I'm sorry to say that I completely lost track of the conversation while devouring my half of the roll. It was as tender as a doughnut with a crunchy coating of granulated sugar. It seemed to almost melt in my mouth, leaving a lingering taste of almonds and cinnamon. You understand why I couldn't stop thinking about it, yes?

We started with Dorie Greenspan's much-recommended recipe for traditional kugelhopf and made a few adjustments. A poolish made by combining the yeast, milk, and a portion of the flour helped achieve the elastic, slightly chewy texture I wanted. I played around with almond extract and cinnamon until finally landing on a teaspoon of extract in the dough and a dash of cinnamon in the final sugar coating. The overnight rise recommended in Dorie's recipe also helps improve the texture and flavor in the finished rolls.

The resulting rolls were perfect. Silky texture, rich buttery flavor, just the right touch of almond and cinnamon. Just the thing for munching on a weekend morning while skimming the newspaper and sipping coffee.

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Kugelhopf Breakfast Rolls
Inspired by Bread and Chocolate Bakery and gratefully adapted from Dorie Greenspan's recipe

Makes 12 rolls

Kugelhopf Dough
2 tablespoons warm water (not hot)
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup whole milk, warmed (not hot)
1 3/4 cups flour (divided into 3/4 cup and 1 cup)
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs
1 large yolk
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

Filling
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Sugar Coating
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Stir the water and yeast together in a small mixing bowl until the yeast dissolves, then stir in the milk. Add just 3/4 cup of the flour and stir until it forms a smooth batter, about 100 strokes. Cover the bowl and let this poolish sit for at least 20 minutes or up to 60 minutes. In this time, the poolish should rise to twice its original size and you should see lots of little bubbles on the surface.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs, yolk, and almond extract. Stir this into the poolish.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the remaining cup of flour, the sugar, and the salt. Pour the poolish-egg mixture into the flour and stir until it becomes a shaggy dough. Fit the mixer with a dough hook attachment and knead this dough on medium-high speed until it comes together and becomes smooth, five minutes.

Reduce the speed to medium and start adding the butter in blobs, waiting until the blob is nearly incorporated before adding the next. You may need to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl during this time. Once all the butter has been added, increase the mixer speed back to medium-high and knead the dough for 10 minutes. The dough should come together in a ball, look glossy and supple, and jiggle like a custard if you tap it with your spatula.

Turn the dough out into a clean bowl, cover, and let rise for about an hour and half, until doubled in size. Put dough in the refrigerator and let it rest overnight (or up to two days). It may rise a little more in the fridge before cooling completely down. You can punch the dough down if it looks like it will rise over the edge of the bowl.

The next morning, turn the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out to roughly 10" by 8," or 1/2" thick. Use more flour as needed if the dough is sticking to the work surface or your rolling pin. Brush the dough with melted butter, leaving an inch of un-buttered dough at the top. Sprinkle the buttered areas with the sugar. Roll the dough up and pinch it closed at the seam.

Using a pastry cutter or a chef's knife, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Spray a muffin tin liberally with non-stick spray, including the wells and the surface of the tin. Nestle each roll into a well, pressing gently to make sure it settles in the bottom. Cover the tin and let the rolls rise for about an hour, until they're just starting to peak over the tops of the wells.

Fifteen minutes before baking (when the rolls are almost to the top of the tins), preheat the oven to 375°.

Uncover the rolls and bake them for 25-30 minutes. When the rolls turn golden brown about halfway through cooking, tent them with foil to protect the edges from burning. The rolls are done when a cake tester comes out clean and the internal temperature registers at 200°.

Let the rolls cool just until you can handle them. Melt the butter in a small bowl and combine the cinnamon and sugar in a second bowl. Dip each roll into the butter and then roll it in the cinnamon-sugar. It's easiest to dip and roll the bottom and then go back to dip and roll the top. Eat immediately, preferably with coffee and good company.

Notes:

• This may look complicated and like a lot of steps to follow, but there's actually very little active, hands-on time. There's plenty of time to do a few loads of laundry or read a book while you're waiting for things to rise.

• Kugelhopf is at its very best right when it comes out of the oven. It stales quickly, but leftovers can be reheated in a toaster oven or used to make French toast or bread pudding.

• You can shape the rolls the night before and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight so you have less work to do in the morning. (Although, the dough is easiest to roll out if it's cold. Let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling it out and shaping the rolls, if possible.) The next morning, just take the shaped rolls out of the fridge and let them rise as directed. They may take an extra half hour to rise.

• This is one of those recipes that's so much easier to make if you have a standing mixer. However, you can make it by hand by beating the dough with a wooden spoon. It takes about an hour for the dough to come together and get silky, so it helps to have some willing assistants on hand! Also, don't try this with a hand-held mixer as its motor isn't strong enough.

Related: You Can Sleep In! Tips for Making Brunch Ahead of Time

(Images: Emma Christensen)

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