Welcome to the dollhouse kitchen! Since it’s not Friday yet, I need a little something lovely to get me through the rest of the week, so I decided to make some apple cheese buns.
I’m not a recipe person, so I’ll do my best to explain what I’m doing and how much of all these lovely things you will need. I measure pretty much everything in my hands or by comparing stuff to my fingers, so if you’re an uptight cook who needs exact amounts of everything, this might not be the method for you. If you think you can’t do it, I encourage you to give it a go anyway. I think people are way too reliant on their measuring cups and spoons.
Note that I generally wear children’s mittens and shoes, so the quantities you see should be adjusted for your hands as necessary. If you’ve got a ten year old at home, maybe get that kid to step in as your measuring device.
Here we go!
You’re gonna need:
really real butter (the kind from a cow) salted/unsalted: it doesn’t matter
milk (also from a cow)
two large eggs (from chickens)
brown sugar (the darker the better)
cream cheese, softened (I use light so I can feel virtuous, but do what you like)
a crisp apple, like Granny Smith or Ambrosia
nutmeg and cinnamon
the best chocolate you can afford –don’t you dare use North American chocolate!
First, pull your eggs out of the fridge and leave it somewhere warm while you putter through the other stuff. You don’t want to put cold egg into warm bread starter: you’ll make your yeast sad if you do. Then wash your hands well. You’re going to use them quite a bit and they shouldn’t be gungy.
Grab your smallest saucepan and put a handful of white sugar in it. Pour in a small glass of milk. I measured my milk glass’ capacity, just for you, and it was about 1.25 cups.
Cut a hunk of butter one finger wide and add it to the saucepan.
Heat on low to medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar is dissolved and no longer gritty on the bottom of the pan. You’ll need to stir it around a bit because the melted butter traps the heat and you don’t want to burn the sugar/milk mixture. Once you figure it’s ready, pour it into a big mixing bowl and go do something else for ten minutes. The milk is too hot right now to use, so go call your momma or something.
After the milk feels like an ideal temperature for relaxing bath water, pour out enough yeast to almost fill the lid of the yeast jar. Dump it in the bowl with the milk, sugar, and butter, and go do something else for ten minutes.
When you come back, your yeast will have been having a rip-roaring party in that mixing bowl, and it should look poofy.
Now comes the part that might frighten people. It’s okay. You don’t need to measure. I promise. Take deep, slow breaths, give that stuff a quick stir, and start adding flour while you stir until your mix looks like brownie batter. Then add your egg and mix it in. When it’s as smooth as it’s getting, scoop in some more flour and sprinkle a little salt on top. Mix it all in.
Keep adding flour a little bit at a time until the dough becomes a ball stiff enough to hold the spoon up. I’m a big fan of melamine kitchen tools, especially this chartreuse one. It matches my SUV.
Toss another scoop of flour on the counter and dump the dough on top. Make sure your hands are clean, and start kneading. It’s going to be very soft and sticky, but as you knead it will get happier and become smoother and denser. You might need to sprinkle a little more flour on it if it starts sticking to your hands or the counter. Knead long enough to sing “American Pie” all the way through. Seriously. If you don’t know all the verses, listen to someone else sing it.
You’ll know the dough is ready for great things when it is tacky but smooth, and does not leave little dough bits on the counter or your hands. It will be very dense and hard to flatten out, like trying to squish a water balloon full of pudding.
Sprinkle a little flour in the bowl and put the dough back in, then cover it with your prettiest tea towel and abandon it somewhere warm for an hour. I usually turn the oven on for thirty seconds, turn it off, and tuck the bowl in there. Now, we wait for an hour or so. Go have some of that fabulous chocolate and relax: you deserve a treat after all the work you’ve done to bake treats. I’m having Lindt 50% dark tonight, because it has less caffeine than the darker stuff and won’t interfere with my sleep later on.
While you’re doing this, you can whoop the brick of cream cheese in your stand mixer or with an electric mixer. Toss in two handfuls of brown sugar and keep mixing until it’s pretty much smooth. Add some cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. Pour in a healthy glug of vanilla. Splash in just a little lemon juice to cut the sweetness and give it another whirl until smooth. aLet the tasty goop rest.
Quarter, peel, and core your apple, then slice it into really thin slices. When it’s all sliced, chop the slices into slivers. It doesn’t matter if you chop the apple randomly when you’re making the slivers. We just want to break them up a bit so they soften when you bake the buns.
When your dough has doubled or better, dump it back on the counter and smoosh it down. If you have a metal or marble rolling pin, warm it up under hot running water and dry it off before you start rolling your dough. Roll it out into a big rectangle, about half as thick as a pinkie finger.
Spread the cream cheesy stuff over top, but stay away from the edge closest to you. Try to get it fairly even, then sprinkle the apple slivers over top. I ended up only needing about 90% of mine, and I think I’ll keep the leftovers for something else.
Roll the dough toward you, squeezing gently from one end to the other after each full roll to keep the dough compact. When you get almost to the end, dip your fingers in a little milk or water and “paint” the edge you left ungooped. Finish rolling and squeeze it to create a seal.
Carefully lop off the ends using a serrated knife. If you wanted to, you could bake these in a ramekin so they’re not wasted. Cut the big roll in half, and then cut each half in two equal pieces. You will now have four fairly even pieces. Your goal now is to cut those pieces into thirds. We’re going for a dozen even(ish) chunks, but you don’t need to make yourself crazy trying to make them perfectly even. Don’t worry about the goop on the counter. You can lick it up later.
Spray a regular muffin pan with cooking spray. I avoid butter for greasing the tins for these because it browns too fast and we want to bake the buns slowly. Gently move the rolls into the pan, being careful to keep the apples inside. They’re going to look like a soupy mess, but don’t worry! The filling will set up once we bake the buns.
Let the buns rise a second time in the muffin tins for about 35-45 minutes. You’ll notice that the goop to dough ratio improves quite a bit. After they’ve risen again, preheat your oven and wait for it to hit 325 degrees before make your move.
Pop the pan gently into the oven and reward yourself with another piece of that chocolate. You’re doing such a good job! Let the buns bake to a golden brown. Watch them closely after about 15 minutes to make sure you don’t scorch them. It would be a shame to waste all your hard work. Mine are usually done after about 20-25 minutes.
Let them rest in the pan for about three quarters of an hour. They’re too soft to move right now. Don’t moosh them by getting impatient. Have some more chocolate if you’re hungry. If you really need to, have an apple all to yourself. Fruit is tasty too.
When the buns are cool enough that they’re not squishy, ease one or three out of the pan and go enjoy the results of all your hard work. See? I knew you could do it!
Come back again soon to see what I’m cooking!
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