“JUST TWO FOLDINGS, GUYS. TWOOO FOLDINGS!”
I literally cannot wait, cannot put another wasted minute between you and this recipe. Cannot contain the overjoy in the fact that I have fulfilled the purpose of why I was put on this earth, my designated service to humanity… it is all done, right here, after I push the “publish” button. I can die now and be accepted into heaven and I shall be in peace.
Yesterday, armed with skepticism, I entered the kitchen with an unlikely theory. A few hours later, I came out lit-up like a Christmas tree. This rarely happens, but it did.
The theory was this, that the general practice of creating a Danish pastry-dough, an elaborate lamination-process between yeasted dough and butter, is just flat-out bogus. I just couldn’t submit to all the recipes demanding me to wrap a brick of butter inside a brick of dough, then to sit through however many leg-twitching hours of chilling only then to roll and fold it ever-so moderately and inefficiently in between, as if I’ve got nothing else better to do with my life (I really don’t).
Why can’t I, as stupid as it may initially sound, just roll the dough into a ridiculously long blanket where I just smear butter over the top? Then, why can’t I just fold it multiple times over, and roll it into another long blanket, then just fold it multiple times over again? I’ll tell myself why not. Because “just” usually equates to kitchen disasters… “just” normally rains hell-storm upon my last will to ever cook again. Why-not-just is dumb, or better yet, evil. The snake that lures you into an eternal fall down the cliff that you may never recover from. If there were a “just” that worked, somebody surely would’ve done it already, so normally, I say fuck “just”. But yesterday I was wrong. Yesterday…
Just did it.
Yesterday, I just did exactly as my unlikely theory told me to, and it just worked. No chilling, no waiting, no marking-the-corners or turning-it-this-way-into-my-uncomprehending-panic. I applied my theory to a recipe that I’ve longed to try for months now but was too scared to, a gloriously ginormous morning buns that will mark the end of my size-4, and it just worked! The entire fussing (rolling and folding) was done in under 2 hours, but the buns were laced with crispy edges, soft but chewy layers of bread and butter with (listen to this) nutty peanut sugar all tucked in a warm, swirly hug. Then of course they were tumbled again inside a happy tub of (listen to this!) nutty peanut sugar until coated with sweet dusty joy! Like the happiest Golden Retriever after a mud-fight… well, only instead of kissing them, you tear and devour them up with ferocious aggression.
How is it possible, that you’re still listening to me yapping!! Run! Run now to your nearest kitchen and get yourself some of this, and toss out all your skinny jeans while you’re at it because unfortunately, although not regretfully, this is the last day you’ll ever fit into anything.
I await your condemnation.
Makes: 6 ginormous buns
The key to remember is this, that the butter and the dough should have an equal softness/density for the layering to execute perfectly, that they should both behave/spread similarly when pressure is applied (the rolling). So room-temperature dough + semi-soften butter can create layers almost as efficiently as cold dough + cold butter (which is what’s been generally practiced only that it takes a gazillion-times longer). Another thing is, don’t go crazy trying to create 100 layers within a relatively thin dough! Over a certain threshold, you’ll just be forcing the butter to merge with the dough and you’ll have yourself some nice brioche! I think a good, down-to-earth 30 layers is well enough to fill my heart with content.
Reducing the times of folding by starting with a much larger sheet of dough, also reduces the times of rolling as well which I believe as a result, prevents the layers from being lost. Yes, it will require a counter surface that’s more than 3-feet long (the width of a door… a door, guys!). And if that sounds over-reaching to you (nothing wrong with living in a shoe-box)… I assume you have a dining surface to accommodate…
I happened to have crushed peanuts around, but if you are using whole, skinless peanuts and measuring by volume, you may need more than 3/4 cup because of the empty space it occupies. And please use a high-gluten bread flour as it gives body and chewiness to the buns. Unless soft and flappy buns are your thing then by all means, all-purpose flour…
- Peanut sugar:
- 3/4 cup (102 grams) of crushed, skinless peanuts
- 2 cups (407 grams) of granulated sugar
- The dough:
- 2 cups (270 grams) of bread flour
- 1/4 tsp of instant dry yeast
- 1 1/8 cup (262 grams) of warm water, no hotter than 115ºF/46ºC
- 2 1/2 cups (320 grams) of bread flour
- 1/2 cup (85 grams) of light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tbsp of instant dry yeast
- 3/4 cup (176 grams) of warm milk, no hotter than 115ºF/46ºC
- The butter: (updated 2017/10/10: I reduced the amount of flour from 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp)
- 2 1/2 sticks (283 grams) of unsalted butter, cold
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
To make the peanut sugar: Toast the crushed peanuts in a skillet over medium-low heat until slightly golden on the surface. Transfer to a bowl and freeze until completely cold (this will prevent the peanuts turning into butter when processed). Pulse the cold peanuts and the sugar in a spice-grinder or food-processor, in small batches, until finely ground. Can be done the day before.
To make the dough: Microwave 1 1/8 cups of water on high for about 30 seconds (the water should be warm but not hot. you should be able to leave your finger in it without discomfort). Then evenly mix the warm water with 2 cups of bread flour and 1/4 tsp of instant dry yeast with a fork, and set aside for 20 min.
Meanwhile, prepare the butter: In a stand-mixer with pedal-attachment, mix the cold unsalted butter (right out of the fridge) with all-purpose flour on low speed first, then increase to medium speed and beat until thick but “creamy” without lumps (like the consistency of cold cream cheese). Transfer all the butter onto a parchment paper and set aside at room-temperature. Scrape the butter off the bowl as cleanly as you can with a spatula, but there’s no need to wash the bowl.
Switch to a dough-hook, then add the flour/yeast/water-mixture, plus 2 1/2 cups of bread flour, light brown sugar, salt, 1/2 tbsp of instant dry yeast and warm milk (microwave cold milk on high for 30 seconds). Knead the dough on low first until evenly incorporated (scrape the bottom of the bowl if need be), then increase to medium-high speed to knead for another 5 min. The dough should be wet and sticky, but pulls away cleanly from the side while the machine is running. Dust your working surface generously with flour, then transfer the dough on top. Before I scare you with excessive wordings, here’s a silly graph to explain all in one go:
No chilling, resting or what-so-ever (the original recipe says to chill the dough for 4 hours which I didn’t). Dust the top of the dough with more flour, then press it down with your hands to shape it into a rectangle about 13″ long × 10″ wide (33 cm long × 25 cm wide). Keep the width at 10″, then roll it out length-wise to 33″ long (84 cm). It’s easier to start rolling from the middle of the rectangle and out towards both sides, and keep the bottom of the dough well dusted with flour to prevent sticking. You should have a gigantic sheet of dough about 33″ long × 10″ wide.
Scatter the butter in dollops evenly over the dough-sheet, then gently rub/smear the butter into an even layer cross the sheet, all the way to the edges (like applying lotions on a baby’s buttock). Wash your hands, then use a dough-scraper to lift one side of the sheet up, and fold it 5 times over until you get to the end of the dough, which should give you 5 layers. Now you should have a scroll about 6″ long × 10 ” wide. Now, gently pinch the two openings of the scrolls together, then turn it 90 degrees. You’ll have a rectangle that’s 10″ long × 6″ wide. Here’s a trick: the trapped air inside the scroll will make it hard to roll out evenly, so poke a few holes with a wooden skewer so the air can escape when the dough’s being rolled out. Roll the dough out again length-wise to 33″ long (84 cm), and fold 5 times again from one side to another. So now you have a 6″ square (doesn’t have to be exact). Place the square-dough on a well-dusted sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours to overnight (I admit I only waited 1:30 hour but it worked out fine).
There! You’re done with all the foldings and if you were counting, all 30 layers!
To bake the buns: Preheat the oven on 400ºF/200ºC.
Transfer the dough on a floured surface, and roll it out into a 18″ long × 10″ wide (46× 25 cm) rectangle. Sprinkle 1 cup of peanut sugar in an even layer over the top, then roll the sheet length-wise into a long log (still 18″ long). Use a serrated knife to cut the dough into 3″ (7.5 cm) wide segments, so you’ll have 6 segments. Butter 6 large ramekins, or XL muffin-cups, then coat with peanut sugar. Place each segments inside the mold, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let proof for 30 ~ 45 min. The dough should expand slightly and look puffy. (Updated 2015/04/21: Instead of proofing for 30~45 min only, I later found out that letting the dough proof for 1 ~ 1:30 hour until almost doubled, improves the texture and makes a much lighter and airier bun).
Bake in the oven for 30 min until golden browned and puffed (if the top is browning too fast, lower the temperature slightly for the last 10 min). Remove the buns from the molds and let cool completely, then drench the in the peanut sugar and serve.