earl grey buns + cinnamon cajeta

earl grey buns + cinnamon cajeta

I have to first say that like my blackberry lemonade donut recipe, this also takes 3 days. You can make these buns same day, but you will miss out on the amazing development of flavor and texture that time affords this recipe. I was inspired to use earl grey after I saw Cloudy Kitchen's post for her earl grey buns--but I used my own dough recipe that is a bit closer to a brioche dough which I use anytime I make cinnamon rolls. I developed the dough recipe back at the last restaurant I worked at and we whipped it out for every brunch and special event we did--especially mother's day. It is a crowd pleaser for sure, and will impress all your friends and family. I really like to take my time making this because it breaks up the work and makes everything so much simpler. If I want to serve them on a Saturday, I start on a Thursday by allowing my yeast, milk, sugar, vanilla, and, in this case, earl grey to infuse overnight. I make the dough on Friday, let it rest in the fridge overnight and then roll out and bake the buns on Saturday. Again, taking your time with this recipe only enhances it's flavor and texture. I find that taking the full time creates a softer and more supple bun for the finished product. The flavor of the earl grey is subtle in the dough and comes through slightly in the infused sugar. Just enough to taste it without feeling like the buns are perfume-y. 

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Normally, if I was making cinnamon rolls, I would top the buns with some kind of cream cheese frosting but I was inspired by Zoe Bakes' cajeta. Cajeta is sometimes referred to as Mexican caramel. It's very similar to dulce de leche, but uses goat milk instead. The baking soda creates a chemical reaction with the slightly acidic milk and helps to create a beautiful caramel colored glaze. I find that it is sweet, without being cloying, and has a fresh cinnamon flavor from the cinnamon sticks that is perfectly warm without being overwhelming. In short, the glaze is the perfect complement to the complexity of the earl grey buns. Zoe's recipe calls for cornstarch, but I omitted that in favor of time (as per usual). Giving the cajeta time to simmer really creates the flavor and while cornstarch is a short cut, it falls short of what the finished product can be if given the chance.  I baked these in my trusty Lodge 10in skillet, but a greased cake pan or baking dish would work just fine too. 

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BUN DOUGH:
makes 10 buns

250g (1 1/4 cups) whole milk, warmed slightly
100g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
10g (2 teaspoons) vanilla paste or extract
7g (1 packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
10 g (1 1/2 tablespoons) loose leaf earl grey tea
3 eggs
600g (5 cups) bread flour
65g (1/2 cup) milk powder (I use whole milk powder, but nonfat works too)
3g (1/2 teaspoon) salt
127g (1 stick + 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, diced

EARL GREY SUGAR:

10g (1 1/2 tablespoons) loose leaf earl grey tea, ground in a spice grinder
100g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
100g (just under 1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed

1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

Mix together warmed milk, brown sugar and earl grey tea until sugar has dissolved. Add yeast and vanilla and place in an airtight container in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hours. Dump milk and yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, using a rubber spatula to get all the vanilla and yeast out of the container, fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add eggs and mix on low until combined. In a small bowl, weigh flour and salt together and mix. Gradually add flour until all has been incorporated. Add butter, a couple of cubes at a time, until all is added. Mix on medium speed for 10-15 minutes until dough is smooth. Spray the inside of a gallon ziplock bag with nonstick spray and place dough in ziplock. Seal and place in the fridge overnight. Placing it in a ziplock bag helps create a rectangle shape, making it easier to roll out the next day. Alternately, let the milk, tea, and vanilla infuse for 1 hour before adding the yeast. Make the dough, and let rise in a greased, covered bowl for 1 1/2 hours at room temperature, or until doubled in size. Transfer to fridge to chill for 1 hour, then roll out. 

In the morning, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to a roughly 20 x 16 inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Spread the butter over the dough and sprinkle with earl grey-vanilla sugar, leaving 1 inch of dough on the long side of the rectangle not covered with sugar (this will help the dough stick together). Starting with the long side of the dough (opposite of the gap without sugar) roll the dough up tightly. Cut into 10 even slices. Arrange in a lightly greased 10 inch skillet, 10 inch cake tin, or 9" x 13" (23cm x 33cm) baking tin, leaving a small amount of space between each for spreading. Cover lightly with plastic, and leave in a warm place until increased in size, and the dough bounces back slightly when pressed with a finger. approximately 1 hour. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F in the meantime. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool. Serve drizzled with cajeta. 

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CAJETA:

1 quart goat milk (pasteurized)
160g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped and pods
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Place all ingredients into a sauce pan. Simmer over medium-low heat for 1 1/2-2 hours, until caramel colored and thick. Strain into an airtight container. Can be kept in the fridge for 1 month. 
 

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