Blueberry & White Chocolate Sweet Rolls
I always thought that my friend Sue was a little bit like Superwoman.
We first met about 6 years ago when we were both working part time in a local pub. I had been warned about Sue from a previous cow-orker that liked me only at times when it could provide a certainty that I wouldn’t like someone else. Thankfully, I had so little respect for that lovely lady that I couldn’t have given credence to her opinions even if I had wanted to. If anything, when she instructed me to stay away from Sue at all costs, it only made me hellbent on getting to know her and ensuring that we became fast friends, come hell or high water. Looking back, I’m glad that I had that little spiteful nudge in the right direction, because heaven knows that Sue is one of the most fascinating and wonderful ladies that I have ever been fortunate enough to call a friend.
When I think of my ‘good days’, Sue’s good days are better. When I think about my ‘bad days’, well, Sue’s bad days are waaaay better. I’ll open with, “I stubbed my toe and it hurts like an S.O.B., and then I got halfway to work before I realized that I left the garage door open, and I think I ate some funny tuna because you might not be seeing too much of me tonight…” Sue opens with, “There was a body found behind my cottage and it turns out that our neighbor, the son of a close family friend, was responsible. Oh, and I’m really upset so I’d prefer not to talk about it if that’s okay with you. Yeah. So. What section am I working tonight?”
But she’s not called Superwoman just on account of her self-possession and strong will. It also has something to do with the fact that for as long as I’ve known her she’s worked two jobs. Often, two full time jobs and most of the time they had diametrically opposed hours which meant no rest for the hardworking wicked. More importantly, last year when she decided to go back to school full time, she kept both those jobs and STILL managed to knock it out of the park with top marks and a solid knowledge base. I mean, really, what kind of a person can do that? I’m no stranger to the sleepless nights, but she puts me to shame. The fact that anybody could – and would – work a 60-80 hour week, take a full course load and STILL manage to excel at each one of them is just mind boggling to me. I find it hard enough to watch Corrie Street when I’m trying to focus on eating breakfast. Jeepers.
Are you starting to see a bit of the Superwoman getting crafted yet? Just wait. We haven’t even gotten to the part where I tell you that this girl is funny as all get out and absolutely gorgeous. Every time we talk I don’t just end up sniggering a bit, or even forcing out the occasional chuckle. She makes me howl until I weep. It’s very undignified, but absolutely worth it. Oh, and she’s got a killer rack that I would pay thousands for. This used to upset me a bit at first, because I have a rather binary view of what natural talents or blessings a person is allowed to have. You can be smart OR pretty, and funny OR kind. You can’t be all of the above. It’s just not fair. And yet….with Sue, I’ll excuse it but just this once. Because she is Superwoman.
And yes, she’s a stunning and brilliant woman, but she also has the unerring ability to wither you with merely a glance. I like that. I’ve always had a soft spot for a tough broad, it’s true, and Sue is one hell of a tough broad. I will never forget how upset she got one night during a kerfuffle on the second floor of our bar. Sue, deciding that calling the Bouncers would take too long, leapt over the bar herself and broke up the fight by pinning the 6’2 beefy instigator against the wall by his head. The Bouncers came running up the stairs and stopped dead when they saw the diorama, gently extricating her hand from the poor idiot’s throat and silently escorting him off the premises. A few minutes later Sue came flouncing down the stairs with a look so sour it could curdle cream, and said, “Ooh, MAN, I’m angry. I can’t believe this. This is an AWFUL night. I can’t believe that I broke a nail on that bastard’s neck.” Now tell me, really, if you still don’t think she might be Superwoman.
Alright, I don’t mean to just bore you with stories. I won’t tell you about the time that she researched one of my exes (aka The Worst Ex-Boyfriend Ever, or He Who Hits Women) and put out a heartfelt offer to sign his email account up for every kind of ‘creative’ porn site that could be found on the market. Nor will I tell you about how much fun she was to work with on those gong-show nights at the bar, or how much fun she was to go out with on those few gong-show afternoons that we both had free. But I will tell you that this is the girl that you want in your corner, and crikey but I’m glad that she’s in mine. We both work like mad fiends and we don’t get to see each other very often, but that doesn’t matter. Superwoman Sue has a place in my heart, and I truly feel that I’m a better person for having her strength and influence in my life.
Please forgive me for getting all simpering and sentimental here. I promise that it won’t happen again (during this article. Maybe, I hope). Alright, so enough about Sue and let’s talk about food!! Her birthday was this past weekend and I wanted to bring her a home-baked treat….I just didn’t know what. Mind you, I DID know that white chocolate is her favorite, she loves any type of berries, and no matter what I brought she would probably like it anyways just because it was home baked goods that someone brought. I like that kind of a dear heart since, creatively, I don’t do well under pressure. Anyway, I thought that some tender sweet yeast rolls with blueberry and white chocolate would probably fit the bill just fine. Because really, if I’m going to write possibly embarrassing stories on the internet about a woman who pins large men against the wall by their necks, well, I had BETTER have shown up at that house bearing warm baked goods the day before. And so I did.
Blueberry & White Chocolate Sweet Rolls
Makes 14-16 buns
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup butter *
- 1 cup tepid water
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 5 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp ground cardamom**
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 & 1/3 cups white chocolate chips
- 2 cups frozen blueberries ***
* Unsalted butter is really the right choice here, but if you don’t have unsalted butter you can use salted butter and reduce the measurement of salt slightly to about 1 level teaspoon.
** Don’t be haters, people. Okay, maybe you had an unfortunate experience at an Indian restaurant where your Butter Chicken had barely crushed black cardamom pods that looked strikingly like cockroaches and scarred you indelibly forevermore. But trust me, really, that the ground cardamom in this case just lightly scents these sweet rolls with an intriguingly familiar yet exotic flavor that you won’t regret.
***Yes, I know, generally I cheap out and that’s why you see frozen fruit making their way onto the site so often. In this case though, there is method to the madness! Blueberries tend to bleed quite a bit and they’ll make a royal mess of your buns given half a chance. Don’t let the blueberries bring you down! Frozen berries will thoroughly chill the dough after they’re formed which means that the buns will need a much longer second rise, but the end result will be much cleaner and prettier – well worth the effort. As you’re forming and shaping the buns, keep the berries in the freezer and only take them out about a half cup at a time as you use them.
Put the butter and milk into a medium sized heatproof bowl. Microwave the mixture on high heat for 30-45 seconds, or just until your butter is melted.
Add the tepid water (not cold, but not warm either – more like room temperature) to the mixture, give it a stir, and let it cool on the counter for a minute or two until it’s just slightly warmer than body temperature. Yes, you could have added the water to the milk and butter before it went in the microwave, but I happen to be somewhat impatient and adding a colder liquid to the mix will speed the required cooling. The thing is, if the liquid is too hot it will kill the yeast, so you want to be sure to cool it until it feels just slightly warm to the touch.
Add the yeast to the mixture and let the bowl sit for 5-10 minutes until the yeast blooms and starts to swell all frothily. I may sound like a complete dough-head when I say this (ha! Insults AND baking puns, combined!!) but waiting for yeast to bloom is actually one of my favorite activities. I’ll stare at it intently for a few minutes, then I’ll hunker down low and put my ear up beside the bowl to see if I can hear the faint but characteristic fizzing sound of multiplying organisms. Then I wait, and stare some more. And listen. And stare. Good god, I really need to find myself a hobby. Scrapbooking, anyone??
Pour the yeast mixture into a large mixing bowl and crack in the egg. Add the sugar and spice to make everything nice, and give it a good stir until the egg has been beaten in.
Sift together (just kidding! Like I ever sift unless it’s absolutely necessary. And even then, not always) the flour and salt and add the drys to the wetties. Stir it together briskly with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and lifts away from the sides of the bowl.
If you have a stand mixer you could mix this with a dough hook for 5 minutes or so and save yourself the elbow grease. The thing is, because this was technically my ‘present’ for Sue, and despite what we would LIKE to think, baked goods often seem like the poor way out for a cheap-arse-so-and-so, I felt guilty. So I did it by hand. Somehow, the extra effort made me feel like these buns would be slightly more worthy and less “Yes, I’m a broke mo-fo but I wanted to do something…..”
Very lightly dust your work area with flour. Keep a light hand because you don’t want to dry out the dough or the finished product won’t be as tender. Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes (3-4 if you used a stand mixer) until the texture has become smooth and elastic. If you don’t make bread very often, those words must seem like a mystery, right? I had no blessed idea what ‘smooth and elastic’ meant until the (third or fourth) time that I (finally) successfully made a great loaf of bread, and I could actually feel how much the texture had changed. Classless, perhaps, but the best thing I can liken a well kneaded bread dough to is a really taut, baby soft bum. Yeah. So just knead away until it feels a bit like you’re living out that Chippendale-in-the-kitchen fantasy, and you’ll probably be just fine.
Form the dough into a round shape. Lightly oil a bowl and turn the dough around in it until the whole thing is lightly oiled (and all of a sudden doesn’t the Chippendale analogy start looking better and better?) and then cover the bowl with a clean tea towel. Leave it to rise in a warm draft free spot for 1 – 1.5 hours, or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, punch it down by turning it out onto your work area (again, just barely dusted with flour) and kneading several times to get the air out.
Form the dough into a long tube and cut it into 14-16 equal lengths using a sharp knife.
Pat one chunk of the dough into a round ball shape and then roll it out into a flat 8-9 inch round that is approximately 1/8 inch thick. Dot the round with berries and sprinkle with some of the white chocolate chips, being sure to leave a barren edge of at least 3/4 inch all the way around.
Carefully roll the mixture into a tube shape and press or pinch on the bottom seam so it holds together.
With the seam side up, draw both ends in towards the center and pinch them together so that the dough sticks. If you don’t have a good seal then you’ll lose a lot of blueberry action when they cook.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the buns-to-be seam side down with a fair bit of space between them. There should be no more than 8-9 buns per baking sheet, as they will expand quite a bit.
By the time that you get to bun #5, go back and feel the first one. Pretty firm, isn’t it? The frozen blueberries will chill the dough so much that the buns partially freeze themselves. That’s okay though, they will warm up and rise in time…just be, uh, slightly more generous with the rising time. Instead of leaving them a typical 45 minutes to 1 hour, give the buns about 1.5 hours or until they’ve doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 400ºF at least 10 minutes before you want to bake the buns. A good, hot oven makes a world of difference so don’t skimp out and say, “Huh, well, it’s been about two six minutes, so I’m sure it’s hot now!!” Not that I have, of course. I just make this stuff up. Honest.
Bake the buns one sheet at a time on the center rack of your oven for 15-18 minutes. They’re done when they look well browned all around and they sound almost hollow when you tap on the bottom with the butt end of a knife. Please do keep an eye on the little doves though, because they go from golden brown to burnt pretty quickly…..which is why Sue only got 10 instead of 16……
Let the buns cool for 5 – 10 minutes before dusting them with icing sugar. If you don’t usually coat things with powdered sugar, here is what I’ve learned over the years:
– try to use a spoon and gently sprinkle on the sugar. It won’t work.
– grab a palmful of sugar and try to gently blow it onto the sweets a la Three Little Pigs. You will regret it.
– put icing sugar into a loose leaf tea strainer and swing it back and forth like a religious pendulum over your sweets. You’ll feel like an idiot and it’s not very efficient.
– Put a few tablespoons of icing sugar into a very fine mesh strainer, and gently tap the side of the strainer to release a glorious misting of sugar on top of your delectable home baked goods.
If the buns stay put on their sides like they’re supposed to you will be rewarded with delightful looking brioche style sweet rolls filled with sticky blueberry goodness. If, on the other hand, they fall over during baking and end up rising into an unexpected but perfectly swelled little curlicue of flavor? No harm done.
The dough is tender and soft like a sweet bun or cinnamon roll, but with the slight chewiness that you love from a sweetbread. I have a total soft spot for buttery dough and the gentle aroma of cardamom because of the Scandinavian Pulla that my mother used to make every Christmas. Sweet treats and soft memories certainly make the world go ’round.
Alright, and one more picture just because we’re talking about blueberries and white chocolate. Anything less than 4 pictures just seems criminal.
And now let’s all say it together: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY SUE!! SORRY THAT YOUR FRIENDS ONLY BRING BAKED GOODS INSTEAD OF PRESENTS, BUT THEY ACTUALLY DO LOVE YOU EVEN IF THEY’RE CHEAP ASS MoFos!!!”