Whole Wheat Bumbleberry Breakfast Buns
I say “Bumbleberry”, but that’s not actually a word, it’s a condition. “Bumbleberry” is a humbling way of saying, “I ran out of berries, and I made do. So sue me. No, not literally. If I can’t afford berries, I sure as hell can’t afford lawsuits. So…just kidding??” Bumbleberry is one of those delightful summation phrases, like “Mixed herb” or “Mixed Grill” which mean, basically, whatever we could come up with. Personally, I take “bumbleberry” to mean a mix of blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, maybe strawberry or even currants, loganberries or any other assortment of sweet berry that suits your fancy. Don’t you love flexibility? And by ‘flexibility’, of course, I mean ‘good use of leftovers’.
So beyond the fact that these are, essentially, “leftover berry” buns, I have another reason for loving them. That is, I get to trick all those healthy Dr. (eat)Little people into chowing down fatty old cinnamon buns. Because, essentially, that’s what these are. Sure, I’ve decreased the fat. And okay, I’ve increased the whole grain aspect. And MAYBE there’s no icing involved, and they aren’t particularly sweet, and as far as these things go they’re really about as healthful as it’s going to get, but my point stands. You have a bun rolled through sugar, butter and spices; you have a cinnamon bun. If it’s a berry infused and lower calorie bun, well, so be it. Okay, so maybe I’m not actually tricking people into anything, but I have so few pleasures in life – do you really want to take that one away from me? I thought not.
In case you needed any more incentive, and if you consider yourself one of those, “Home made buns? I don’t THINK so!” kind of people, here’s the last recommendation that I have to make. The dough can be (and, indeed, is best when) made the night before. That is to say, made with as little effort as possible, and only gets better with a slow rise of 12 hours in the fridge. So really, even if it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time in the morning to make fabulous berrylicious cinnamon buns from scratch, we all have the potential to cobble together the dough and make something of substance for when the stark sunshine beats it’s way through the curtains in the morning.
And if not? Hey, that’s what weekends are for.
Whole Wheat Bumbleberry Breakfast Buns
Makes 16 smallish buns
- 2 cups all purpose flour + more to dust
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2.5 tsp dried active yeast *
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
- 1 tsp salt
- 1.5 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup cold butter, divided **
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1.5 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cloves
- 2.5 cups mixed frozen berries
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
* One package of yeast should do the trick. If you buy yeast in bulk jars, like me, why not just round off and use a tablespoon? No harm, no foul, I say.
** I use salted butter. It’s always on hand, it does a perfectly good job, and I can still control the salt in the batter whilst making sure that my filling gets the seasoning hit that it needs to cut the sweetness.
Melt 1/4 cup of butter and let it sit for a minute or two as it cools. In a fairly large mixing bowl add the flours, yeast, and 1/4 cup (~4 tbsp) brown sugar.
Mix the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves) together and add half of this amount to the batter. Reserve the other half, which will be just slightly over 2 tsp.
Pour overtop the warm water and the melted butter. Mix everything up with a wooden spoon until you have a sticky, tacky dough that comes together.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and tuck the bowl in the fridge overnight. If you were to make these buns immediately they would need about 1.5 hours to rise, but seriously – are you going to wake up 2+ hours before your family & guests? I thought not. A sleepy hostess is a poor hostess, so get that extra half hour and just start these the day before.
An added bonus of these buns, of course, is the fact that there is no fussy kneading involved. I’ll be honest: if I have house guests for the whole weekend, we were probably getting up to no good on Saturday night. So it goes. That’s why I love these buns so much. So what if you’re so schlitzed that you can’t see straight? As long as you can manage to see some basic numbers on measuring cups, you’ll be just fine. I know. From experience. Let’s just leave it at that. Toss some ingredients in a bowl, give it a righteous half stir, and you can forget about everything until the cruel morning sun rears it’s ugly head. And by that time, your dough hath risen.
The next morning when you’re ready to make your buns, start by preheating your oven to 350ºF with your racks in the mid to lower third.
Generously flour your work surface. Pinch off half the amount of dough and pat it into a flat rectangle. Sprinkle flour on both sides. Roll the dough out into a larger rectangle that is about 9×13″, flouring the dough regularly as you go if it begins to stick. The dough should be about 1/4″ thick. Try to make as much of a normal rectangle shape as you can, because otherwise your wee ends will be small and malformed buns when they bake.
Sprinkle the rectangle of dough with 1/2 of the remaining spice mixture, and about 2 tbsp of brown sugar (1/8 cup). Cut the cold butter into wee small 1/4″ chunks, and spread about half of these evenly on top of the dough.
Sprinkle or arrange (depending on size) half of the berries on top. This will be about 1 and 1/4 cup of mixed berries. Sandwich in 1/2 of the walnut bits (1/4 cup) around the berries, if you’re using them.
Roll the dough up into a cylinder, being sure to gently squeeze and press at the dough as you go, so as to make sure that you have a long parcel. Press the edges down against the dough until it adheres, and continue gently squeezing and stretching the cylinder until it is about 18″ long (1.5 feet).
Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half. Cut each half into quarters, so there are 8 slices for the half dough. Arrange the slices evenly, cut side down, in a 9×13″ baking dish.
Repeat the rolling, sprinkling and rolling/squeezing process with the remaining half of the dough. You can pack the dough hunks in at about three evenly spaced buns per row (again, alway place cut/flat side down) and save your smallest 4 for the last row because there will be one extra. No worries, it will find it’s spot in the rise. Also, a 9×13″ baking pan is utterly perfect. 8×8″? Way too small. Larger than 9×13″? Well, I suppose so, as long as you know that your buns will spread rather lazily and look somewhat less pretty when they’re released from their less inhibiting home.
As soon as the buns are cut and arranged, put the whole kit and caboodle into the lower center of your oven for 60-70 minutes (just over 1 hour) or until the buns are golden brown on top.
Ooh, bumbleberry sweets. You could use any kind of a range of berries, if you so felt the yen. I’ve made these buns with just blueberries, and once with just cranberries (note to self – DON’T USE cranberries unless you plan to up the sugar in your recipes) but plain ol’ mixed berries or random sweet bumbleberries are just delightful.
Whole wheat dough gets a bad rap for being heavy and overly dense. However, the long, slow rise contributes to a tender and fairly light sticky-bun dough. I mean, whole wheat but not heavy? That’s pretty swell.
I love that these buns are hearty and delectable, but not too sweet. Why? Because, despite my penchant for licking icing spoons and sloughing down slushies in less time than it takes to tell the tale, I don’t particularly like overly saccharine desserts or pastries. These are the perfect breakfast buns for someone like me – not too sweet, not too boring, but just sticky and just right. More importantly, you’re having all the fun of eating a junky ol’ cinnamon roll, but with fewer calories and more fiber.
Psssst – but lest you start feeling TOO virtuous after eating these buns, let’s be realistic. There is still a half a cup of butter. Do with that information what you may, as long as we both understand that sometimes we need to make allowances, and sometimes the lesser evil actually means pretty awesome. And whole wheat. Just sayin’.