The resulting flavor is delicious: deep, dark, exotic, although the ingredients are pretty much pantry staples. I have to confess that my family was not as keen on these buns as I was, but I love them - even better the next day (I'm eating one with a glass of milk as I type). They are wonderful with applesauce or some slices of orange on the side, and deep black coffee.
I named these Midwinter Buns, thinking of the poem by Christina Rossetti, usually set to music:
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago. Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain; heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign. In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. Angels and archangels may have gathered there, cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; but his mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshiped the beloved with a kiss. What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give him: give my heart.
Midwinter Breakfast Buns (cobbled together by me from disparate recipes)
In a bread bowl, whisk together well:
1 Tbsp. instant yeast
1 cup warm milk
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. melted butter or oil
1 egg (preferably room temperature)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. gluten (optional - helps keep whole grain dough light)
Allow this slurry to set for 15 minutes if you have time or start on the filling. Otherwise, proceed.
By hand, gradually stir in 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, starting up the kneading, ideally using the lesser amount of flour for the most tender buns. The dough will be sticky. Knead it into a ball. Grease the ball and the bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and allow to rise until doubled (this can take a while in the cold midwinter kitchen - you can speed it up with some steamy heat).
Make the exotic filling. Combine and set aside:
1 cup finely chopped semisweet chocolate (I threw chocolate chips in the food processor)
1 cup walnuts, toasted and cooled, chopped finely
3/4 cup raisins or currants
scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
zest of half an orange
3 Tbsp. light corn syrup
3 Tbsp. salted butter, melted and cooled
Once dough is risen, roll it out to roughly 12x9" rectangle (if the dough is oiled enough, I usually skip flouring the counter here - your call). Dollop and spread the filling evenly over the dough. Roll up, starting with a long side - I use a wide bench scraper to help. Use a serrated knife to cut into 1" slices.
Lay slices cut side down in a greased 9x13 pan. Cover. Refrigerate 2-24 hours (very handy to serve for breakfast!). To bake, remove buns from fridge and uncover at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm.
Note: to skip the refrigerator rise, allow sliced buns to rise again at room temperature. Then bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.