This week has been kinda weird. We have had three weeks straight of visitors. Which has been amazing, particularly as 10 days of that was my Dad! We had the best time ever. The downside though, is that going back to reality isn't really a whole lot of fun, particularly with Dad leaving. I am TERRIBLE at saying goodbye to him.
I have been struggling with really bad homesickness the last year or so. Like, REALLY bad homesickness. Which is kind of strange and hard to explain, because living on the other side of the world is definitely finite for us, and plans are in place to move home in the next two years or so (When the L train shuts?). Something will set me off, and it becomes a pretty quick downward spiral to being a non-productive shit. I find leaving New Zealand super tricky, and the slightest thing at home or in my life here can trigger it, which in turn triggers this weird anxiety. While staying home and hiding is the easiest option, it's not productive nor helpful for the situation. I have found that keeping busy, and sticking to a really strict routine helps. A 7am gym class that I force myself to go to regardless of how shitty I am feeling. Dinner at approximately the same time each evening. A time period that vaguely resembles a bedtime. All these little things really help to keep me grounded. And tired enough that I sleep well.
That and friends here in the city, who are always down to hang out! Living in a big city and working from home can get mighty lonely, but it seems a lot of us are in the same boat. I have met some incredible people through the food community, who have become IRL friends as well as instagram friends. Special shoutout to Jill, who has let me adopt myself into her family, and is always there with the hugs, cats, delicious food and the comfiest couch ever when it is needed. We have the best time totally trashing her kitchen, and some happy messes always come out at the end of the day!
A plus side of staying at home a lot is that you can obsessively recipe test. These buns were made in my kitchen on three different occasions throughout the week. The best. I dunno about you, but earl grey buns three times in a week is definitely something that I can get behind.
If you haven't had earl grey in a baked good / dessert before, you are seriously missing out. Unless you have a serious aversion to the flavour (mum reckons it tastes like swamp water?!?), it is a lovely addition, which takes the flavour profile up a notch. Personally I think it should be added to everything that can be infused - does it have milk or water in it? Yup? Infuse with earl grey? Does it have coffee? Yup? Sub it out with strong tea! I also like to add Bergamot extract to help enhance the flavour a little more.
I incorporated the earl grey into these in a few ways. I made an earl grey infused sugar, which went into the dough, filling and glaze. The milk in the recipe was infused with tea, which lightly coloured and flavoured the dough and glaze. I also added a little bergamot extract into the dough, which just helped pick the flavour up a notch. Even with the earl grey in all these forms, it's still not a kick-in-the-face flavour, just nice and subtle. The filling melts down to make a sticky earl grey situation at the bottom of the buns, which is just the best ever. Perfect straight out of the oven, with a hot drink.
I baked these in a 10" cast iron skillet, but they would work just as well in a lined cake tin or baking dish. I rolled out a 21 x 16" rectangle of dough, which resulted in a fairly long, skinny roll, which yielded 10 buns. If you wanted these a little bigger, I would make the rectangle of dough a little smaller (to make them a bit fatter), and cut into fewer pieces. Either way you can't go wrong.
If you were wanting to make these ahead of time, you can either do the first proof in the fridge and then roll out, fill, roll out and proof the next day, or you could get them to the filled and rolled stage, then do the second proof overnight. Just be sure to give them an hour or two on the bench to warm up slightly, and make sure they have puffed up and expanded in size before baking.
Earl Grey buns
- Makes 9-10 buns -
Earl Grey sugar
1 cup (200g) sugar
2 Tbsp loose-leaf earl grey tea
1 2/3 cup (400ml) whole milk
3 Tbsp loose leaf tea
6 Tbsp Earl grey sugar
2 1/4 tsp (7g, 1 envelope) active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups (435g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 Tbsp (90g) unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp bergamot extract (optional)
1 cup (200g) brown sugar
1/2 cup earl grey sugar
8 Tbsp (1 stick / 113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 Tbsp Earl grey infused milk (reserved from dough)
1 Tbsp Earl grey sugar
2 cups (250g) icing sugar
- PROCESS -
EARL GREY SUGAR
Place sugar and loose leaf tea in a food processor or blender. Pulse until the tea is finely ground and well combined with the sugar. Remove and set aside. Alternatively you can grind the tea separately in a mortar and pestle, then grind briefly with the sugar.
In a small pan, heat the milk to just shy of a simmer. Add the loose leaf tea, and steep for 2 minutes. Strain well, squeezing as much liquid from the tea as possible. Measure out 1 cup of the infused milk, and return to the pan or a small microwave safe bowl. Set the rest aside for use in the glaze. Re-warm the milk to approx 110˚f / 45˚c, either over the stove or in 5 second increments in the microwave. Remove from the heat and add 2 Tbsp of the earl grey sugar, and the yeast. Stir to combine, and leave to sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and the remaining 4 Tbsp of the earl grey sugar. Mix briefly to combine. Add the milk and yeast mixture and egg, and mix on low for 2-3 minutes to combine. Add the melted butter and bergamot extract, and mix on low-medium for 10 minutes, stopping occasionally to clear the dough off the hook. The dough should be smooth and soft. Place in a lightly greased bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draught-free place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Note: You can mix the dough by hand - add the ingredients in the same order, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface after the butter has been incorporated, and knead by hand for 10-15 minutes or until smooth and soft. Try to avoid adding more flour if possible.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out into a rectangle approximately 21" x 16". (55cm x 40 cm). Spread the soft butter all over the surface of the dough using an offset spatula, leaving approximately a 1 inch border around the edge of the dough. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and earl grey sugar, and sprinkle evenly over the surface of the buttered dough, pressing down lightly to adhere. Starting with the long side of the dough, roll the dough up tightly, pausing occasionally to tighten the roll.
Cut the roll into 9-10 even slices (I like to measure the length and divide it by the number of pieces you want). Arrange in a lightly greased 10 inch (25cm) 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. Alternatively, you can do the second proof in the fridge overnight. During the last 20 minutes or so of rising, preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Bake the rolls for 30-35 minutes, or until golden, and you can see the sugar starting to bubble up. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before glazing.
In a medium bowl, combine the icing sugar, earl grey sugar and infused milk, and mix until smooth. Drizzle over the buns - you may not need all of the glaze, depending on preference. Serve immediately. Store leftovers in an airtight container - they are best warmed slightly before eating.