This recipe is the delightful result of indecision. I needed some breakfast treats this week for my daughter, and she said she’d like either cinnamon rolls or blueberry muffins. Who’s to argue? But how to choose? I’ve blogged about both of them before, so neither had an edge there. The cinnamon rolls do take a long time to make (three days!), but they are so, so heavenly it’s worth the time. Fresh blueberry muffins don’t quite have that wow factor, but are still a nice morning snack. Then, as I was flipping through my Macrina Bakery Cookbook (my go-to baking book), it occurred to me… why not combine the two? A cinnamon roll with blueberries. We have a winner.
As I was planning out the recipe, I decided I’d make a few more changes as well. Instead of the luscious but hugely time consuming croissant dough rolls, I’d try making a brioche dough. The brioche recipe takes a while, but is still makable in a single day. The loaf is sinfully buttery, and a great balance between flaky and chewy. I’ve also been playing around with other flours lately, and instead of all purpose white, I used whole wheat pastry flour and a bit of almond meal to add more nuttiness. The resulting dough is heavier than some brioche, but perfect for cinnamon rolls. Have you ever been to Great Harvest Bread Company and gotten their whole grain cinnamon buns that are as big as your head? This dough is kind of like that, except, I think, even better… a light crumb that isn’t dry or undercooked.
The rest of the recipe is super straight forward… roll out the dough, sprinkle on some blueberries and a mixture of granulated sugar, dried orange peel and a bit more almond meal, and then roll up and slice. I like to cook these in muffin tins, which gives them a funky vertical almost muffin appearance. A bit of parchment rolled up around each one helps keep them rising upwards instead of falling over the edges of the muffin pan.
Whole Wheat & Almond Brioche Dough
(adapted from Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook, p 43)
Makes one loaf, or about a dozen rolls
Note: this recipe relies on a stand mixer with a hook attachment. You certainly can make it by hand, but the kneading is pretty intense in order to get the right texture in the dough, so I’ve skipped the make by hand instructions.
8 T (one stick) of butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 t active yeast
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (plus more for dusting)
1/2 cup almond meal
1 t salt
Cut the butter into about 16 pieces and set aside.
In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, add the water, 2 t of the sugar and the yeast. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes to proof.
Add the rest of the sugar, the vanilla, the eggs, the milk and the cream. Give it a good stir with a whisk. Then, add flour, almond meal and salt and stir by hand to moisten slightly (this will help you avoid a big puff of dusty flour when you start mixing it on the mixer).
Place the bowl in your mixer with the hook attachment, and start it on low for about 3 minutes until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Then, crank it up to medium. Start adding the butter, one piece at a time, until it is well mixed in. Continue to mix or another 10 to 12 minutes. The dough will start to resemble a ball, and show good elasticity, but will still be a bit sticky and wet. If it isn’t a ball yet, keep mixing for a while.
Then, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead once or twice by hand, and then form into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic and let sit in a warm room (~72F) for at least 2 1/2 hours or until doubled.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and flatten into a 6 inch by 12 inch rectangle. If you are making the rolls, skip down to that recipe now. If you want to bake the brioche as a loaf, keep reading.
Position the dough so one of the long sides is closest to you. Fold one of the short ends to the middle, and then the other short end to meet it. Then, roll the loaf starting from the side closest to you until it forms a log. Place the loaf in an oiled 9 x 5 x 4 inch loaf pan, seam side down. Push the dough well into the pan to remove any air pockets. Cover with plastic, and let sit in a warm room for about an hour and a half.
Preheat the oven to 360F. Brush the top of the loaf with an egg wash, and bake on the center rack for about 40 minutes or until the loaf is a deep golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes in the pan. You may need to run a knife around the edge to remove it.
Blueberry Brioche Rolls
Makes about a dozen rolls
1 recipe Brioche Dough
3/4 cup blueberries (fresh or defrosted frozen)
1 T granulated sugar (plus more for sprinkling)
1 T almond meal
2 t dried orange peel
Make an egg wash by combining the yolk of an egg with a bit of water and whisking until well combined and it is a light shade of yellow. Cover and put in the refrigerator.
Combine the sugar, almond meal and orange peel together and set aside.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and flatten to a 6 x 12 inch rectangle. Gently roll with a rolling pin to remove any air pockets. Then, fold one of the shorter sides to the center, and the other shorter side over it to the edge, to create three layers of the dough. Roll this out to remove any air pockets, until it is about 6 x 12 inches again. Repeat. Then, roll the dough out to about 6 x 18 inches.
Sprinkle the dough with the blueberries, trying to get them fairly evenly distributed, but leaving a bit of a margin around the edge. Sprinkle with the sugar mixture.
Starting with one of the longer sides, start rolling the dough into a long log. When you are done rolling up the dough, seal the seam with a bit of the egg wash and pinch together. Roll the dough-log gently to stretch it out a bit more. Then, cover with a towel and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, grease a muffin tin (or use a non-stick variety), and cut parchment cylinders to fit each cup, and extend about 2 inches above the pan.
Slice the log into about 12 pieces… I like to trim off the ends first, as they are mostly just dough. Then, take each piece and carefully wrap the parchment collar around it and place it in the muffin tin. Repeat with the rest of the rolls.
Lightly cover with plastic, and let the rolls sit for about an hour. Preheat oven to 375F.
Then, with a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops and any exposed sides of the buns with the egg wash. Sprinkle with a bit more granulated sugar.
Bake on the center rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops are a deep golden brown. Cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the muffin tin. Then, cool on a wire rack for another 5 to 10 minutes before eating.