You can play fast and loose with a morning bun. To live up to the name, all that’s required is that laminated croissant dough is rolled into a cinnamon bun shape. The rest is up to the whim and whimsy of the creator. Some roll a wet cinnamon streusel in for a standard croissant-bun hybrid concoction. Others sprinkle theirs with cinnamon and sugar, and then a little orange zest. Savory options are out there, too. The morning bun’s origins are lost in history—they might have originated in Wisconsin and traveled west, or may have been a Pennsylvania Dutch creation that originated in Germany or possibly the Czech Republic. One thing’s for certain: the morning bun is a breakfast pastry that’s “sweet, and gooey, and just plain delicious,” according to Cory Colton, the pastry chef of Quality Eats in New York City.
Challenged to come up with the “ultimate breakfast pastry” that could stand in for the typical communal bread-and-muffin basket found on every brunch menu, Colton ate his way around his West Village neighborhood and came to a quick conclusion. The best breakfast pastry out there is the croissant, but it always has one fatal flaw: “There’s three awesome bites with chocolate or almond filling, and then the rest is just empty flakiness.”
He couldn’t reinvent the wheel, but he could improve upon it. “I wanted it to be fun,” he says of his creation. “When it lands on the table, I want people to gasp. I thought it would be cool if it looked like a honeybun—those big, circular pastries that drip with glaze and frosting—and large enough for a table to share. Because when something is shareable it becomes an icebreaker. Everyone has to dive in and talk about it, and eat like one little family.”
The result was his Large Format Morning Bun. Filled with sweet almond paste and dark chocolate chips, the oversized bun comes glazed, frosted, streuseled, and served with classic cream cheese icing at the center for smearing and dunking. Getting it onto the table takes some work, but then he loves nothing more than to see patrons savagely ripping it apart with their fingers.
Check out Colton’s step-by-step process, and your fingers will be twitching to rip into it, too.
It all starts with a long rectangle of laminated dough that gets sprinkled with flour and rolled out to exactly four and a half inches wide. Excess flour is whisked off, and then the thinnest layer of almond spread is applied. The sweet almond paste, sugar, and butter are so strong in flavor and reminiscent of marzipan that only a small amount is needed to pack a punch. The flour in the paste helps it bake up into a cake-like texture down the line, too, so that the pastry isn’t too dense or the flavor overwhelming.
It then gets sprinkled with “lots of tiny chocolate chips, so that there’s a lot of chocolate throughout the whole thing—and so I can use more,” Colton says. He rolls the dough up width-wise into a tight scroll and, instead of cutting it into tiny bun-like shapes, loosely curls the entire log up “like a snail.”
Each bun is set in a lightly-sprayed pan with plenty of room to spread and rise, and the metal cup that will contain the icing is placed in the center for both the proofing and baking periods, so that the bun will mold beautifully around the little pan itself. It sits for about an hour—depending on the heat and humidity—until it’s proofed to double in size, then takes a straight egg wash before baking.
When it’s out of the oven and in all of its golden, crispy glory, the bun comes out of the dish, and is washed in a shiny glaze of honey, brown sugar, and apricot jam, which adds both tart notes and a third kind of sweetness.
Next, it gets an artful drizzle of a typical confectioner’s sugar and milk glaze, then a sprinkling of cinnamon streusel, for crunch, since Colton is “all about texture, too.”
The final product is glorious in its flaky, eggy beauty, buttery without being too dense nor cloyingly sweet. Swirling layers hold continuous bursts of chocolate and almond, and that welcoming container of cream cheese frosting sits proudly ready at center for those who want a bit more sugar in their morning bun.