Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Crunchy-topped Almond Milk Buns

To say that the ingredients in these extraordinary buns are as simple as simple can possibly be is paradoxical. True, the list is short but for one, the milk called for is not exactly the dairy we know. It is, in fact, a substitute to what people of yonder times do when dairies were forbidden on fasting days: boil almond meal in water. Commonly known as almond horchata, this flavorful drink has evolved through the years and in different cultures; Mexican horchata is made by boiling long grain rice in water and with add-ins like cinnamon, cloves and other spices becoming not uncommon. The almond milk is the most common purveyor of this drink for its white meal and strong oil flavor. Not that I don't agree with that, but the flavor of the almond was somewhat lost in these buns-- the taste is different, intriguing at most, but not aggresively almond-y; the last minute addition of the macaroon topping gave textural suggestion of almonds, so I still pretty much enjoyed these.
But don't let me keep you from trying this recipe and taste for yourself. I suggest you add a quarter cup more of the almond meal and use water instead of milk. I can see that the milk must have masked the delicate flavor of the almond.
A note about the topping: Don't worry if some of the icing slides down to the muffin hole, if you're using a nonstick pan, this shouldn't be a problem. Or better yet, wait until the buns have risen before you pour over the topping, it will run mercilessly onto the sides of the muffin pan but that's ok, gather them along with the baked breads for extra crunch! At the same time, expect the lost of crunch upon storage.

Almond Milk Buns

1/2 toasted almonds, finely grounded
1C + 2T milk or water

Combine ingredients and simmer for 8-12minutes or until liquid has reduced and slightly thick. Strain the milk and let cool. At this point, the almond meal may be discarded or used in the macaroon topping.


1 t yeast
almond milk
2C - 2 1/2 C all purpose flour
3T granulated sugar
3T salted butter

1. In a mixing bowl with a dough hook, combine all ingredients and beat on medium speed. Add 1-2T of water if dough seems dry.
2. The dough will be satiny smooth, springy to the touch and slightly tacky. Let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
3. Gently punch down and divide into 12 pieces, each will be about 40grams. Let the dough relax for 10 minutes before shaping.
4. Meanwhile, grease a 12-hole muffin pan. To shape, flatten the dough, roll jellyroll style and circle unto itself; this is what you call a snail shape. Place on the muffin holes and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for an hour or until doubled. Preheat oven to 350F.
5. Brush with egg wash (yolk thinned with a bit of water) or drizzle with macaroon icing if using. Bake for about 30 minutes or until well browned on top. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.

Macaroon topping:

1 egg white (about 30grams)
1/2 C almond meal (have some coarse almonds too for crunch!)
1/3 C icing sugar

Mix everything and set aside in the chiller until ready to use. This will be a bit runny.

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