Supernatural Crumb Buns

The dryness that afflicts most crumb buns comes from using too lean a dough as the foundation and/or from baking it too long at too low a temperature. With this in mind, I decided to make them using a method more like the one for focaccia and not separate the dough into individual buns before baking. After successfully jumping that first hurdle, I incorporated an idea from a German coffeecake called Butterkuchen or butter cake: I poked some shallow indentations in the unrisen dough and dotted in a little more butter for the dough to absorb while proofing and then baking under the crumbs. I think these really deserve their name—try the recipe and let me know if you agree.



One batch One-Step Sweet Brioche Dough (below), fully fermented

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft but not melted

2 tablespoons sugar



3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/3 cup light brown sugar or turbinado sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 sticks/8 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Confectioners’ sugar for finishing

One 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan lined with buttered foil, plus a spray bottle filled with room temperature water

  1. Evenly press the risen dough into the prepared pan. If it resists, cover the pan with a towel and let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then continue.
  2. Use a fingertip to dimple the dough every inch or so all over. Quickly stir the butter and sugar together and use a small spoon to place a dab into every indentation you’ve made in the dough. Cover the pan again and let the dough proof until it almost doubles, 30 to 45 minutes.
  3. For the crumb topping, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together in a medium bowl. Stir the brown and white sugars into the butter and use a large rubber spatula to incorporate that mixture into the flour mixture. Continue stirring until the mixture is evenly moistened. Let the crumbs stand and absorb the butter until the dough is fully proofed.
  4. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400˚F.
  5. Once the dough is fully proofed, spray the top with water and use your hands to break up the crumbs into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces and sprinkle them evenly on the dough.
  6. Place the pan in the oven and lower the temperature to 375˚F. Bake the buns until well risen and the crumbs are deep golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
  7. Cool in the pan on a rack, then lift the buns from the pan by grasping the foil on either side and sliding it to the work surface. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the buns apart, cutting four equal strips in the length of the pan and three more across them. Lift the buns from the paper and place them on a board or platter. Lightly dust with confectioners’ sugar right before serving.
  8. Serve the buns on the day they are baked; keep them loosely covered at room temperature. Individually wrap and freeze for longer storage. Defrost, bring to room temperature, and dust with the confectioners’ sugar before serving.



1/2 cup whole milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm

4 teaspoons fine granulated active dry or instant yeast

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground mace

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 large egg yolks

Grated zest of 1 large lemon

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened

  1. Whisk the milk and yeast together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Wait 30 seconds and whisk again. Use a rubber spatula to stir in 1 cup of the flour. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes while you gather the rest of the ingredients
  2. Stir in the sugar, mace, eggs, yolks, and lemon zest, followed by the remaining 2 cups of flour. Make sure all the flour is thoroughly integrated.
  3. Place the bowl on the mixer and attach the dough hook. Mix on the lowest speed until the dough comes together on the hook, about 2 minutes. Scrape the dough off the hook and let rest for 15 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle in the salt and start the mixer on low-medium speed and beat the dough until it is smoother and more elastic, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and beat in the butter about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. By the time all the butter has been incorporated, the dough should be very smooth and elastic.
  5. Scrape the dough into a buttered bowl and turn it so that the top is buttered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough ferment until it doubles.