What to CookBlueberry

Sweet, Swirly Blueberry Buns That Are Bursting with Flavor

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I’m not a big city person. I grew up in pretty rural communities in Kansas—until we moved to "town" around the time I hit thirteen, you couldn’t see another house from ours, and it was at least a 30 minute drive to school (or anywhere else, really). Now, while I don’t live in Manhattan, I’m there most days of the week, living that big-city grind. I’m crammed into buses and subway cars with a few dozen other people. I’m burning hot on the sidewalk with all that concrete heat radiating around me, then freezing cold in the grocery store ten minutes later.

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Usually, I feel instant relief when I leave the city. A few times a year, I travel to the Upper River Valley in Vermont for work. Almost every time, I fantasize about moving there for good. Overnight, it feels like my life transforms. My commute is short and scenic, and after long days by the oven I spend my evenings and weekends running around outside with my pup. I live simply and quietly—and I love every moment of it.

But eventually, reality hits in a place I’d never expect it: the local grocery store. When you live in New York, you can get anything you want—nearly any time of year—if you know where to look and who to call. This is particularly handy in my line of work, because I’m often developing spring recipes in January or icing Christmas cookies in July. In Vermont, I’m left to work with what’s there. While this can be frustrating when I’ve got an out-of-season grocery list for a work project, it makes baking for myself so much lovelier. There’s something I love about the impermanence of it. You may only get to make a recipe once while the gettin’s good—then you have a whole year to look forward to making it again.

And while blueberries (the good ones that are small and juicy and so gloriously purple) are still on the bushes and in the markets, it’s time to make these blueberry buns.

Yes, these beauties.
Yes, these beauties. Photo by Julia Gartland

The recipe is pretty straightforward—mix a lightly enriched yeasted dough until smooth. While it rises, simmer the blueberries with sugar and a vanilla bean. Once the berries burst, puree the mixture (vanilla bean and all) until it’s relatively smooth. Return it to the pot, then whisk in more sugar mixed with cornstarch (the granules of sugar help disperse cornstarch to prevent it from overly clumping when it hits the fruit).

Bring the mixture back to a simmer to thicken, then spread it onto a baking sheet or into a casserole dish. Spreading it in a thin layer like this helps it cool faster, though you could opt to make the filling ahead and hold it in the fridge until ready to use it.

Roll, roll, roll!
Roll, roll, roll! Photo by Julia Gartland

Roll out the dough into a large rectangle, like you would if you were making cinnamon buns. Spread the filling all over the dough—all the way to the edge (you’ll want maximum blueberry coverage once they’re baked, trust me). While most cinnamon roll recipes have you roll it up into a spiral from one of the longer sides of the rectangle, I opt to roll these from one of the shorter sides. This simple tweak makes wider, flatter buns with more swirls of filling streaking the interior. Finally, cut the dough with a bench knife or regular chef’s knife. I like to do it at a 45 degree angle to expose the layers of the filling, but cutting straight down works, too.

Chop, chop, chop!
Chop, chop, chop! Photo by Julia Gartland

Transfer the buns to a greased 9x13 baking dish, and give them one more rise before egg washing and baking. While they’re still warm, drizzle them with a simple, thick icing. It will spread a little when it hits the warm buns and make them even more wonderful.

If you’re one of those folks who likes to freeze blueberries, you can eat these come winter by a fireplace. I’ll stick to making them in the few-week window where the bluebs are just right and I can pick them off the bushes myself. Then I’ll fanaticize about them for 10 months or so (along with my second dream-life in Vermont) until I can do it all over again.

Iced Blueberry Buns

Iced Blueberry Buns

Erin McDowell Erin McDowell
Makes 8 large buns
  • FOR THE DOUGH:
  • 1 cup (227 grams) whole milk
  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon/14 gram pieces
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) cold water
  • 4 1/2 cups (542 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) instant yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea salt
  • 1 large (50 grams) egg
  • 1 splash egg wash, as needed for finishing
  • FOR THE FILLING:
  • 2 pints (680 grams) blueberries
  • 1/2 cup (99 grams) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
  • 1/4 cup (28 grams) cornstarch
  • FOR THE ICING:
  • 1 1/2 cups (170 grams) powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
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Even More Blueberry Beauty

What's that one recipe you just can't make out of season? Share your favorites in the comments below.

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Tags: Breakfast, Bake