Currants at center of sweet buns tease life's mysteries

Currant buns might not solve the timeless questions in the universe, but they'll fill your stomach while you think about them.

Chicago Tribune (TNS)
  • Remember to soak the currants overnight before starting.
  • You'll need to let the dough rest twice.
  • Currants are the new raisins.

The universe is expanding. That’s what Matt said, over cocktails. Any given point could be the center. Here I lost my grip on the concept, if not the cocktail.

Matt switched tacks, trying to put the problem in terms I’d grasp. It’s like a raisin bun, he said. Here Matt showed his own ignorance. My interest is never piqued by raisins.

As the dough expands, the raisins separate. To any given raisin, everything seems to be moving away. It considers itself the center. Now I could see the point: Raisins are self-centered.

I was inspired to knead a batch of buns, hoping the analogy would hold if I switched to currants. In the oven, the buns expanded, the currants moved apart. I can’t say if any considered themselves the center of the universe. I ate them. Now they’re the center of my universe.

Currant Buns

Prep: 45 minutes

Wait: 2 hours (plus overnight soak)

Bake: 15 minutes

Makes: 20 buns

  • 1/4 cup dried currants, soaked overnight in rum, orange juice or both to cover
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 cup warm whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon each: ground nutmeg, ground ginger
  • About 3 1/2 cups flour
  • Glaze, see recipe follows

Pat: Drain currants; pat dry with paper towels.

Proof: In a small bowl, whisk yeast and a pinch of sugar into the warm water. Let rest until creamy, about 5 minutes.

Mix: In a large bowl, mix together currants, milk, egg, remaining sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, salt and spices. Stir in yeast mixture. Stir in enough of the flour to form a sticky dough.

Knead: Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting with flour as needed, to form a smooth, soft dough, about 4 minutes.

Rest: Brush a large bowl with some of the remaining butter. Settle in dough ball, turning to coat with butter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let rest until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down dough to deflate.

Shape: Cut dough into 20 portions. Shape each into a ball, pulling the tops smooth and tucking any raggedly bits under. Set balls on 2 buttered baking sheets.

Rest: Cover buns with plastic wrap. Let rest until puffy, about 30 minutes. Brush tops with butter.

Bake: Slide into a 400-degree oven; bake until golden, 13-15 minutes. Brush with glaze, twice. Enjoy warm.

Glaze: Heat 2 tablespoons milk and 3 tablespoons sugar to a boil. Boil 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of nutmeg.