“Lucy cats” is another of their many names. With two little currant or raisin eyes on one end, they’d certainly be reminiscent of a cat with a fluffy curled up tail. Think? I took a big box of these to a party on Saturday and happened to be standing nearby when a woman blurted out “Somebody tell me which bakery these came from, because they’re the best rolls I’ve ever eaten!” I then had to pretend to be embarrassed as several people pointed over my way. Aw shucks, it was me. I was impossible to deal with for the rest of the evening, just ask the missus.
But that’s the sort of reaction these buns get. They’re fluffy and moist to the bite, exotic on the tongue and bewitching to the eye (they look like little flames to me). It’s a devastating combo. Plus you can make them start-to-finish in only a couple of hours. Oh yes, I’ll be making these again. Start by getting your ingredients together. Crush or grind the saffron as finely as you reasonably can. Add it to the milk and set the mixture on a low stove. Warm it and stir it but don’t simmer it. You just want to infuse the milk with all that lovely flavor and color. Set it aside to cool.
Combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl.
Stir it all up.
When the milk mixture is blood warm, pour it into a stand mixer.
Add the quark. You can see here that the texture is nearly identical to sour cream (just a but grainier as a result of the tiny curds). The taste is very close as well. The only difference is that it yields a slightly softer dough compared to the quark. Still it makes a perfectly good and readily available substitute.
Stir it together and start adding the flour mixture.
Once it comes together in a mass, switch to the dough hook.
Knead it for several minutes until it comes away from the sides of the bowl. With sour cream it’s a little looser than this. If it’s too loose, add about a half cup more flour. More if necessary. Start adding the soft butter about a tablespoon at a time. Just like brioche, no?
The dough will come apart…
…then back together again. You want it smooth but still sticking to the bottom of the mixer.
Remove it to a lightly oiled bowl and roll it a little to coat it. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let it rise for about 45 minutes.
It should be not quite doubled in size.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Here I should point out that the dough can be refrigerated for several days or even frozen at this point. Say, if 35 rolls is more than you need. It’ll keep in the freezer for a couple of months. Simply thaw it overnight in the fridge and proceed with the recipe.
You want to cut it into about 35 small pieces. Those of you who have both digital scales and uptight personalities (me), cut them to 1.9 ounces each.
Now then, selecting a likely piece…
…roll it out with both hands into a snake 14-16 inches long. You won’t need much if any flour for this. In fact, so the snakes can grip the work surface, you may need to brush the board with a moist paper towel every so often.
Now, with your pin, roll the dough snake along its length to flatten in it. This will allow you to achieve a tighter curl.
Roll up one end half way.
Turn the thing over…
…and roll it up the other way.
You’ll have something like this.
Lay them out on sheet pans lined with parchment. They can be fairly close if you wish. You’ll want to move along promptly since the dough will be rising fast. Two people make short work of this shaping step. Now preheat your oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes: hot.
Let them proof for half an hour, brushing them with egg wash at about the fifteen minute mark, then right before you put them in the oven. You can dot them with currants or raisins at this point, which is traditional. I liked the curls so much I skipped that step.
Bake them for 5 minutes, turn the pans and bake another 5-7 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom to make sure they’re evenly browned. If you were slow to shape them and one pan is further along in the proofing, you can bake the pans in succession if you like. Bake them to about here.
If you like them darker, more like a brioche presentation, you can do that. It’s also a nice look.
I even did a batch without saffron and using sour cream, just to see, though I did add three egg yolks for color. Nice, right?
Watch out or these will become your go-to rolls. And there’s not a thing wrong with that.