I love these buns. I imagine eating them on a snowy night, when the glimmer of Christmas lights faintly glows through the window and my dog pushes her face through the front door, sprinting on white, snowy paws. Mmm, my mouth goes as it devours another bite, falling devout to the tangy, sweet, nutty taste of Cranberry Pecan Sourdough Buns.
Yes, a religion could be started with these buns. I have spent a long time offering my servitude to buns like these. It all started in a Whole Foods when I was in college, a mere tadpole of a human – I swam between cheese and bread in hopes of finding some comfort as the cold of Chicago chilled my bones.
I discovered the perfect vessel for trying a different type of cheese each week…cranberry pecan buns. They were not sourdough, so they were not as flavorful and divine as these. But still, I became a devout follower of the sweet and nutty taste that cranberry pecan buns emitted.
Try some different flours!
So, here we are now…I have created the perfect recipe. Heh. If you want them to be even more perfect, use a high-quality bread flour made from real whole grains, like this one from Cairnspring Mills. Then they’ll be really divine.
Store-bought bread flour may be okay for now, but a high-quality flour that isn’t roller-milled and sifted into oblivion will change your bread life, your religion, your soul. Heavily manufactured flours in roller mills lose the bran and the germ (the most nutritious parts of the grain). Stone ground flours maintain nutrition and terroir. I have been recently obsessed with trying different whole grain flours from different regions and different stone mills.
A casual flour comparison in these cranberry pecan sourdough buns
In the photo below, the sliced bun that has a darker top is from a batch made with Cairnspring Mills’ Trailblazer flour. The main buns are made with generic store-bought bread flour. Even just the tops show a crazy difference in quality. The texture of the Cairnspring buns is dramatically different as well. The Cairnspring buns are moist and tender whereas the generic flour created buns are drier and denser.
You might even be able to find a local stone-ground flour in your grocery store. Mine carries one local mill’s flour (Farmer Ground Flour, which is local to New York). Be on the lookout & support your local mills! And be sure to keep those fresh ground flours in the fridge or freezer. They’re less shelf stable than white flour but they have all the good stuff. Yum.
Developing awareness via your cranberry pecan sourdough buns ♡
The most important thing with sourdough is to be very aware of your dough! Notice what it feels like through the entire process. When you stretch & fold it, it’s usually tighter in the beginning of the process and more relaxed as fermentation goes on. By the end of bulk fermentation, it should be puffy but also supple and a bit relaxed. Through lots of sourdough practice, you’ll come to know the process more and more. So, be patient and allow it to be a relationship that develops through your senses.
Overall, even though baking is a science and can be mathematical, skill in it can also be heavily developed through your senses. So, stay in touch with the process through all of your senses. Smell your starter and feel your dough. Look out for your fermentation bubbles and hear the crackling of the bread out of the oven. Then finally, taste the efforts!
Now, dough environment temperature is really important to note for sourdough fermentation. I like to keep my dough covered at all times and in a proofer (especially in the winter) during bulk fermentation at 80°F. The optimal environment temperature for sourdough dough to bulk ferment at is around 75-82°F. That may not always be possible, but it's good to note for your own reference when gauging how long your bulk fermentation takes, or even how long it takes for your sourdough starter to peak.
Because I keep my dough environment at 80°F, it usually takes the minimal amount of time to bulk ferment. If your kitchen is much cooler as mine gets in the winter and you don’t have a place like a proofer to keep the dough, you can either create a makeshift proofer in your oven or accept that the dough will take a longer while (not the worst thing in the world!). If it bulk ferments at a colder temperature, it’ll taste milder than being bulk fermented at a warmer temperature.
Separating your dough into equal buns
Always weigh your empty vessel before you add anything to it! Then write down the weight. I keep a little post-it in my cabinet that has all my vessels’ weights written down. This comes very handy if you ever forget to weigh your container at the beginning of the lengthy sourdough process.
When it comes time to separate the dough into 6 equal buns, grab your calculator or get ready to do some mental math. Weigh the dough & container together, then subtract the container weight from it. Then divide that number by 6. That’s the weight of each piece of dough!
So, the equation: dough & container weight - container weight = x. Then divide x by 6. Woo, math.
Now, go throw yourself into the process! If you make this recipe, please comment and rate the recipe below! I love hearing from you all. Also, you can tag me on Instagram @higheralchemybaking with your bake!
Cranberry Pecan Sourdough Buns
- 9-inch cake tin
- 365g warm water
- 100g mature sourdough starter
- 400g bread flour
- 75g all-purpose flour
- 50g whole wheat flour
- 15g sea salt
- 35g brown sugar (I use dark)
- 55g warm water
- 80g chopped pecans
- 80g dried cranberries (I use unsweetened ones)
- 190g boiling water
- 60-75g all-purpose flour
- milk, for brushing (any milk you have is fine; I use oat milk)
- In a large container or bowl (weigh your vessel & write the weight down), combine the dough mixture by squeezing with your hands. Cover and let sit for 1 hour. In the meantime, stir the salt mixture in a small bowl and the soaker in a medium bowl. Let them sit until the hour is up.
- Drain the liquid from the soaker mixer and add the pecans/cranberries to the dough. Add the entire salt mixture to the dough as well as the extra flour (use 60g to start, then add the extra 15 if necessary). Perform folds to incorporate the ingredients together, as well as squeezing the dough. Let rest for 1 hour.
- Stretch & fold all four sides of the dough, then let rest for 1 hour. Stretch & fold all four sides 2 more times, resting the dough for 1 hour in between. Then let the dough finish off its bulk fermentation for another 3-5 hours (depending on dough environment temperature), or until puffy, almost double the original size, and there are many fermentation bubbles on the bottom of the dough. At this point, cover the dough and place in the fridge overnight (about 12 hours).
- In the morning, remove the dough from the fridge and set on the counter for 2 hours. It should still be puffy and have some bubbles on the top.
- Oil a 9-inch cake pan and set aside. With a small bowl of water nearby, spread a little water on a work surface. Divide the dough into 6 equal parts. Then shape each dough piece into a bun by flattening the dough out, folding opposite edges into the center until a ball forms, pinching the ends together, and rolling the seam against the work surface.
- Place a bun in the center of the cake tin, then surround it with the other 5. Cover and let rise for 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 400F. When the oven is ready, brush the tops of the buns with milk & bake them for 35-40 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 195F. The tops should be dark brown. Remove it as a whole from the tin immediately and place on a cooling rack. Let cool for at least 30 minutes. These are best devoured when warm!
If you loved making these buns and want to try a different method for them, check out my Crispy Bottomed Sourdough Buns!