What’s the very best thing you’ve ever smelled in your life? Is that a question you can answer without hesitation? When I ponder this topic, quite a few top contenders come instantly to mind. Maybe not surprisingly at all, the majority of my answers are related to travel and food. The smell of cannoli wafting in the air in Florence, the wall of rosemary down a staircase on the Amalfi coast, the salty sea air in South Carolina. While all of these are amazing memories, I can say without a doubt that the best thing I have ever smelled was the air while standing in line outside of Tartine in San Francisco.

The line snakes from the counter inside along the front perimeter of the restaurant, out the door and up the sidewalk along the side of the bakery. Part of the line on the sidewalk is against the wall of the actual bakery portion of the building, with only a screened window separating customers from the brilliance going on inside. I watched in wonder as bakers kneaded bread dough, finished tarts, and more. The entire time, I was totally overwhelmed by the incredible scent of the bakery air. It was absolute heaven. As much as I wanted to eat some of their creations, I almost never wanted the line to move so I could just stay there in that blissful spot watching and inhaling the good, good air.

When we eventually made our way to the counter, we tried many things. And then we came back again the next day, because how could we resist the chance for more Tartine? While I loved almost everything we tried there, the morning buns were the thing that stuck with me the most. When I dream of the smell of Tartine, it’s the morning buns that I see in my mind. Since I don’t plan to travel there again in the near future, I needed a way to recreate them at home. I was surprised to see that in all of my Tartine cookbooks, the recipe was not included. After doing some online research, it appears this was an oversight. Thankfully, I found multiple articles that explained their method. It was instantly apparent what sets Tartine morning buns apart from other cinnamon rolls – they are cinnamon rolls MADE WITH CROISSANT DOUGH. Level up.

If you’ve never tried your hand at making your own croissant dough, now’s the time to give it a try. I promise, it is so worth the time and effort. Laminated doughs are such a gratifying kitchen project and to me, this is the tastiest possible outcome. The batch of dough makes more than you need at once and freezes beautifully, so you can bake a couple rounds of croissants, morning buns, etc. if you choose. These are baked in a muffin pan and that is genius because the outer layers become crisp and slightly caramelized while the interior is tender and buttery with cinnamon sugar and a hint of orange zest. The grainy, sparkly coating of sugar is the perfect finishing touch. I speak from experience when I say that these plus a few good friends and a bottle of something bubbly makes for a perfect weekend brunch.

There are some things I’ve been meaning to share with you for so long, it seems silly to share them now. The latter half of our San Francisco and California trip is one of them. After much consideration, I’ve decided to just go ahead with it because even though a lot of time has passed since that trip, the memories are still strong and I still want to tell you about the rest of it!

  • Prep don't ask
  • Cook 35-45 minutes
  • Yield about 1 dozen buns


For the preferment:

  • ¾ cup (150 ml) low-fat milk
  • 1 tbsp. (15 ml) active dry yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour

For the croissant dough:

  • 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. (20 ml) active dry yeast
  • 1¾ cups (425 ml) whole milk
  • 6 cups (800 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. (20 ml) kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. (14 grams) unsalted butter, melted

Roll in butter:

  • 2¾ cups (625 grams) unsalted butter, cool but pliable

For the filling:

  • ½ cup (99 grams) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (106 grams) light brown sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 medium oranges
  • 2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 8 tbsp. (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus more for coating the pan

To finish:

  • Additional granulated sugar


  • 01

    To make the preferment, place the milk in a small saucepan and heat just enough to take the chill off. It should register between 80˚ and 90˚ F on an instant-read thermometer. Pour the milk into a mixing bowl, add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Then add the flour, mixing until a smooth batter forms. Cover with cheesecloth and let rise until nearly doubled in volume, about 2-3 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

  • 02

    To make the dough, measure out all of the ingredients and have them nearby. Transfer the preferment and then the additional yeast to the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Stir until the yeast is incorporated into the preferment, 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. When the mixture is even, increase the speed to medium and mix for a couple of minutes. Slowly add half of the milk and continue to mix until fully incorporated.

  • 03

    Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add in the flour, sugar, salt, melted butter, and the remaining milk. Mix until this comes together in a loose dough, about 3 minutes. Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes.

  • 04

    After the rest, return the mixer to low speed and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, up to 4 minutes. If the dough is very firm, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time to loosen it. Be careful to avoid overmixing so that the final product will not be tough. Cover the bowl with cheesecloth and let the dough rise in a cool place until the volume increases by half, about 1½ hours.

  • 05

    Lightly flour a work surface. Transfer the dough to the work surface and press into a rectangle 2 inches thick. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and slip into a plastic bag and seal closed. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for 4-6 hours.

  • 06

    About 1 hour before you are ready to start laminating the dough, put the roll-in butter into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until malleable but not warm or soft, about 3 minutes. Remove the butter from the bowl, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill but not resolidify.

  • 07

    To begin laminating the dough, lightly flour a cool work surface. Remove the dough and butter from the refrigerator. Unwrap the dough and place it on the floured surface. Roll out into a rectangle 28 by 12 inches. With the long side of the rectangle facing you and starting from the left side, spread and spot the butter over two-thirds of the length of the rectangle. Fold the uncovered third over the butter, and then fold the left third over the center, as if folding a business letter. This rectangle is known as a plaque. With your fingers, push down along the seams at the top and bottom to seal the butter into the plaque.

  • 08

    Give the plaque a quarter turn so that the seams are now to the right and left. Again, roll out the dough into a rectangle 28 by 12 inches, and fold in the same manner. Wrap in plastic wrap or slip into a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator 1½ to 2 hours to relax the gluten in the dough before you make the third fold or “turn”.

  • 09

    Lightly flour the work surface once more if needed. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and again roll out into a rectangle 28 by 12 inches. Fold into thirds in the same manner. You should have a plaque of dough about 9 by 12 inches and 1½ to 2 inches thick. Wrap in plastic wrap or slip into a plastic bag, place on a quarter sheet pan, and immediately place into the freezer to chill for at least 1 hour. At this point, the dough can remain frozen and be thawed in the refrigerator for about 24 hours before using. If you plan to use the following morning after making the dough, move the dough from the freezer to the refrigerator before going to bed for the evening.

  • 10

    Weigh your finished dough to be sure you are using the correct quantity. You will need 2 pounds of the croissant dough for 1 dozen morning buns. Transfer the correct amount of dough to a lightly floured work surface. Roll the chilled dough into rectangle about 17 by 7 inches. (If you use only 1 pound of dough to make 6 buns, roll to 8 x 7 inches.) Brush the rectangle generously with the melted butter. Sprinkle the sugar mixture into an even layer over the rectangle of dough.

  • 11

    Use additional melted butter to brush the bottoms and sides of the wells of your muffin pan. Sprinkle the insides of the wells very lightly with sugar. Starting on the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough up into a tight cylinder to enclose the filling. Use a sharp knife to slice into 1½-inch segments, and place each one into a well of the prepared muffin pan with a cut, swirled side up. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let stand at room temperature (no warmer than 75˚ F) to proof for about 2 hours.

  • 12

    Move the top oven rack to the middle position. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any butter drippings. Heat the oven to 375˚ F. Bake 35-45 minutes or until deep golden brown. Remove the pan to a wire rack. Cool briefly, then carefully remove the buns from the pan. Let stand a few minutes until cool enough to handle. Lightly dredge in additional sugar to coat, shaking off the excess.

  • 13


      • I used instant yeast instead of active dry.
      • I used whole milk for all steps.