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Scandibuns and Stranger Things

It was easy to become a fan of something when we were kids. I wasn’t much of a critical thinker and knew less for comparison so I could easily get behind Star Wars or The Goonies [1] and obsess over the story and characters forever. All kids are superfans. It is somehow more embarrassing for me to do this as an adult. It is harder to abandon all reservations and embrace something so completely. This is my nature, I am a skeptic—often at the expense of my own peace or happiness. I am always a little jealous when I see adults dressed as superheroes at Comic-Con or the wonderful weirdos who have turned their homes into mini-Hogwarts or something equally ridiculous. They seem to have held on to something I lost. But occasionally there are still moments when I enjoy something outright. I am able to ignore think pieces telling me why the thing I love is terrible and partially responsible for global warming. I don’t care. Fuck global warming, I love Stranger Things.

Stranger Things, which, for anyone who missed it, is a television series recently released on Netflix, has given me all sorts of good feelings. I love it unconditionally. I love the cast (which includes my original crush, Winona Ryder), I love the 1980’s setting and references [2], I love its willingness to not explain everything to us, I even love the typography [3]. I love that it is sweet, and scary, and funny. I’ve spent much of the last few weeks thinking about Stranger Things or trying to get people to watch it and love it. It all has me feeling very youthful.

It started me wondering about food. It does seem easy for me to love food. Maybe that is part of why it remains a constant in my life. Cronuts are fucking good, and I don’t care if they are the least cool thing in the world. I’m not so worried about what anyone thinks of what I enjoy eating.

In between episodes of Stranger Things I managed to do some baking. I was especially smitten with these Demerara Sugar Buns, or Scandibuns as we have been calling them. They’re sweet little buns that are perfect for breakfast or with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The original recipe uses some ground juniper berries for a very subtle flavor. You could use cinnamon, fennel, cardamom—whatever feels right. I happened to have some juniper berries in my spice drawer (I hate myself for writing those words) so I followed the recipe pretty exactly. I increased the salt a bit and accidentally made 9 rolls instead of 12. I’ll make these again and look forward to experimenting with the basic recipe. You might say, I’m a fan. (See what I did there?)

Demerara Sugar Buns (recipe by Joshua McFadden & Sara Kramer from Bon Appetit [4])

Whisk yeast, milk, and maple syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer just to combine, then let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in eggs; add salt, whole wheat flour, 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, and 6 Tbsp. butter and mix on low speed with dough hook until a shaggy dough forms. Increase speed to medium and mix until dough comes together into a smooth ball and pulls away from the sides of bowl, 10–12 minutes.

Place dough in a buttered large bowl and cover. Let sit in a warm spot until doubled in size, 1–1½ hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 13×9″ baking dish and sprinkle with granulated sugar, tapping out excess. If using juniper berries, finely grind in a spice mill or using a mortar and pestle. Mix ground juniper (if using), ⅓ cup demerara sugar, and ⅓ cup granulated sugar in a small bowl.

Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 3 pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time and keeping the other pieces covered in plastic wrap, roll out dough into about a 12×8″ rectangle. Sprinkle with one-third of sugar mixture and cut crosswise into 4 pieces (you should have four 8×3″ rectangles). Roll up each piece to make a long rope; squeeze ends gently and pinch along seam to seal. Tug rope to stretch so it’s about 10″ long, then tie into a knot. You should end up with 12 buns.

Arrange buns in prepared pan to make a 4×3 grid and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let sit until buns look puffed and lightly hold the imprint of a finger when gently pressed, 50–70 minutes. Bake until buns are golden brown and sugar is caramelized, 15–20 minutes. Turn out of baking dish onto a wire rack and let cool slightly.