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 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, I love its willingness to not explain everything to us, I even love the typography. 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)
- 1 ¼-ounce envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
- ⅔ cup whole milk, warmed
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus melted for brushing (about 4 tablespoons)
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar, plus more
- 5 dried juniper berries (optional)
- ⅓ cup demerara sugar, plus more
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.
NOW TELL ME ALL ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU LOVE STRANGER THINGS!
August 5th, 2016 at 3:41 pm
Right there with you on Stranger Things, and I’ll add that the score was so good too!
Fernando @ Eating With Your Hands says:
August 5th, 2016 at 4:56 pm
oh yes! as if I wrote this post myself. Never too big on sci-fi in general as the abundance of hit and miss films has always made me uninterested, but Stranger Things definitely woke up my sci-fi tastebuds! And my god, Winona…so good. I love how my girls made a comeback with Winona here and Kirsten in Fargo.
And like Emily above, obsessed with s u r v i v e – such a brilliant soundtrack.
August 6th, 2016 at 9:50 am
I’m a little obsessed with it too – mostly because of the acting, 80’s references (I was 11 in 1983, so just about the right age!), and WINONA. I’m loving the music, although when they played the Bangles’ Hazy Shade of Winter, I told my husband that that song came out after 1983, and I’m right :) I’m not so into the sci-fi aspect, but I’ll take it.
August 6th, 2016 at 10:01 am
ps – check out this video of side by side comparisons to 80’s movies and stranger things. I’m surprised that the creators were born in 1984 – nostalgic for what happened before they were born/as infants?
August 6th, 2016 at 11:44 am
Stranger Things is amazing! It inspired me to do something I have never done as an adult: buy and eat Eggo waffles. But maybe I should have opened Bon Appetit and made these buns instead.
Also, I think you’ve touched on something important about nerdom that I’ve wondering about lately. The extent to which I am into certain nerdy things is probably the thing that I am least open about, even with people that know me pretty well. But I’ve been wondering about why I feel this way and why I feel a little bit silly for liking the things I do. And it probably does have something to do with the enthusiasm that I have (to be clear, there will never be any cos-play involved!). So, thanks–this helps clear things up.
Aimee Elise says:
August 6th, 2016 at 2:34 pm
I loved it! I loved the intro music and I definitely cried a little bit in the last episode. Unlike most people I kind of don’t want there to be a second season. It’s just setting you up for disappointment of it not being as good as the first season. I just want it to be a stand alone awesome thing. Also, the kids were great – I really loved when they would spazz out and just scream their replies.
August 6th, 2016 at 6:06 pm
My grown son has been telling me about Stranger Things and when I saw your post I took it as a sign. Lo and behold I just binge watched four episodes! I never do that! I have to stop and let my husband catch up so we can finish it together. Love it! Also looking forward to trying the buns the next time I’m in a baking mood. Thanks!
August 7th, 2016 at 4:04 pm
Hi Fellow Fans! Yes, the music. It is too good! And Aimee, I gotta agree that the idea of a second season makes me very nervous. It is so perfect as it is. BUT! Nothing can take that away from us and maybe it will be great….
August 7th, 2016 at 8:37 pm
LOOOOOVE Stranger Things. We finished it in a few days, and then I was so sad to come home and not have another episode to settle in with. Ready to watch the whole thing again!
August 8th, 2016 at 5:03 pm
LOVE Stranger Things. Also, it makes me so so happy to see John Reynolds, a Chicago comedian I saw for years doing improv at iO, make the cast of the show. All around amazing!
August 9th, 2016 at 4:46 am
Loved those christmas light scenes in Stranger Things! Also, I had one of these buns with cardamom and a cup of tea while I was on a layover in a Stockholm airport. It was easily the best thing about that journey.
August 9th, 2016 at 2:02 pm
i dont even like sci-fi and i can’t get enough of stranger things!!
also, these buns look absolutely delectable.
August 9th, 2016 at 6:37 pm
I never do any yeast based recipes cos the only yeast available at Australian supermarkets is “instant yeast”. A lot of recipes call for the active kind, don’t think they’re the same.
August 9th, 2016 at 7:19 pm
OBSESSED WITH STRANGER THINGS. OBSESSED WITH THESE BUNS. thank you for your sparkling words on this deep, dark internet that should just be renamed THE UPSIDE DOWN. <3 <3 <3
Jeffrey C says:
August 10th, 2016 at 5:39 pm
(I hate myself for writing those words)
I am skeptical :)
August 12th, 2016 at 7:44 am
Tim, I’m absolutely obsessed with Eleven and Toothless and Mike and and and…I confess I’m that douchebag with juniper berries in my spice drawer and these look delish. Can’t wait to give them a try once the weather cools a little bit.
I haven’t been this excited about by a movie/tv show in a long time. I think perhaps because it has sparked not so much nostalgia as appreciation for getting to be a “free range” baby of the 80s. My sister and I used to rummage through the couch cushions for penny candy money then ride our bikes down to the beachfront deli and gorge on cokes and cowtails. No parents around. Play in the woods until dinner time. I could go on and on and on about how great the kids in ST, they really nailed it.
August 15th, 2016 at 11:42 am
We loved it so much. It was hard to even pinpoint what in the whole shebang was so standout, which is, I think, is the point. The kids. The music. Winona Ryder (!!) Ben, who is a big nerd, loved all the D and D references. But I agree most with Casey above that it just hit the nail on the head with that free-kid, wind in your hair on a bike, run-around feeling, and the ways that make believe seemed so real (WAS, actually, REAL? WHAT IS REALITY?!) In any case. Thanks for this, as always. —S
August 18th, 2016 at 11:34 am
I can’t comment on the show, except that to say I have many other friends who are just as obsessed, but I did want to say that Shiv called me into the bathroom the other day–he likes to look at my food magazines while he’s taking care of business–and pointed to this recipe and said, “Mama, can we make these?” I said “of course” and dog-eared the page, but we hadn’t gotten around to it yet…with your endorsement, these might have to happen over the weekend!
August 19th, 2016 at 7:30 pm
Thank you so much for these! I’ve never seen the show, but these were delicious. I’m not That Person who has juniper lying around; instead, I am That Person who loathes all things juniper. Therefore, I did swap out the juniper for cardamom, and they were stellar.
I kept half for me and sent half as a gift to someone who needed it, and she loved them too. So thank you from both of us!
August 22nd, 2016 at 8:39 am
I just can’t stop thinking about it and wanting to watch it over and over again. Barb! The set design! The perfect synth! Plot integrity! When was the last time that television was so good?
September 2nd, 2016 at 2:58 pm
Yay! We finally finished Stranger Things! Because of The Olympics (which you could say I really let myself be a fan of) we had to space out the episodes. I loved it a lot. And now I miss it. AND the Olympics.
September 27th, 2016 at 8:45 am
Loving, loving, loving Stranger Things! And these buns look mighty tasty.