Spring 2014. Ever since I went to Evergrain Bread Company on an Eastern Shore holiday with my kids and bit into their sun bun ($2.75, Still!!) I have been searching for that same blessed combination of cinnamon, sugar, and light croissant goodness.
Half a year later while visiting Tartine in San Francisco, I realized that Evergrain’s sun bun was a play on Tartine’s famous morning bun ($3.95), conceived and concocted by chef Chad Robertson. A morning bun is NOT heavy, sticky, clogged with nuts and covered with sickly sweet white frosting. That’s a cinnamon bun and the two are only the most distant of cousins! No, a morning bun is a light pastry knot with cinnamon and sugar baked into each buttery layer of croissant dough and then dusted all over with cinnamon sugar. Unlike the Chestertown, MD sun bun, Tartine’s morning buns also have an ever-so-lightly caramelized bottom because they are baked in pans prepped with butter and sugar. Tartine’s other spin is to bake orange zest in the filling to balance out the fat and sugar (plus that orange zing fools you into thinking you’re having something incredibly healthy). Eating my morning bun at the original San Francisco Tartine, I felt like I was having a religious experience. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Watch Chef April Bloomfield, of The Spotted Pig and The Breslin, wax lyrical as she watches Chad Robertson crank out a batch. She’s practically swooning!
And I was practically swooning during our visit to Seattle (more about which later) when I spied the Swedish morning bun, or kanellbulle ($3.65), at the Eastlake Grand Central Bakery Cafe. This simple twist of dough was redolent of cardamom, and as with the best morning buns, there are equal delights in the crisp, cinnamon/sugar dusted exterior and the inner, more dense layers, tight as a Torah scroll, which you take your time unrolling. I did say it’s a holy experience. And what’s more, bakeries all around the country are now giving their own spin to a bay area pastry invented in 1977, a La Farine.
Just recently, up in Arlington, MA at the soft opening for Butternut Bakehouse, I had a Northeast morning bun—lightly sweet, buttery, with high notes of orange zest, like the Tartine bun but even more pricy ($4.50). I dispatched my friend Hilary to snap a picture of it, but going multiple mornings at times ranging from 9 to 10:30 AM, they were always sold out. Frustrated, she asked the counter person just how early she had to show up so snag a morning bun. “7:00 AM,” was the nonplussed reply. But, Butternut told her, she could call in advance to reserve, which is just what she did to treat her family to a quartet of morning buns. Just goes to show, the earliest bird (or the most persistent!) catches the morning bun!