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Rolls, buns, and flatbreads are within your grasp

Stacey Ballis
January 29, 2018

Anything fresh-baked in the morning—especially on a weekday—feels like a win to me.  If I am having pals over for brunch on the weekends I’m all about starting from scratch, but during the week, there just isn’t time or energy. Of course there is no shame in the “pop a tube of lovin’ from the oven” weekday morning baking, but I prefer a little more flexibility in my flavors, and fewer unpronounceable ingredients. So I use pizza dough from my local grocery store for breakfast. 

I especially love that the flexibility of store-bought dough is that all the hard part has been done, and it is super easy to work with. And since it is refrigerated dough already, you can totally assemble a morning bake the night before, put it in the fridge, and then just pop it in a hot oven first thing. On cold winter mornings when you have to sludge through the still-dark gray to get to work, a bit of homemade love in your stomach helps. 

These three ideas are more techniques than pure recipes. You can use a million different combos in your versions.

Before we begin, know this: These will not be pillowy-soft, yeasted morning pastries. Pizza dough by its nature is a bit chewy and stretchy, and doesn’t rise much in the baking, so you aren’t going to get your typical texture on these. Take these on their own merits, and don’t try and make them sub in for something else. Trust me, if you are craving a cinnamon roll in the traditional sense, you are better off waiting for the weekend and baking a great one (I love the recipe in the Bravetart cookbook), or heading for your favorite bakery. 

Rolls 

Photo by Stacey Ballis

They key to pizza dough rolls is keeping them small. Think more along the size of hotel buffet pastries and not Cinnabon. First off, it’s like a Tuesday, so you don’t have an hour to bake them, and they will be gummy in the middle. These fall into the “they’re small, eat two” category. You are also going to bake them in a muffin tin so that they cook quickly and the outsides get nice and crispy. I don’t put icing on mine, but if you want icing on yours, go for it. 

Preheat your oven to 400°F. If you have convection, feel free to turn it on. Roll out your pizza dough—which usually comes in about a 16 to 22-ounce chunk from your grocer—about a quarter of an inch thick into a rectangle, which will probably come out around 10x13-ish. Weekday mornings are not for ruler precision; just roll it out to the right thickness, however big that is. 

Spread with a very thin layer of the flavor of your choice, going right to all of the edges except the bottom long edge, which you should leave about a ½-inch uncovered. I have used butter and cinnamon sugar, jam, chopped nuts and maple sugar, and even Nutella. The key is keep it thin. You want a gilding here, not a gloop, or all the filling is going to seep out during the bake and burn on the bottom. 

Roll it up the long way, starting at the top and moving it towards you, keeping it fairly tight, until you have a sausage. Use that bottom uncovered edge to stick the thing together, like licking an envelope. Or a fattie. Cut into 12 equal pieces. Butter or spray a muffin tin and put one roll in each cup. Brush the rolls with melted butter and bake for 15-18 minutes until browned and crispy on the outside and cooked inside. If you are worried about gumminess in the middles, an internal temperature of 205-210°F means fully baked. Serve hot. 

Stuffed buns

Photo by Stacey Ballis

If you are more of a savory person in the mornings, these are a great way to start your day. Preheat the oven to 400°F, and grease up your handy muffin tin. Cut your chunk of dough into between 8-12 balls about the size of a small tangerine. 

Now for fillings. Whatever you are putting in here should be cooked already, and cooled at least a little. It doesn’t have to be ice-cold, but should not be scorching hot. This is a great place to use up leftover dinner; they are terrific stuffed with a bit of last night’s mu shu or that half a serving of saag paneer. Put about 1/3-1/2 cup total filling, and since they all bake independently, you can make each one different if you’ve been collecting bits and bobs of takeout all weekend. If you want egg in there, you can scramble one, or if you have one already hard-boiled, do a riff on a Scotch egg and nestle it on a bed of cooked sausage crumbles, maybe with a slice of cheese. 

A favorite version of mine is a take on biscuits and gravy. I will make sausage gravy with twice the usual sausage so that it is a bit less soupy, put it in the fridge so it solidifies a bit and then use that. 

The technique is pretty simple. Stretch your ball of dough into a rough circle about 6 inches across, and drape it across your hand. Pile your filling in the middle of the dough, cupping your hand a bit to keep the filling from falling out, and gently pinch the edges of the dough together to make sure they stick well and the filling has no holes to escape. It doesn’t really matter how pretty your seams are, because they are going on the bottom. 

Place your buns seam-side-down in your greased muffin tin, and brush the top with melted butter, olive oil, or give it a spray of neutral cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for 15-18 minutes until golden brown on the outside and hot within. These work well as a commuter breakfast, and if you wrap in foil, can be reheated in your toaster oven.  

Breakfast flatbread

Photo by Stacey Ballis

I refuse to call it breakfast pizza, but let’s be real, the premise isn’t far off. Make this directly on a greased baking sheet with a bit of cornmeal dusted over it. Oven? Hot as it will go, mine does 500°F, but 450°F is fine. If you have a baking stone, so much the better. Roll dough out to about ½-inch thick. 

Top this with whatever floats your boat. My favorite is a take on a tarte flambée, which traditionally is a schmear of crème fraiche, and then some thin sliced onions and chopped bacon. But I don’t want to start slicing onions before my eyes are fully open, so my version swaps in scallion cream cheese for the crème fraiche and onion, and I use scissors to cut up a few slices of bacon over the top. 

Make it savory or sweet, as the mood hits you. A light brushing of olive oil or melted butter, a generous sprinkle of za’taar or other interesting spice blend, and some crumbled goat cheese or feta is a standard in my kitchen. You can crack whole eggs on the top if you like. 

Honey butter with sliced bananas works well—ditto peanut butter and blueberries. Just keep the toppings on the thin side, so that the crust can bake quickly.  Depending on the heat of your oven, 10-15 minutes should do you. Let sit for five minutes before slicing and serve hot.

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