It's the Rodney Dangerfield of the pastry world
Morning buns with coffee or tea is the perfect way to start any day. They’re simultaneously sweet, salty, crisp and chewy, and in a category of their own. But they often get tossed into a group of anything sweet that’s served in the a.m. Contrary to what many will tell you, a morning bun is not a sticky bun. Or a cinnamon roll. Or a muffin. Or just any pastry with cream slathered on top. Do not believe these things. They’re a far cry from the truth.
A morning bun is composed of croissant dough that’s buttery, flaky, and topped with cinnamon, sugar, and sometimes citrus zest, making them a little doughier and chewier than a croissant. It’s as if a croissant, a cinnamon roll, and a muffin had a baby, making it the ultimate pastry. “I love cinnamon and orange together, and the way those simple ingredients combine to make a buttery caramel when baked is irresistible,” says Elisabeth Prueitt, pastry chef and co-founder of Tartine Bakery.
Pastry chefs are also known to add a few extra additions in the end to set their creations apart from others. Regardless, the elusive morning bun is in a class of its own. Here’s what you need to know, plus a few popular spots around the country to seek one out.
It’s a no-frills bun.
It’s a no-frills kind of pastry, and we’re OK with that. “No caramel sauce, no icing—it’s just a delicious dough with hundreds of layers of butter and dough with a thin layer of vanilla sugar and orange zest,” says Ellen King, co-owner and head baker at Hewn. “Sometimes the most delicious things hide in plain sight.”
It’s more satisfying than a cinnamon roll.
“I think people are immediately attracted to the ooey, gooey frosting of some cinnamon rolls and sticky buns which is visually enticing, but the simplicity of a simple morning bun really can't be beat,” says Ali Cohane, owner of Persephone Bakery. “With a frosted roll, you get that immediate gratification of a rush of sugar, but there is no balance and it quickly becomes cloying—while a morning bun has the best balance of sweet and buttery.”
It’s like two pastries in one.
It’s like experiencing a cinnamon roll and a croissant in one easy bite. “It’s not overly sweet and the balance of the crispy with the gooey interior makes you feel like you’re eating something two different pasties in one,” King says.
Its texture is out of this world.
Love the texture of a croissant? It gets better with a morning bun and you’ll experience several textures within each bite. “[It’s] crispy and flaky on the outside, and chewy and soft as you move inward,” Cohane says. “The evolution of the texture throughout the bun is absolutely what I love about the pastry—and the roll of cinnamon and sugar adds just the perfect bit of sweetness to contrast the buttery roll.”
Eat it however you please.
There’s no right or wrong way, but the pros weigh in on how to devour the beloved pastry. “It starts with deciding to either take a big bite into it, or peel the outside layer and eat it while slowly unrolling it,” says King. “The outside is crispy and flaky, and as you work your way to the middle, it becomes sweet and tender with a delicious gooey dough.”
The center bite is the best part.
Cohane says that the center part is not to miss. “I don't think I'm unusual when I say I can't wait for that last center bite with lots of cinnamon chewiness, but it’s not as good without the contrast of the perfectly flaky outside,” she says. “And, as opposed to its iced sibling, it's not sickening sweet so you don't feel like you need a nap after eating one.”
Where to devour them right now:
Pitchoun! Bakery (Los Angeles, California)
Family-owned Pitchoun! Bakery serves a traditional morning bun that’s made with light, flaky croissant dough topped with cinnamon and sugar. “We don’t serve sticky buns or cinnamon rolls, and since our muffins are so different in texture and flavor, they don’t compete with our muffins,” says owner Fabienne Souliès.
Tartine Bakery (San Francisco, California)
Once touted by a wise website as the best morning bun in San Francisco, Tartine is an excellent choice to experience the pastry, but as Prueitt notes, it’s best when fresh out of the oven. She describes her pastry as simple, beautiful, and craveable with buttery layers.
Methodical Coffee (Greenville, South Carolina)
Supplied by Bake Room, a small bakery operation run by Wade Taylor, morning buns at Methodical Coffee flaky and a bit lighter than most buns, and most importantly, super instagrammable. Insider tip: arrive early, as they’re usually sold out by early morning.
Persephone Bakery (Jackson, Wyoming)
Ali Cohane calls her version a cinnamon brioche, as she thought morning bun sounded “pedestrian,” so take note when perusing the menu. “My husband is annoyed that I ever called it that but it stuck,” she says. “It's not a brioche but actually a laminated dough like a croissant. It's this hand lamination that creates the incredible structure of the bun.”
Quality Eats (New York, New York)
Next level morning buns exist at Quality Eats and they come by way of a shareable masterpiece topped with pistachio nuts and strawberry rhubarb during brunch service—and a ramekin of strawberry rhubarb cream cheese to slather on each bite.
Cafe Marie-Jeanne (Chicago, Illinois)
Cafe Marie-Jeanne celebrates the morning bun by adding honey and pistachios into the equation, adding a delightful texture into the mix. The buns are offered during breakfast hours and until they’re sold out.
Somerset (Chicago, Illinois)
Executive pastry chef Meg Galus executes a dreamy Somerset Morning Bun that’s a “flaky-gooey marriage between a cinnamon roll and a croissant.” It’s not to miss when visiting Chicago.
Hewn (Evanston, Illinois)
"Every bakery adds a little different twist to their morning buns,” says King, of her buns, which are rolled in vanilla sugar with flecks of lemon zest. During the holidays, the bakery implements a “Take and Bake Morning Buns” offering, allowing pastry fans to bake the pastries at home and fill their homes with the delicious smell.