A cinnamon bun that’s well-made, warm, the dough tender and yeasty, the filling spicy and gooey, the icing gobbed and drooping down the sides—that’s a truly beautiful thing. If you like sweet breakfasts, that is. If however you are in the savory breakfast camp—the realm of bacon and eggs, huevos rancheros, and cheese grits—you may have felt left out of the morning pastry scene. Where are the knishes?, you’ve demanded. The burekas! Where! Even cheese danishes are too sweet for you. Take matters into your own hands, savory breakfast lovers. Adopt the cinnamon roll model but hold the cinnamon to make savory breakfast rolls.
Fill a buttery, not-so-sweet brioche dough with savory flavors inspired by your favorite dishes. Swipe the dough with cream cheese and layer on thin slices of lox and chopped capers for bagel-but-not-a-bagel vibes. Roll up a thick, spicy tomato sauce with cilantro and feta and call it shakshuka-ish (and serve with an egg, of course).
But don’t stop there! Take the following recipes as a guide and make rolls filled with butter, Parmesan, and a nutty amount of freshly ground black pepper for something cacio e pepe-esque. In fact, use butter as a vehicle for anything: herbs, cheeses, ground spices like paprika, a big scoop of grainy mustard. Just mash it into the butter and spread—but not too liberally, or your rolls might be soggy or bloated. Cardinal rule: You have to distribute your filling thinly, so it should be super flavorful.
Two more things you should know before you race to the kitchen: First, feel free to substitute up to 1 ½ cups of the flour in the dough recipe for whole wheat flour if you like something a little toastier and heartier. Secondly, you might be thinking, Hey, sounds nice, lady, but there’s no way these would work for brunch because, hi, I’m not getting up at 6 a.m. to make brioche dough—which, fair. Me neither.
Instead, make these the night before. Follow the recipe through the assembly and the rolling, nestle the rolls into the greased pan, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, when you roll blearily out of bed, pull the rolls out of the fridge and let them warm up on the counter for about 30 minutes while you preheat the oven and make coffee. Brush them with melted butter, sprinkle on any toppings you want, and savor away.
Simple Brioche Dough
Photo by Caroline Lange
Photo by Jamsedel via Getty Images
Photo by Andrey St Via Getty Images
For the dough
2 ¼ teaspoon (1 envelope) instant yeast
⅔ cup milk, baby-bath warm
3 ¼ cup all-purpose flour, plus a little more as needed (up to 1 1/2 cups of this can be whole wheat flour, if you like)
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
Filling of your choice (options below)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For Thanksgiving at any time of year:
About ⅓ cup unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons Bell’s seasoning (no salt added)
Flaky salt to sprinkle
For a shakshuka-esque roll:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch each red pepper flakes and cumin
1 6-ounce can diced tomatoes
Handful fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
For Indian-ish buns:
About 2/3 cup saag paneer
For the next best thing to bagels and lox:
⅓ cup cream cheese, softened
8 ounces smoked salmon
2 tablespoons capers, roughly chopped
Everything bagel seasoning (or a mix of flaky salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried garlic, and dried onion) to sprinkle, optional: poppy or sesame seeds and flaky salt
For Italian-ish buns:
About 2/3 cup ricotta
3 tablespoons pesto
White sesame seeds to sprinkle
How to Make It
Spread the butter in a thin layer over the dough. Sprinkle generously with Bell’s seasoning, roll up the dough, and proceed with the recipe. After brushing the rolls with butter, sprinkle with flaky salt.
Soften the garlic in the olive oil for 2 minutes over medium-low heat; it should be fragrant but not browned. Add the red pepper flakes and cumin and stir, sautéing 1 minute more. Add the diced tomatoes and raise heat to a gentle simmer; cook 10 or so minutes, until the tomatoes have reduced and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro leaves. Allow to cool completely.
A good use for any leftover takeout you might have, or a good reason to order (or make!) some saag. Spread the saag in a thin layer over the dough, distributing pieces of paneer evenly about. Roll up the dough and proceed with the recipe.
Spread the softened cream cheese over the dough, layer on thin slices of smoked salmon, and top with the chopped capers. Roll up and proceed with the recipe. After brushing the rolls with butter, sprinkle with everything bagel seasoning.
Use a fork to blend the ricotta thoroughly with the pesto. Spread the ricotta mixture over the dough in a thin layer, roll up the dough, and proceed with the recipe. After brushing with butter, sprinkle the rolls with white sesame seeds.