Puerto Rican Sweet Buns

Why This Recipe Works: In Puerto Rico, these cloud-like, sweet, nautilus-shaped buns can be found in nearly every bakery. The bun made its way to Puerto Rico from the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca, thus the name. Eggy mallorca dough is packed with layer upon layer of fat, so the buns are pillowy and delicate, flaky and light. Freshly baked and generously dusted with confectioners’ sugar, they make for a heavenly treat alongside coffee. Day-old mallorcas come into their own when split, stuffed with ham and cheese, griddled, and sprinkled once again with confectioners’ sugar. To start our development of these feathery buns, we tested both butter and lard. The two fats gave us similar results in terms of texture, so we chose butter because we preferred its flavor. We experimented with various folding techniques to laminate (or create layers of butter within) our dough—the key to achieving a fluffy, feathery texture. We adopted a streamlined two-step process: First, we stretched the mass of dough thin, brushed it with melted butter, and rolled it like a jelly roll to form layers. Then, after cutting the roll and shaping individual ropes, we brushed the dough with more butter before coiling each rope into a spiral-shaped roll. These two simple brushing and shaping steps created the glorious layers we were after.

Makes: 12 buns
Rising time: 4 to 5 hours
Baking time: 24 minutes
Total time: 6 to 7 hours
Key equipment: stand mixer, 2 rimmed baking sheets, rolling pin, pastry brush

We do not recommend mixing this dough by hand. If the dough becomes too soft to work with at any point, refrigerate it until it’s firm enough to easily handle.

5 cups (25 ounces) all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk, room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
10 tablespoons (4⅓ ounces) granulated sugar
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, softened, plus 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) melted
Confectioners’ sugar

The Sweeter Side
Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk milk, eggs, and granulated sugar in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until sugar has dissolved. Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed.

The Sweeter Side
Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough begins to pull away from sides of bowl but sticks to bottom, about 5 minutes. With mixer running, add softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and knead until butter is fully incorporated, about 5 minutes. Continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl but sticks to bottom, about 3 minutes.

The Sweeter Side
Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 2 to 2½ hours.

The Sweeter Side
Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter, divide in half, and cover loosely with greased plastic. Press and roll 1 piece of dough (keep remaining piece covered) into 18 by 12-inch rectangle, with long side parallel to counter edge.

The Sweeter Side
Brush 2 tablespoons melted butter over dough, leaving 1-inch border at top edge. Roll dough away from you into firm cylinder, keeping roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go. Pinch seam closed, then reshape cylinder as needed to be 18 inches in length with uniform thickness. Cover loosely with greased plastic. Repeat with remaining piece of dough and 2 tablespoons melted butter.

The Sweeter Side
Using serrated knife, cut each cylinder into 6 pieces and cover loosely with greased plastic. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), stretch and roll into 10-inch rope. Lightly brush rope with melted butter, coil into spiral, and tuck tail end underneath.

The Sweeter Side
Arrange rolls on prepared sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart. Using finger, gently poke indentation into center of each spiral. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until nearly doubled in size and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 2 to 2½ hours.

The Sweeter Side
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time until rolls are light golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Transfer rolls to wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm.

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