A good-looking recipe from Ottolenghi.
- In a small pot, combine milk, butter, sugar and 1/3 cup/60 milliliters water over medium heat and heat about 1 minute, until butter has melted and the mixture is just lukewarm. (Too much heat will kill the yeast when it’s added.)
- Transfer to a bowl, add saffron and yeast, whisk to combine and then set aside until the mixture is yellow and lightly frothy, 15 to 30 minutes.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine both flours, the salt and the milk mixture. Knead for 3 minutes, starting on the lowest speed and gradually increasing to medium, pausing every now and then to scrape down the sides and incorporate any dry bits on the bottom of the bowl. (If there is flour that refuses to be incorporated, add a teaspoon or two of water.)
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand for 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Cover dough with a damp cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Grease a 9-inch/24-centimeter cake pan and line it with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each into a smooth ball. Place 1 dough ball in the center of the cake pan and then arrange the rest in a circle around it, leaving a 1/2-inch/1-centimeter gap on all sides of each ball. Cover with a slightly damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size. The buns will press against one other and against the sides of the pan.
- Toward the end of the rising, heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/200 degrees Celsius. Bake the risen buns for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden-brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- While the buns bake, make the syrup: Use the flat side of a heavy knife to crush the cardamom and discard the papery outer pods, reserving the seeds. Use the knife or a mortar and pestle to lightly crush the seeds. Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise and use the tip of a small knife to scrape out the seeds from both sides. In a small pot, combine maple syrup, butter, cardamom and vanilla seeds over medium heat and cook 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, until the butter has melted and the syrup has thickened. Reduce the heat if necessary to prevent scorching. Set aside and keep warm.
- As soon as the buns are baked, use a pastry brush to coat them evenly with syrup, then immediately sprinkle with the with the sea salt and seeds (if using). Let cool 10 minutes before transferring to a serving plate. To eat, slice the bun across the middle, and spread generously with clotted cream.