Good bread is the no. 1 reason why I could never give up carbs entirely, and, really, nothing beats a freshly baked bun with lots of butter! Of course, kids know it too, and maybe that’s why classic birthday buns with butter are an essential part of kids’ birthday parties in Denmark.
My Grandma Inger was the uncrowned queen of buns. For every birthday party I had as a kid she brought her home-baked birthday buns, and my mom would put them in the oven, just for a bit, so everyone could get a warm bun with what we Danes call “tooth butter”. Let me explain this phenomenon: “Tooth butter” in Denmark simply means a layer of butter so thick that your teeth leave distinct marks in the butter after you bite into it. I know, when initially introduced to this Danish tradition, you might find such an amount of butter somewhat excessive, and maybe even slightly repulsive, but I assure you, your taste buds won’t.
My grandma’s recipe sadly got lost when she died, but this recipe is the closest match I’ve been able to find. The basic dough is a courtesy of the famous Danish cook Claus Meyer, who is a pioneer in Danish cooking. He uses the dough for what he calls “grandma bread”, so if you’d like to mix it up a bit, you can make a very nice loaf of bread as well.
Birthday buns (makes 24 buns)
6.75 oz (200 ml) lukewarm water
6.75 oz (200 ml) lukewarm milk
1 oz (30 g) fresh yeast
2 eggs (plus 1 extra egg to brush on top of the buns)
2 tsp (10 g) sea salt
3½ tbsp (50 g) sugar
6 2/3 cups (800 g) all-purpose flour
1.75 oz (50 g) salted softened butter
1. Start by pouring the milk, water and yeast into a bowl and stir until the yeast has fully dissolved. Add the eggs, sugar and flour and mix the ingredients well. Lastly, add the softened butter and knead for about 10 minutes. The quality of the buns is all about the kneading. The dough should feel a bit like chewing gum before you stop kneading.
2. Cover the dough with a tea towel, and let it rest for 1 hour on the kitchen table.
3. Now divide the dough into 24 equally sized portions, and roll each portion into a nice round ball. Then place the dough buns on two baking trays lined with baking paper and cover them with tea towels, and set the trays aside for the buns to rise for ½-1 hour somewhere warm. Turn on the (conventional) oven to 400 F (200 C).
4. Remove the tea towel from one of the trays and brush the top of all the buns with whisked egg. Then bake the buns for about 12 minutes until golden brown on top. First thing after you take the buns out of the oven, place them on a cooling rack. Now simply repeat the process with the other tray. The buns can be stored in a plastic bag for a couple of days without getting dry. Just make sure that they are fully cooled before storing. They also freeze well.
Need a cake as well for your next birthday party? Try out one of these: