Brown Sugar Plum Challah Buns + Living with Poetry

Brown Sugar Plum Challah Buns (with Molly Yeh's challah recipe) | Ruby Josephine
Brown Sugar Plum Challah Buns | Ruby Josephine
Brown Sugar Plum Challah Buns | Ruby Josephine

For the past week, as an addition to my early morning routine, I have been reading several pages of poetry while I sip on my ritual lemon & honey. I started with the serene and sparkling Mary Oliver, moved on to ecstatic and devoted Rumi, and now I am just beginning a book of powerful work by Naomi Shihab Nye. There is something I love about easing into the day with simple, thoughtfully chosen words. In general, we all tend to move through the world at such a fast pace and with so many complications, isn’t it important to have a least a little space for more simplicity? More pauses, less chatter. I find that reading carefully chosen language helps me to remember throughout the day to tailor my own words and actions in the same graceful manner. Choices made with soft, simple integrity. 

Basically, by starting with poetry every morning, I am striving to live a more poetic life. 

There is all of this talk these days about minimalism, white walls and capsule wardrobes. If you have an abundance of stuff or just an abundance of thoughts and things to do, this idea of minimizing everything can seem like a daunting task. Why don’t we simplify the means of simplifying? Instead of throwing things away, live more poetically, whatever that means for you.

For me, this means literally reading poems as one of the first things I do when waking up. However, it could also involve taking a daily stroll around the block observing things in your neighborhood, writing bullet journals, dream journals, any kind of journal, cooking with ingredients that make you feel fulfilled, daily meditation, or a number of other small, significant things. The idea is that you choose carefully, and you choose things that carry meaning. What brings you simple, poetic contentment? 

Other poetic things I do include: 

  • Morning and evening meditations
  • Choreographing dances in my head while I listen to music whenever I’m on the bus or walking to the taxi stand
  • Learning the refined skill of choosing perfectly ripe fruit at the market a couple times a week
  • Actively putting all of my focus and emotional energy into the singular task of cooking or baking something absolutely delicious. 
Brown Sugar Plum Challah Buns | Ruby Josephine
Brown Sugar Plum Challah Buns | Ruby Josephine
Brown Sugar Plum Challah Buns | Ruby Josephine

Of the last activity, my favorite thing to make by far is sweet & yeasted bread dough. Kneading dough by hand for a good 8-10 minutes is a labor of tactile love. Granted I don’t do this daily, but when I do, it is one of those activities that feels nourishing. Connected. Simply poetic. 

Even the name of these yeasted buns in particular sounds like poetry to my ears- brown sugar plum challah buns. Slant rhymes, carefully chosen sweet & descriptive words. These lovely little rolls are made with fluffy challah dough, sweetened with brown sugar. The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks (and one of the few cookbooks that has made it in my suitcase over to Morocco), Molly on the Range. Molly Yeh’s challah recipe is brilliant and so versatile and I have to say, is extra delicious when swirled around with a juicy plum sauce. These buns are lightly sweet, full of delicate yet powerful flavor, and perfect served warm with a little swipe of butter or honey. Poetry rolled up and popped out of muffin tin.

Brown Sugar Plum Challah Buns | Ruby Josephine
Brown Sugar Plum Challah Buns | Ruby Josephine
Brown Sugar Plum Challah Buns | Ruby Josephine

Brown Sugar Plum Challah Buns

Makes about 18 muffin-sized buns

  • 1 batch of challah dough (Enough for what would normally be 1 loaf. I use Molly Yeh's amazing recipe from her book Molly on the Range, but with all brown sugar instead of granulated . You can find the recipe here! Just follow the directions until step 4)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh plums (about 8 small)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp corn starch 
  • 1 egg yoke mixed with 1 tsp water (for egg wash)
  • extra brown sugar for topping

Begin by making a batch of challah dough (see above). Knead it up. Let it rise. While the dough sits in a warm place, you can begin to make your plum sauce. In a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, combine the fresh plums, brown sugar, honey and cinnamon. Stir until it begins to bubble. Whisk in the corn starch, making sure there are no lumps. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the plums break down. The sauce will get a bit smoother and brighter in color, but still with chunks of fruit throughout. Remove from heat and let cool for the remaining dough-rising time. 

Once the challah dough has doubled in size and your sauce is cool, punch down the dough and split it into two even-sized balls. Butter up a standard sized muffin tin. On a well-floured surface, roll out one half of the dough into an even rectangle, roughly 1/4 inch thick. Spread a layer of plum sauce on top, leaving an inch perimeter. From the vertical edge, begin to carefully roll the dough into a tube (like cinnamon rolls), making sure not to squeeze too much of the sauce out in the process. Seal the edge by pinching it with your fingers. Using a sharp knife, cut into even rolls, about 1 1/2-2 inches thick. Carefully transfer each roll into your prepared muffin tin. Cover with a clean dish towel while you repeat the same process with the other half of your dough. Once complete, cover again and let the buns rise for another 30 minutes and preheat your oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Brush each bun with a light layer of egg wash and a sprinkling of brown sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool for at least 10 minutes before popping out of the muffin tin, then serve warm with butter, honey, jam or just by their lovely selves.