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[Photograph: Carrie Vasios]

If you've ever opened a King Arthur Flour catalog and wondered, "Who's buying all this stuff?", I have your answer. It's me.

I special ordered an Irish brown flour when I wanted to make an authentic bread for St. Patrick's Day. (Regrets? None. This bread is awesome). I have spring form pans in endless sizes and shapes, as well as three types of vanilla extract (Madagascar Bourbon, Mexican, and Tahitian.)

I just barely stopped myself from purchasing a shortbread pan that turns out cookies stamped with farm animals, but I couldn't stop myself from buying pearl sugar. Known as Pärlsocker in Sweden or Raesokeri in Finnish—Helsinki is where I first reveled in the glories of Scandinavian pastries—it's a refined white sugar that won't melt in the oven. I think it makes a beautiful topping, though I'll admit it also kind of makes everything look like a pretzel.

When used with a heavy hand, it also adds a crunchy texture to otherwise texturally plain pastries. That's why I especially like it on brioche buns, which, while deliciously buttery and sort of glorious in their plainness, can use a boost every once in a while. These are soft and sweet on the bottom and crunchy on the top. I like splitting my brioche in half, eating the bottom spread with jam, and the top all on its sweet, pearly own.

Get the Recipe

Pearl Sugar Brioche Buns »

About the author: Carrie Vasios is the editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. She likes to peruse her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios

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