yields ~24 buns
The Bits and Bobs:
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 oz (packet) dry active yeast
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk, room temp
12 tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled (plus more for baking)
2 eggs, room temp
7 1/2 - 8 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 tsp salt
Sprinkle one packet of yeast over 1/2 cup of warm water (should be ~110*F) and whisk in sugar. Allow to sit for about 1 minute. Should froth and bubble up just a bit. Once it starts to froth, mix in 1 cup of the flour and set aside.
In another bowl (or your mixer bowl, using the hook attachment), mix together the milk and butter. Add the eggs one at time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape in the yeast mixture and stir until just combined. Add in 6 cups of the remaining flour plus the salt, and mix or knead with your hands in the bowl until the dough comes together. If it's very tacky add another more flour a 1/4 cup at a time (up to 1 additional cup) and continue to knead until the dough becomes less stick and a ball can be easily formed.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 2 1/2 hours.
After the first rise, cut the dough in half (if you plan to make beignets save one half tightly wrapped in the bowl and place in the fridge), and then into 12-24 equal size pieces. Lightly spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, or grease with butter. Form each piece of dough into a ball shape and place in the tin, seam side down. Cover the dough in the tin with a kitchen towel and allow to rise for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 375*F. After the final rise bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a nice golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush the tops of each bun with melted butter and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Serve warm.