Wilder Hungers: Ann Arbor Day Trips and Steamed Pumpkin Buns


Header by Rory Midhani

Hi Straddlers!!

I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving filled with boozy punch, overeating, temptations to unbutton your pants so you could eat more, and drunken late night Christmas tree hunts. Just me? Figures.

This year was one of my favorite Thanksgivings ever. It was my first real Friendsgiving enjoyed in my very own apartment. Family, friends, and lovers united in my very own living room. It was magical. It was one of those Thanksgivings where everyone came over early and we just drank/ate all day until the meal was ready and then we ate some more. By the time I was supposed to carve the turkey (pre cooked and purchased from Whole Foods – don’t judge. My kitchen is small), I had no idea what was even going on. Regardless, I am super impressed with my how my turkey carving went down. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but toot toot! At the end of the night, after we had purchased a 6 ft tall Christmas tree that barely fits in my apartment, we all cuddled on the couch and watched The Holiday because every needs a little Kate Winslet and British accents during the holidays. Everyone was just a little too wasted to take proper unfuzzy pictures (sometimes that’s the best way to be), so I’m just going to have to share my menu with you sans photos. Except for my salty honey pie, would you look at her!


Gabi’s Friendsgiving Menu:

  • persimmon salsa and homemade pimiento cheese for snacking (On Keebler’s club crackers because DUH)
  • lingonberry and cranberry sauce
  • cornbread, oyster, pancetta, stuffing
  • southern style yamz with marshmallows y’all
  • purple potatoes with chorizo and pickled mustard seed dressing
  • truffled green bean casserole
  • sweet potato chive biscuits
  • salty honey pie – I did have a photo for this!
  • pumpkin chocolate chip skillet cookie
  • pumpkin gingersnap cookie ice cream
  • and store bought turkey and gravy because I’m classy!

Still full. Still having trouble breathing. Actually no just kidding, I baked a lot of stuff this week including persimmon muffins and steamed pumpkin buns, but more on those buns later.


I really want to share these pictures from my trip to Ann Arbor a few weeks ago. When my girlfriend started feeling nostalgic for her college town I begged her to take me because I’ve always wanted to go to there. It was 10,000 times cuter than I expected. And I already expected maximum cuteness. I, at first, didn’t know what to think about a town that boasts adorable bakeries and scholarly bookstores on the same street as a place called “Bongs and Thongs” or something like that. Then I realized that it was kind of awesome and part of what makes Ann Arbor my new favorite place ever.









Highlights for me were:

  • Literati Bookstore – Cutest bookstore ever with an old school typewriter downstairs where your girlfriend can type you love notes while you browse MFK Fisher books, if you’re lucky like I am.
  • Fairy Doors– All over downtown. So weird and I don’t know where they came from but Jen and I went on a hunt to find them all.
  • University of Michigan – Is actually the cutest college ever. I pranced around in the fall leaves and the Law Quad feeling very much like Ali McGraw circa Love Story.
  • Zingerman’s Deli – YES. YES. A THOUSAND TIMES YES. GO HERE.
  • Aut bar – I wish gay bars in NYC were this cute.

That concludes my Ann Arbor City Guide. And now, a recipe.

Steamed Pumpkin Buns with Brown Butter

Created in memory of the time I ate the best pumpkin steamed bun of my life sitting on a random stoop in Chinatown during my first real New York fall.


Whatcha Need (For The Dough):

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon + 1/4 cup sugar
¼ cup + 1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup + 1/2 cup warm water – make sure it’s warm
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil (or canola)
¼ canned pumpkin


MIX: the yeast, 1 T. of sugar, 1/4 cup AP flour, and 1/4 warm water in a medium bowl and let it be for 30 minutes.
ADD: everything else and mix until dough forms!
KNEAD: the dough on a floured surface for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth dough ball. Keep sprinkling more flour until it’s not so sticky.
PLACE: your dough ball in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 2 hours. It’s going to triple in size!

Now while it rises we make the filling!

Whatcha Need (For The Filling):

¼ cup butter
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup (this was a random impromptu decision but a good one if you ask me. You can omit if you like.)

MELT: butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Be attentive! Butter burns quickly.
SIMMER: until the butter smells nutty and turns golden brown. When it gets there, remove the butter from the heat.
WHISK: in the cornstarch.
TRANSFER: to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and put in the fridge.


PUNCH: it down and knead for 3-5 more minutes.
DIVIDE: dough into 12 pieces. Roll each into a ball.
ROLL OUT: the dough balls into circles that measure about 4 inches across.
ADD: a good dollop (tablespoon or so) of pumpkin filling to the center of the circle, leaving a small border.
PINCH: the edges of the dough together to seal the bun.
PLACE: each bun on a square of parchment paper with the pinched side down.
TRANSFER: buns to a steamer basket, as many as you can fit at a time. I have a 2 level steamer basket and I fit 3 buns onto each level. They expand while cooking so don’t crowd!
PUT: your steamer basket over a wok or large saucepan that has been filled with about 1.5 cups of water. Make sure the water doesn’t reach the bottom of your basket.
STEAM: 10-12 minutes!


See you next week! Expect loads of wintery holiday content because I am in the spirit!

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Gabriella has written 26 articles for us.


  1. WOW THE FAIRY DOORS!! Those are just what I needed to see before sitting down to be productive on this gloomy Friday morning.

  2. Oh man. I just had breakfast, but that sandwich on the right looks like a Tarb’s Tenacious Tenure and it’s making me really hungry. Also, I have no idea what a honey pie is, but it looks so magical!

    • GOOD EYE! Tarb’s Tenacious it is! Mine was the reversible corned beef and pastrami situation on the left.

  3. Ugh. I miss Ann Arbor so much.
    I actually came out to my parents(the first time. I dated a boy for awhile and that some how caused everyone to forget that I was bisexual so we had to have a second round of that) at the Aut Bar. I was walking with my parents and my dad was hungry and pointed at it and said, “Hey, that place looks pretty busy, it might be a good place to grab lunch.” I was like, “Haha. Yeah, okay.” So we ate there and my parents were so oblivious that they had no idea that everyone around them was queer until my dad went to the bathroom. He sat back down and said, “You wouldn’t believe the pictures they have in the bathroom. I think this might be a gay bar!” And I said, “Well. Yeah, of course it is.” And my mom said, “Oh my god, how do you know that?” And I was like, “Because I sometimes come here with girls.”
    And that’s how I came out the first time. Thanks, Aut Bar for looking like you serve decent lunch.

    • I love this. That’s a lot better than my coming out story, which is that I was outed on instagram. ;)

      • My second coming out to parents story involves me talking about bisexuality on facebook and getting a tearful, panicked phone call. Social media. Yay?

    • I’m so glad other people have awkward internet coming out stories. After my mother reacted poorly to me telling her, and tried to encourage me to keep it from everyone in our hometown, I posted a really angry public facebook post, suggesting that people should feel free to scream, shout or even skywrite SHIRLEY IS A DYKE in the sky over my hometown or something. Fun times.

  4. The steamed pumpkin buns look wonderful, but I’m interested in these sweet potato chive biscuit and honey pie situations too.

    • The salty honey pie is from The Four and Twenty Blackbirds cookbook aka my favorite pie shop in all of the land!

      The biscuits were made by my cousin, but I’m pretty sure he just used a Paula Deen recipe for sweet potato biscuits and then added chives!

    • ugh should I have gone there? I din’t go there. Went to Ann Arbor Brewing Co. and Jolly Pumpkin. I took this picture because it looked so cute and also I am Fleetwood Mac fanatic.

      • I think Fleetwood only really tastes good when you’re 14 and spent the evening driving around in the back bed of this punk guy’s pick-up truck with all your best friends and now it’s 3 AM and everybody except you wants to smoke and everybody including you wants french fries

    • Wait Riese Ann Arbor is your hometown this is important to me because Ann Arbor is MY hometown and I’m there at the moment and you’re the coolest aaaand hi

  5. Oh my god I really want to make those buns. They look amazing. I might have to buy steamer baskets.

    Also that pie looks delicious!!

  6. Recipe has “1/4 pumpkin canned pumpkin”, which led to my labmates and I having a discussion about how you’d determine how much pumpkin goes into each can of canned pumpkin, which now means that we’re having a lab baking party this weekend to determine how much volume a pumpkin loses as a result of the cooking/pureeing process (stress baking is the common theme that unites the grad students in my department, and science, but mostly stress baking).

    Since I’ll have extra pureed pumpkin this weekend, should the recipe be “1/4 cup canned pumpkin”?

    • What a silly typo but what an awesome party idea!
      Yes, 1/4 cup canned pumpkin for the dough :)

  7. Ode to Ann Arbor. Wonderful town. Also, fairy doors are awesome – especially when you stumble upon one outside while coming out of a theater in the middle of winter, with the white holiday lights twinkling in the trees that line downtown…

  8. I typed on that very typewriter last weekend! What I typed was this: “Beepin and boppin and runnin up the mountain.” It was spur-of-the-moment.

    It’s Bongz & Thongz. Respect the Z.

    Also, Zingerman’s, yes.


  9. ANN ARBOR! <3 <3 <3

    that salty honey pie situation looks as gorgeous as the pretty-people-at-umich situation, which is to say, super gorgeous

    i love your thanksgiving menu! i made a yam and marshmallow casserole for one of my schools here in france, and they were mostly puzzled and grossed out…i'm still innerly hostile about it because yam and marshmallow casserole is basically ambrosia

    • Awwww shucks, thank you! Yea, a few people at my dinner were averse to it but I try to keep it semi retro ;)

  10. Agreed, Zingerman is good, if I remember correctly they also have their own brand of cheese and chocolate, which is also pretty good. Mmm

    • I’m not but if you google “Four and Twenty Blackbirds Salty Honey Pie” lots of blogs have posted the recipe from the cookbook!

    • it’s just in the filling so i think it would be fine. perhaps substitute with coconut oil (not sure if it browns in the same way as butter though)

    • Wouldn’t make a difference at all! You would just have pumpkin buns instead of brown butter pumpkin buns :) Really you can put anything inside you want to.

  11. i just made these buns with sweet potato and gluten free flour with great success!! thanks for the inspiration

  12. As an Ann Arbor resident I have to correct you and point out the spelling is Bongz and Thongz.
    The law quad is so pretty, studying is so much more calming when you do it on the grass there.

  13. Those buns look and seem amazing, and I am not even a big pumpkin fan. Also, I have heard good things about the Literati bookstore, and that book with the window spine looks adorable. Also adorable, the writing love letters on the in-store typewriter.

  14. I love making pumpkin bread (with home cooked pumpkins from the farmer’s market ’cause I’m sometimes crunchy like that) and am intrigued by the idea of cooking them in a steam basket! And with a filling!

  15. Curse you and your excellent food photography! I’m licking my screen right now, I’m so hungry. And it’s another 2 hours till dinner :(

  16. Yes! A2!! Literati is actually so new that I haven’t been there and don’t associate it with Ann Arborness. As a townie and a UofM Alum, I think you’ve done a good job on the tour but missed a couple important things. Jerusalem Garden, Dawn Treader, and Crazy Wisdom. To name a few. Missing home, can’t wait to go back for the holidays.

    • I only really had like 1.5 days for Ann Arbor exploration since the rest of the weekend was spent in my girlfriends hometown outside of A2. All the more reason to return!

    • Dude, I was about to put this article on your fb. So glad you saw it. And seriously check out Literati when you come home because it’s the BEST.

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