Preheat your fan oven to 160°C (325°F) or 175°C (350°F) if you're not using a fan oven. Grease and line with parchment paper two baking sheets.
In a bowl of a stand mixer sift together flour, salt and sugar. Set aside while you prepare the rest.
If you're using active dry yeast (like me), you need to activate it first. Heat your milk and water over a medium heat until it reaches about 50°C. Put active dry yeast in a small bowl and cover with a couple of tablespoons of that warm milk and water mixture and a teaspoon of sugar. Mix it with a teaspoon and leave it to rest for 5 minutes or until it becomes all frothy and bubbly on top.
Cut your butter into cubes and set aside.
Once you got everything ready, pour your yeast and milk/water mixture to the flour. Add three eggs. Using your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, knead it on low-medium speed for about 10-15 minutes or until it starts pulling from the sides and is elastic.
With the mixer still running, add the butter one cube at a time and mix until fully incorporated into the dough. Then continue mixing for a further 10-15 minutes or until it's elastic and no longer sticking to the bowl. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a little bit to form a ball and place into a lightly greased bowl. Cover with cling film and let it rise slowly in the fridge, overnight or up to 48 hours.
for the apple butter
Place the apples (diced, but not peeled), apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium-large pan. Cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the apples have become very soft. This could take about 30-40 minutes. Then, use a hand blender to puree the apple mixture (or ladle it into a regular blender in batches) until smooth. Place the puree back into the pot and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring every now and then so it doesn't burn and catch on bottom. Cook it until thick, smooth and deep brown colour - about 45-60 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a jar (or a couple of smaller ones), leave it to cool to room temperature, then keep it refrigerated.
assembling swirl buns
Remove the dough from the fridge onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two equal sized pieces. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out each piece (one at a time) into a rectangle roughly 30x40cm (17x12 inch).
Using a small offset palette knife, spread apple butter over the half of the rolled dough, sprinke with crushed pecans and cover with the other half of the dough. Cut the dough into stripes. (I got 8) Then, cut each stripe in half lenghtwise, but not all the way to the top. They should look like trousers. Swirl each stripe then braid them together to one swirly log. After that, just shape the bun by keeping the "top" part in the middle and swirling the rest around it. Make sure the ends are hidden on the bottom for a nice looking bun.
Gently place the buns onto a prepared baking tray. Cover them with cling film and place in a warm place for about an hour and a half to two hours or until the dough has about doubled in size. Repeat with the second piece of dough. *You can leave buns from the other half of dough to rise in the fridge overnight, so you can have it fresh the next day.
When your buns have doubled in size, give them an egg wash, sprinkle with pearl sugar and bake them in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Not all ovens are the same. If you experience browning at the top and are afraid it's too much, put a baking paper sheet over it or cover in aluminium foil. Just be careful when pulling the pan out of the oven - aluminium foil gets really hot!
They are best eaten the same day. I suggest keeping them in an airtight container if you wish to eat them the next day as well. If you don't have an airtight container, tightly wrapped cling film would also do the trick.
If you still don’t own one, I advise you to buy a kitchen scale – they’re cheap and easy to use, and always guarantee the same results in baking!
I'm not entirely sure how much pecans I ended up using, because I didn't measure it. This is a rough estimate, you do you and put the amount you think is appropriate.
You can keep apple butter in the fridge for up to two weeks.
If you don't have pearl sugar, you can "make" it, by placing sugar cubes in a ziploc bag and bashing it with a rolling pin.