Monday, January 2, 2012

Sticky Buns

I have been promising Ross a batch of sticky buns for quite some time now.  What better way to ring in the New Year than by biting into a warm cinnamon-y bun for breakfast.  Unfortunately, the previous night's revelry and the yeast's stubbornness meant we weren't able to enjoy the buns until almost five in the afternoon.  But it was still a wonderful treat to mark our snowy new year.

And if you have a moment...take peek at a lovely sweets blog I was recently introduced to:
Sweet as Sugar Cookies

adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

makes 8 to 12 large or 12 to 16 smaller buns

The Ingredients:
6 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
5 1/2 Tbsp shortening or unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg
1 tsp lemon zest
3 1/2 cups unbleached bread or all purpose flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups whole milk or butter milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 Tbsp sugar + 1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon)

Caramel glaze
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp orange, lemon, or vanilla extract

 crushed walnuts or pecans (optional)

The Process:
*In his book, Reinhart goes into amazing depth about what each ingredient does as well as what happens during every step of the bread making process. It is certainly worth while reading, but is a bit too much info for a single recipe.*

Cream together the sugar, salt and shortening on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or by hand with a large metal spoon). Whip in the egg and lemon zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball. Switch to a dough hook and increase speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough double in size.

Meanwhile prepare the caramel glaze.  In a medium bowl cream together the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt for about two minutes.  Add the corn syrup and extract of your choice.  Continue to cream by hand or with an electric mixer for an additional five minutes, or until light and fluffy.

Coat the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish (with sides at least 1 1/2 inch high) with a 1/4-inch layer of the caramel glaze.  Sprinkle the glaze with nuts, if desired.  Set aside.

Once the dough has doubled in size, mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top of the dough with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for large buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches wide for small buns. Don't roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. Will the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 even pieces each about 1 3/4 inched thick for large buns; or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 1/4 inch thick for smaller buns.

Place the buns approximately 1/2 inch apart on top of the prepared caramel glaze . Mist the dough with spray oil and cove loosely with plastic wrap.

Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size.

Bake the sticky buns for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Remember that with sticky buns the tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear darker when done to ensure that the underside is fully baked.  

Cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes and then remove them by flipping them over onto another pan.  Carefully scoop any caramel remaining in the pan onto the sticky buns.  Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.

The Review:
It appears my kitchen is just too cold in the winter to properly proof bread dough.  After about an hour and a half of the dough's first fermentation, it had barely grown at all.  I mixed up a little of the yeast remaining in the envelope in water water with a bit of sugar to see if it was still viable.  It frothed up after 5 minutes or so, as it is expected to.  So, my sleepy single celled organisms must have been just a bit too cold to do their work.  I shifted the bowl of dough to the top of the fridge...the warmest spot in the room.  After an additional half an hour, the dough had finally shown some growth, but not the doubled mass I needed.  So into the slightly warmed oven for almost another hour...and finally the sticky bun dough was ready to roll out...

That was a frustrating realization.  The sticky buns still turned out absolutely amazing, but due to the trouble with rising, the end result was a bit more crumbing than the light, pillowy cinnamon buns I had made last year using the same dough recipe.  Amazing how much a variable such as proofing time and temperature can affect the final product!

The dough, though not as airy as expected, had the same wonderfully sweet, rich and clean flavor I fondly remembered from the cinnamon buns.  The little bit a lemon zest adds quite a bit of depth to the dough!  The caramel glaze melted, bubbled and boiled while baking...slowly converting from the buttery sugar spread to the wonderfully sticky goo coating the buns.  The glaze was pleasantly sticky without wearing out your jaw with chewing. 

Once I figure out the sweet spot in my cold winter kitchen to proof future doughs, I'll be making these more regularly.


  1. What a breakfast! I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog till Monday night and I'd love it if you'd come by and link your sticky buns up.

  2. I may have to try these and make them for my mom-she loves these! I'm here visiting from your link at Sweet as Sugar Cookies.

  3. oh these look good, I have never made sticky buns before.