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Friday, July 25, 2014

Birthday sticky buns

Last year I made a week of birthday treats leading up to my birthday.  This year?  Well....that's not happening.

Honestly, I'm feeling kinda "blah" about the day.  I can't really put my finger on why.  I did want to bake something for my birthday, but the weekend before I couldn't come up with anything to bake.  So with just 5 days until my birthday, I was not only without a birthday treat, but without an idea of even what to bake!

 (before and after the second 'proofing')

This lead to sleepless nights*, which lead to late-night TV watching, which lead to a fluke encounter...and my birthday treat inspiration!  (* I wasn't sleepless because of the thought of not having something to bake, rather I was just up late one night watching the Cooking Channel, but it sounded so much more dramatic the first way.)  While I was mindlessly watching TV, I heard Bobby Flay talking about the best sticky buns he had ever had.  I was intrigued.  Then they had the baker talking about them. She makes something called a "goo" for her sticky buns. Goo!  How fun!!  The only thing that didn't sell me 100%?  They had pecans.  You know me - not a fan of nuts in my baked goods - but then I saw one. Gorgeously golden, covered in a homemade caramel "goo."  I.  Was.  Sold!  Happy birthday to me!

Oh, and was it ever!! These sticky buns are heavenly.  No doubt partially related to the insane amounts of butter, but also that goo!!    Definitely got me out of my birthday funk long enough to enjoy one (...or two...or three...) of these!!

A thing about this recipe....it calls for enough dough to make double the buns but only one batch of goo.  This leaves you with options, people, plenty of good options.  

1. You can half the dough recipe (clearly the worst of the options...why half it?!).
2. You can make a full dough recipe and then freeze half for up to a week or use it for something else.  Not your best option, but clearly no one would fault you for that.
3. You can double up on the goo recipe, and make a double batch.  Because clearly extra brown sugar, butter, and cream are all good things!
4. You can make a full batch of the dough, make it into a double batch of buns, and then freeze half of them for up to a week!  Then defrost them in the fridge the night before and then bake them up "fresh" the next morning.  This is the only way my loved ones are gonna get freshly baked sticky buns in the morning.  I'm betting I'm not going to hear any complaints! (And in case you haven't already guessed, option 4 was my choice, but option #3 was a close second!)

Flour's Famous Sticky Buns
I heard about 'em on TV, and googled the recipe


For the goo:

1.5 sticks unsalted butter
1.5 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup cream
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp kosher salt

For the brioche dough:
(makes a double recipe.  See above)

2.5 cups all purpose flour, plus more if needed
2.25 cups bread flour (I used whole wheat, since that's what the store had....which makes them totally healthy, right?  ;-))
1.5 packages (3 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 cup cold water
5 eggs
1 3/8 cups (2 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 10-12 pieces

For the filling:

1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped, divided


Start by making the brioche dough.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flours, yeast, sugar, salt, water, and eggs.
Beat on low speed for 3-4 minutes or until all ingredients are combined.
Stop the miser as needed to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients.
Once the dough has come together, beat on low for another 3-4 minutes.
The dough will be very stiff and seem quite dry.

With the mixer on low speech, add the butter one piece at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough (each addition took a long time for me).
Continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
It is important for all the butter to be thoroughly mixed into the dough.  If necessary, stop the mixer occasionally and break up the dough with your hands to help mix in the butter.

Once the butter is completely incorporated, turn up the speech to medium and beat until the dough becomes sticky, soft, and somewhat shiny, another 15 minutes.
It will take some time to come together -- it will look shaggy and questionable at the start and eventually it will turn smooth and silky.
Turn the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute.  You should hear the dough make a slap-slap-slap sound as it hits the sides of the bowl.
Test the dough by pulling at it: it should stretch a bit and have a little give.  If it seems wet and loose and more like a batter than a dough, add a few Tbsp of flour and mix until it comes together.  If it breaks off into pieces when you pull at it, continue to mix on medium speed for another 2-3 minutes or until it develops more strength and stretches when you grab it.
It is ready when you can gather it all together and pick it up in 1 piece.

Put the dough in a large bowl or plastic container and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of dough.
Let the dough proof in the fridge for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.
**At this point you can freeze the dough in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Next, make the goo.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
Whisk in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, to combine (it may look separated, that's OK).
Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt.
Strain to remove any undissolved lumps of brown sugar.
Let cool for about 30 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature.
You should have about 3 cups (I got just over two cups).
** The goo can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Toast the pecans.
I did this in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes.  
Watch them carefully to make sure they don't burn!
Let cool to room temperature.
Chop the nuts.
Divide into 2 half cups portions.

Using half the dough, roll it out on a floured work surface into a rectangle about 12 x 16 inches and 1/4-inch thick.
It will have the consistency of cold, damp Play-Doh and should be fairly easy to roll.
Position the rectangle so that a short side is facing you.

In a small bowl, stir together the sugars, cinnamon, and a half cup of the toasted pecans.
Sprinkle this mixture evenly on top of the entire surface of the dough.
Starting from the short side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll.
Try to roll tightly so that you have a nice round spiral.
Trim off about 1/4 inch from each end of the roll to make them even.

Use a bench scraper or chef's knife to cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, each above 1.5 inches wide.
** At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen up to 1 week.  When ready to bake, thaw them -- still in the plastic wrap -- in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for 2-3 hours, then proceed as directed below:

Pour the goo into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, covering the bottom evenly.
Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of pecans evenly over the surface.
Arrange the buns, evenly spaced, in the baking dish.
Cover with plastic wrap (oops, I forgot to cover mine, but that's totally ok, because they turned out fine!) and put in a warm spot until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching -- almost tripled in size, about 2 hours.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F.

Bake until golden brown, about 35-45 minutes.
Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes.
One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter, and spoon any extra goo and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top.

The buns are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking.  They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, and then warmed in a 325F oven for 10-12 minutes before serving.

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