Thursday, April 19, 2007

Waiter There's Something in My... Bread! - Pecan Sticky Buns

“These are really good,” Steven said for the fourth time, as he unrolled and tore off pieces off his sticky bun. Rarely does he give something so much praise but these sticky buns were exceptional. I’m always happy when he likes the food and I was particularly happy and relieved today because the buns took half the day to make. As the buns were baking, Steven went from room to room and opened all the doors. I asked what he was doing. He replied, “I want the whole house to smell good.” They came out of the oven right before dinner time so we officially ruined our appetites.

I was a bit intimated by this month’s WTSIM because I don’t bake bread. My first and only bread was a loaf of no-knead bread. Originally I wanted to try to make a brioche but I really wanted to try this sticky bun recipe. It even has a brioche-like dough so it was perfect! Unfortunately being a total bread novice, I accidentally misread teaspoon as tablespoon and added 3 times more yeast. Yikes! No wonder the dough rose so quickly. So I froze that yeasty abomination, hoping to be able to salvage it someday and started over with a new dough. This time adding the right amount of yeast and everything went swimmingly, sorta (in my rush to remake the dough, a few eggs rolled off the counter... I hope that's not bad luck).

I actually made a 2/3 recipe because I was afraid the whole recipe would have been too much. I also made the mistake of baking a 2/3 recipe in an 8 x 8 pan, which is half the size of a 9 x 13, so the buns were really cramped. So either make a 2/3 recipe in a 9 x 9 pan or make the whole recipe in a 9 x 13. Cutting the recipe in half is really tricky since there are so many ingredients (like the eggs) that are hard to divide in half. But these are so good and if you’re going through all the trouble, it’s probably best to make the whole recipe. You can freeze or give away the extras to friends and family and they’ll love you for it. The original recipe called for corn syrup but I didn’t have any so I used honey instead. Honey is sweeter than corn syrup so I cut back on the sugar. If you choose to use corn syrup you may wish to add a bit more brown sugar. Toasting the pecans separately keeps them crispy and you avoid steaming them underneath the buns. The recipe is a bit labor intensive but oh so worth it. As for the botched dough in the freezer, I’m open to any suggestions as to what to do with it.

Update: I made these again (full recipe) in a pyrex and they were done in under 30 minutes. Even though I didn't use a pizza stone the caramel still cooked pretty evenly. Being able to look at the bottom of the bun was really handy, don't let the caramel get too dark otherwise it'll get hard like candy. If you find that the caramel is cooking too fast move the buns up a rack. But for me lower middle rack worked just fine.

Sticky Buns with Pecans, recipe for a 9 x 13 pan (recipe for 9 x 9 at the end)
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

3 eggs, room temp
3/4 C buttermilk, room temp
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
Package of instant yeast, 2 ¼ tsp
4 to 4 ¼ C AP flour
6 Tbsp melted butter

Caramel Glaze
5 Tbsp butter
1/2 C brown sugar
3 Tbsp honey
1.5 Tbsp milk
Pinch salt

Cinnamon Sugar Filling
1/2 C brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt
1 Tbsp butter, melted

Pecan Topping
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp honey
1 pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 C pecans, toasted and chopped

Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, sugar, salt, and yeast. First add half of the flour and melted butter and stir into a loose batter. Using the dough hook of a stand mixer, add all but 1/4 C of the flour, and knead on low speed for 5 minutes then check the status of the dough. Dough should be moist but not sticky. The dough should be sticking to the bottom of the bowl (the little round divot at the bottom of the bowl) but should not stick to the sides. If it sticks to the sides of the bowl, add more flour. Knead for another 5 minutes. Then turn the dough out to a lightly floured board and knead another minute by hand and bring the dough into a ball. Dough should be smooth and a tiny bit tacky. If you do not have a stand mixer, you can knead by hand but knead twice as long, for 20 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly sprayed with nonstick spray. Then spray the top of the dough so it doesn’t dry out. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and put in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. I use my huge 2 quart pyrex measuring cup to measure dough rise. The markings on the side are perfect for telling me when my dough has doubled.

For the glaze, combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk together over medium low heat until the butter has melted. Pour into your baking pan and spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan and set aside.

Combine all the ingredients for the cinnamon sugar filling and set aside.

When the dough has doubled, gently turn it out to a lightly floured surface. Roll it out to a rectangle. If using a 9 x 13 pan, roll out into a 16 x 12 rectangle. If using a 9 x 9 pan, roll out into a 12 x 12 rectangle. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the dough, leaving a 1/2 in border on the top edge. Using the remaining butter to butter the sides of the baking pan.

Spread the cinnamon sugar evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 in border along the top edge. Smooth and gently press the filling on the dough. With the edge closest to you, start rolling the dough into a cylinder; keep the roll very taut and tight. Pinch the seam shut. The log may be thick in the middle and taper out to the sides. Press the ends in and gently roll and stretch out the log until you have a log of uniform thickness, 18 inches if using a 9 x 13 pan or 13 inches if using a 9 x 9 pan. Using a serrated knife, gently saw through the log to cut even rolls, 12 for 9 x 13 or 9 for 9 x 9.

Place each bun, cut/pretty-side down on the filling in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let the rolls rise until they are puffy and pressed against each other, about 1 1/2 hours. At this point you can put them in the fridge overnight and bake them the next morning (overnight instructions are at the end).

The original recipe specified to bake these on a pizza stone, but since I was using a Pyrex pan I was a bit wary of putting Pyrex on a hot stone so I didn’t use one. If using a pizza stone, adjust your oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 350°F while the dough rises. The pizza stone takes a while to warm up. If not using a stone, adjust your oven rack to second lowest position and preheat the oven to 350°F but you don’t need to preheat as early.

Bake the buns for about 25 to 30 minutes, the tops should be golden brown and the center should read 180°F. If you’re using a glass pan, you can sneak a peek at the bottoms to make sure they’re done before you take them out of the oven.

Cool the tray on a wire rack for 10 minutes. While the buns cool, you can toast your pecans in the oven if you haven’t toasted them earlier. Then invert the pan onto a platter or cutting board. Scrape any goo in the pan onto the buns.

Prepare the topping as the buns cool. Heat butter, brown sugar, honey, and salt in a small sauce pan over medium heat whisking occasionally until bubbly. Then off heat, stir in vanilla and toasted chopped pecans. Spoon a dollop over each bun and serve.

Recipe for 9 x 9 pan
2 eggs, room temp
1/2 C buttermilk, room temp
2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1.5 tsp instant yeast
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 C flour
4 tbsp butter, melted

Caramel Glaze
3 1/2 Tbsp butter
5 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp milk
Pinch salt

5 Tbsp brown sugar
1.5 tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt
2 tsp butter, melted

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1 pinch salt
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 C pecans, toasted and chopped

Overnight Sticky Buns
After shaping the buns, refrigerate overnight. The next morning, place them in a warm water bath for 20 minutes, and then continue with the 1 1/2 hour rise in a warm place. Proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Last bite!

*note to self: I need to find more places to take pictures. My dining table is getting a little boring. :P

A big thanks to Andy over at Spittoon Extra for hosting this month's WTSIM. :)

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