Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TWD: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

When this week's TWD recipe for Pecan Honey Sticky Buns was announced part of me was excited, but part of me was tempered with a little fear. Working with yeast has always been something to intimidate me until my friend Danielle and I had a "cook date" a couple of months ago. She was determined to help me overcome my fear of yeast and we made a lovely french bread together.

Armed with that knowledge and experience, I went into the newest Tuesdays With Dorie assignment with excitement with an ever-so-little nagging fear I might mess something up. Conversely, I knew that this was a chance to boost my confidence if this turned out right.

While the process of making these sticky buns was a bit labor intensive - it's basically a back-to-back days process of letting the dough rise - it was well worth it. I am happy to report I did not mess anything up! Admittedly I was initially concerned with how dense the dough seemed when I took it out of the fridge on Sunday morning. Those fears, however, were alleviated when everything came together beautifully.

The morning I made the actual buns I had opened pretty much every window on the first floor of the house. It was so nice and breezy outside. Then I realized in order to get my buns to rise one last time before baking they were supposed to go into a warm place. My answer to this was to heat my oven to 170 degrees (the lowest it would go) until the preheat phase was over. I then turned it off and propped the door open while I finished up the rolling and cutting processes. So the oven was warm but by no means hot (i.e. I could touch a rack without issue). I then put them in my baking dish, covered with wax paper as Dorie suggests and put them in the oven, with the door still propped open. This gave them a slightly warm environment for rising that my house would not have given with that beautiful breeze flowing in through the windows. About halfway through the rising process I turned the oven on again for about 1-2 minutes, not even letting it heat up to the 170 degrees and turned it off (all while leaving the oven door propped open a couple of inches). This, of course, may not be the right method to go about this, but it worked for me as my rolls rose nicely and were pretty much touching each other which Dorie indicated (see picture above) was the green light for baking.

As far as baking times goes, I am beginning to realize I need to cut the baking time for all of Dorie's recipes down a couple of minutes. I checked my buns after they had been in the oven for about 22 minutes and they were already golden brown. I took them out and realized they were still slightly soft inside so I popped them back in for about 2 minutes and they were perfect. So, it took about 24 minutes to finish mine, not the full 30, which, on the flip side could be due to me cutting them a little small since I got 17 buns out of the recipe, not 15. (But for what it's worth, I needed to cut down the time for the brioche loaf too....)

These sticky buns are absolutely decadent, I think I may have gained a few pounds just by eating one. Anything with that much butter ought to be good. I baked the other half of the dough recipe right into a brioche loaf as suggested in the directions rather than freeze the dough, I've frozen the bread which I look forward to having someday soon as well. All in all, this recipe was definitely time well spent!

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
(from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)

Makes 15 buns (I got about 17 out of my recipe, I think I cut the first few a little small)

For the Glaze:
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)
For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns:
1/2 recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)
Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).

To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinkle over the pecans.

To make the filling:
Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.

To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months . . . . Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glaze recipe accordingly).

With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they're very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16.) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.

Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns have doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.
Getting ready to bake: When the buns have almost fully risen, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven.
The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil. Be careful - the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.

What you’ll need for the Golden Brioche Dough (this recipe makes enough for two brioche loaves. If you divide the dough in half, you would use half for the sticky buns, and you can freeze the other half for a later date, or make a brioche loaf out of it!):

2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

What you’ll Need for the Glaze (you would brush this on brioche loaves, but not on the sticky buns):
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. (Robin's note: watch your stand mixer during this process since it will take a walk on you....mine crashed into my nearby toaster oven unattended!)

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight. (After this, you can proceed with the recipe to make the brioche loaves, or make the sticky buns instead, or freeze all or part of the dough for later use.)

The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.

Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.
Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.


Bumblebutton said...

See--yeast isn't scary. And your improvised proof box just like mine! Beautiful job!

Engineer Baker said...

A great improv proof box is to just turn the light on in your oven - it'll get to ~100 degrees, just right for the second rise. Beautiful buns though!

Robin said...

I hadn't thought of that, great idea, thanks!

LyB said...

Beautiful! Mixers are just so happy making brioche dough, they can't help but dance around! :)

ostwestwind said...

Your buns look beautiful. I use my microwave as

Ulrike from K├╝chenlatein a proof box :-)

Mara said...

they look wonderful!

that's a fab idea for a rising environment!! i actually saw a tip from another TWD gal about heating a mug of water in your micro for a minute which creates a warm humid environ, then placing bowl in there. it worked GREAT and i didn't need to worry about our house temp!!

CB said...

What a great idea to use your oven! I'll have to remember that for next time. Great job!
Clara @ I♥food4thought

Madam Chow said...

Robin, these look wonderful. And the brioche loaf does, too!

April said...

Your sticky buns look great. Glad you conquered the yeast fear!

Anonymous said...

Good idea with the oven. Glad you conquered yeast.

Anonymous said...

You got over your yeast fear! Good!

Jayne said...

Great job! And don't fear the yeast! Yeast is your friend! :)

mimi said...

yay for a yeast convert! your buns look great!

Cooking and the City said...

Robin the sticky buns & the brioche look amazing, yum! :-)

Linda said...

Your rolls look delicious! BTW, a finished brioche does freeze beautifully...it's my go to for making french toast.