It didn't take me long after I started food blogging to notice Dorie Greenspan's Pecan Honey Sticky Buns out there in food cyberspace. TWD covered them before I joined the group, so I came across numerous reverential posts about these buns, as well as posts about other sticky buns that said things like "these are good, but they are no Pecan Honey Sticky Buns." So legend has long etched these in my mind as the holy grail of sticky buns.
I've read the recipe often when flipping through my copy of Baking: From My Home to Yours. The sticky bun part didn't seem like much trouble, but the brioche-making that precedes the sticky buns did seem like much trouble, at least for a scatterbrained yeastaphobe like myself. But I've now had some moderate success with yeast, and while I'm not any less scatterbrained, I've learned that yeast breads are a little more forgiving than I used to think they were -- e.g., you can (just as a hypothetical) flat out forget about the dough for hours past the time at which you are supposed do something to it, like refrigerate it or slap it, and it will probably be okay. Not that I am recommending that. Anyway, this coming Tuesday's TWD recipe is Chocolate Bread Pudding, which Dorie says works well with brioche, so I finally had a good excuse to attempt the brioche, and more importantly, the sticky buns.
I made the brioche on Friday afternoon. It was pretty straightforward. The recipe called for two packets of active dry yeast, but I wanted to use instant yeast from a bulk package, so I turned to my friend Nancy, everyone's favorite baker/mathematician, and she totally hooked me up with some perfect active-dry-packet-to-instant-bulk conversion numbers. There were decimals involved. Thanks Nancy! Nancy also advised me to put the instant yeast right in with the flour instead of dissolving it in the water/milk as the recipe has you do with active dry yeast. That's what I did, and it worked out great.
Dough after mixing:
Dough after rising:
Daughter after getting into blue magic marker while I was making dough:
After the dough goes through its various warm air and cold air rises, it needs to sit in the refrigerator overnight. So the next morning, Saturday, I went ahead and baked a loaf of brioche with half the dough. Dorie has you shape the loaf by making four logs and setting them crosswise in the loaf pan:
My logs were exactly the same size (I weighed them) yet despite my efforts at precision, the logs rose to slightly different heights, so my bread baked up all crazy and funky. Oh well. It tasted good.
But lovely as the brioche was, I was really in this for the sticky buns. I originally planned to make these on Saturday morning as well. And I started to -- I followed the instructions in the recipe and rolled the dough into a 16"
And rolled it up into a cylinder:
I cut the cylinder in half and put half of it into the freezer for later.
At that point, I read the rest of the recipe more closely and realized that the buns would have to rise for 1 hour and 45 minutes before they could be baked. It was already 9:00, and call me crazy, but I really wanted sticky buns for breakfast, not lunch. So I decided to put the log back in the fridge and wait to make them on Sunday morning instead.
I set my alarm for 5:45 on Sunday morning. Got up, started my coffee, and made the glaze for the sticky buns (I had measured out the butter, brown sugar and honey and put them into the saucepan on Saturday night, because I knew I would not be able to trust myself that early in the morning on Sunday). I poured the glaze into the pan, cut the buns and placed them in the pan:
Then I covered the pan and went out for a long run, which, if my calculations are correct, burned calories equivalent to what is in one fourth of one of these sticky buns. By the time I got back, the buns looked like this:
After much hand wringing about whether that was sufficiently doubled and puffy, and some neurotic moving of the pan from one spot to another in search of the perfect warm spot, I decided that they weren't going to rise any more and decided to go for it. I baked them for thirty minutes, let them cool for a minute of two, unmolded them, and bit into my one way ticket to sticky bun heaven:
These Pecan Honey Sticky Buns completely lived up to their hype. In fact, four out of five people in my house agreed that these are ridiculously delicious sticky buns. The fifth person wanted Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Of course, there WAS that little voice in my head that said "Cathy. These took you three days, contain a pound of butter, and required that you get up with the roosters in order to get them on the breakfast table. They BETTER damn well be good." But honestly, that voice is about as much fun as George Will at a 7 For All Mankind convention. I just ignored it.
Sadly, I won't be able to make these nearly as often as I'd like to, simply because they take time and a fair amount of advanced planning . But when I am looking for a "special occasion" breakfast, these sticky buns will be at the top of the list!
Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
From Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours”
*** I made a full recipe through the part where you roll the dough in the cylinder, then I cut the cylinder in half and froze half for later. I made half the glaze, and baked everything in a 8" square pan.
1/2 recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves, chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)
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)
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
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 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 in a small 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.
With a chef’s knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim 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. (You should get 15 or 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, toughing 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. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden; the glaze will be bubbling. 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 mat or buttered foil. Be careful–the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.
Golden Brioche Loaves
2 packets active dry yeast
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 3/4 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
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.
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.