Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dorie Greenspan's Pecan Honey Sticky Buns, or "That Sunday Morning When Our World Was Rocked"

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:

Oops, how'd that get in there?

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" square polygon of sorts. I then spread on some butter and sprinkled the cinnamon/sugar mixture onto the dough:

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.


Barbara Bakes said...

These look amazing!

karen said...

they look great! these were one of my first twd recipes and still one of my faves.

Audrey said...

Well, I'm not getting dizzy looking at your looks wonderful! And I'm nodding along with your last sentence. I don't do time-consuming crafts have started to take their place! Did you save some brioche for the bread pudding...and for that coffee?

n.o.e said...

This was a fabulous post, from beginning to end (and not just because of the shout-out -- thanks!) But, fab brioche, and even more fab sticky buns (and I know the bread pudding was/is fab too!) I'd call that quite a successful weekend. Oh the power of a few teaspoons of instant yeast, right? And you sneaky girl - saving a log of sticky bun goodness in the freezer!

The George Will quip might be the funniest thing you've ever written. Just imagining that had me in stitches.

Heather said...

mmmm. i really need to get a dorie cookbook. these sound amazing - much tastier than a blue marker ;)

Pam said...

Can I come over the next time you make these - they look AMAZING! Life is so much better with cinnamon.

Anonymous said...

I missed these with the group too. They look amazing. Time well spent for sure.

Pamela said...

See?? You are AMAZING!!! Those sticky buns are fabulous. I am sure your brioche will be marvelous in the bread pudding, too. I really have to make these buns!

Melissa said...

Wow, you were ambitious this weekend! Brioche and sticky buns and you'll be making bread pudding?!? I need you at my house! I'm glad the sticky buns were worth the early morning wake-up. They look fabulous!

Jessica said...

I thought that nothing would ever beat "like a conundrum wrapped in an enigma" but this: "about as much fun as George Will at a 7 For All Mankind convention" is hilarious and quite possibly the best simile ever.

The sticky buns look so good! I really want to make these and the brioche raisin snails at some point but that nagging little voice in my head is currently holding me back. I am so glad that these were a hit in your house; and, hey, there will always be one person who wants the cereal. More for everyone else, right?

Megan said...

Yay for you! You conquered the mighty Sticky Bun! No one will stand in your way now!

I vaguely remember making these - it seems a lifetime ago. Oh, now I remember - there weren't any nuts! That's why they were so forgettable!

Di said...

Awesome job, Cathy! Next time you make brioche, try the Raisin Snails. I actually liked them better than the sticky buns. I love the picture of Caroline. Gillian colored on herself with a blue Sharpie at one point (fine point, fortunately), but fortunately didn't put it in her mouth. Lately, though, it seems like everything ends up in her mouth, mostly things that don't belong there. I swear, I'm raising a goat... =)

Mary Ann said...

They look amazing! And it is true, they are soo delicious. That made me laugh about you setting the timer to get up and make them. When I made the brioche I started it too late at night and was setting my alarm every 30 minutes to punch down the dough. Not my fave middle of the night activity, but the results were marvelous.
The raisin snails are good too, but I think the sticky buns are better.
Can't wait to see your bread pudding!!!

Elyse said...

Man, Cathy, if these buns didn't take like 3 days to make, I'd be in the kitchen right this second making them. They look totally divine. I'm going to have to make these for brunch next weekend. By the way, don't you hate that little sarcastic voice in your head? Did you find that it got worse in law school? :) By the way, blue marker picture was totally awesome. So glad that one sneaked its way into the bunch.

Debinhawaii said...

They are gorgeous! Based on the effort required I could never make these but you my friend are amazing! Love the blue marker face too. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I soooo need to make these. I should have turned to Nancy for my active to instant yeast conversion as that is the root of my failure the first time I made Dorie's brioche.

Well, you do need to make the Dorie's raisin snails which are absolutely wonderful too...and it uses half a brioche recipe so you can use the other half to make these again.

Natashya said...

I so very much want these sticky buns right now. I will definitely make them soon. In hopes of doing the rewinds that I missed, I have printed out the list of recipes... a week ago... that is as far as I have gotten.

Maria said...

Sticky, gooey, and DIVINE!!! What a fabulous breakfast or anytime treat!

dorie said...

Phew! After all that time and butter, thank goodness you love them:) I'm so glad you finally made the recipe and gladder that it lived up to your expectations. The sticky buns look terrific!

Sara said...

Brioche is one of the best things ever invented. I have yet to make Dorie's version though, I will have to try one day.

Kelly D said...

5:45am on a Sunday? You were determined to make these. I actually missed this recipe for TWD the first time around as we were out of town that week (and this is clearly not something you throw together on Monday night to post in time). The pecans have scared me off trying them but maybe someday...

Bridgett said...

Sticky buns are such a weakness for both my husband and I. I always feel like I need to run for 3 miles afterwards, but they are so worth it! You did a beautiful job, Cathy! I'm very impressed.

Katherine Aucoin said...

We took a vote while you were cleaning the blue marker of your precious little girl and we decided you're making these next Saturday and we're all coming over for breakfast. These look so good and perfect!

Tracey said...

I LOVED these too! They are a lot of work but so worth the effort!

vibi said...

Well lucky you, you now know you can at least succeed at them!

I cannot, for the life of me, bake rising stuff... name it bread, brioches, buns... they're all a no-no. All I succeed into making in hard rock buttery stones. Humpf...

Let me know about the special breakfast or brunch, I wanna be there! LOL LOL LOL

Leslie said...

I'm so impressed! These look so good I may have to conquer my fear of yeast and make them! I love brioche and I think the bread pudding would be amazing with Dorie's brioche.

The Blonde Duck said...

So let's go for another long run and you can explain to me what brioche is, since I'm a Texas redneck, and then we can dine on these fabulous buns.

Jen said...

Oh my, those sticky buns look so good!!! But boy, I am not sure I would have the patience to get through all the phases of cooking them!

Aggie said...

As always, I am laughing. I swear Cathy, if we were neighbors we would have a good time. Our kids could color themselves with markers and eat play dough while we get over our fears of yeast...

I admire your effort that is for sure. They look absolutely does that chocolate amaretti torte staring at me to the right...yum yum yum.

Ginger said...

Thank you so much for posting all the photos!! These sound amazing and look even better!!! YUMMY.........

Proud Italian Cook said...

That first photo is to die for Cathy. Fantastic job! How many calories do you think those babies are??? As usual everything you write just draws me in, and I love the photo of your daughter with the magic marker! lol!!! You're so real, thats what I love about you!

Anne said...

Cathy you did awesome making the brioche, the buns, and the bread pudding! The sticky buns are still my husbands favorite Dorie treat yet and I agree they are amazing. I'm glad they were a hit at your house (minus Mr. Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I have two of those at my house, but I think my husband would just follow the cereal with the buns. He's good for carbs in all varieties!)

Secret Server said...

Wow, they look so perfect and delicious. I will have to try them.

natalia said...

These lkook so good! I thought I would put the pecans inside but now I don't know anymore !

MacDuff said...

I just had an orgasm. Aint gonna lie.

Anonymous said...

So worth it.

SUGAR B said...

OMG . . . please feed me.

Cakelaw said...

Yum! These look soooo good - wish someone would make me these for breakfast tomorrow.

Emily said...

Oh my goodness, I wish I could reach into my screen and grab one! or three.... -e

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