Sticky Buns

April 25, 2012.

I think I’m not going out on a limb here when I say I’m not the only person who finds it nearly impossible to resist an ooey-gooey-straight-from-the-oven sticky bun, right? Okay, yes, if you have a wheat or nut allergy, it is probably extremely easy to resist a sticky bun, and I feel badly for those folks. But, for the rest of us, what is there not to like? So, when the April issue of Bon Appétit arrived in the mail, there was no doubt that I would soon be making the cover recipe.

Seriously, who could resist that (other than the aforementioned subset of the population)?

But sticky buns aren’t just something I whip up, say, like a batch of cookies. Although rustic at heart, sticky buns, in my mind, require an occasion – a rainy, lazy Sunday morning, a loved one’s breakfast in bed, Mother’s Day brunch, friends coming over mid-morning for coffee, a weekend at a beach house. Of course, they could be made often, but then they don’t seem like such a special treat. Finally, a few weeks after receiving the April issue (and averting my eyes each time I walked past it and saw the cover), the perfect occasion presented itself: my pals Megan and Rebecca were coming over mid-morning for coffee before we headed out to do a little exploring of some new foodie places in Old Town Alexandria. I wanted to make something special for them, and because they’re my cooking class buddies, I was pretty certain they wouldn’t mind being my recipe testers.

The recipe is based on a master sweet dough recipe, which can also be used for five other recipes. While the dough recipe is straightforward, the instructions for how to use it for the sticky buns confused me. To wit: (If making Sticky Buns, page 94, chill dough for 2 hours, then proceed with recipe.). Does this mean chill the dough and then proceed with the rest of the master dough recipe, or chill the dough and then proceed with the sticky buns recipe? (I could dedicate an entire separate post to my disdain of poorly written recipes – or poorly written anything for that matter.) After ruminating on it for awhile (read: too long) and re-reading it about ten times, I opted to follow the rest of the dough recipe and then move on to the sticky buns recipe. Meaning, I chilled the dough for two hours, then let it rise on my stove top (warm, draft-free area) for about two and a half hours and then proceeded to the sticky buns recipe. The dough didn’t double in size as specified by the recipe, but if I waited much longer the dough wouldn’t have been workable.

As it was, the dough was pretty sticky when I rolled it out for the sticky buns which had me questioning whether I should have just proceeded directly from the chilling part of the dough recipe to the sticky buns recipe, as my gut instinct had told me. Sigh. Always go with your gut, as you’ll find out later in this post.

However, other than the confusion around deciphering the intended instructions, the sticky buns came together without a hitch. If you are inclined to “whip” these up (although you’d need to wait a few hours before actually getting to enjoy them due to proofing and assembly times), chances are, right now, or with a quick visit to a neighbor’s, you have what you need in your pantry. They aren’t labor intensive, per se, but they are time intensive given the chilling, proofing and assembly times, but that’s the case with any yeasted dough, I think.

Sticky buns mis en place: Honey, heavy cream, butter, pecans, orange zest, salt, dark brown sugar. And the dough, which is made from milk, yeast, sugar, flour, salt and butter.

The filling. Why the tape measure, you ask? Because the recipe calls for rolling the dough into a 12″ x 16″ rectangle, and I’m a perfectionist.

First thing into the pan is the ooey-gooey glaze and chopped pecans.

Once assembled, I cut the rolled dough into twelve slices versus the nine called for by the recipe. This resulted in generous-sized buns, so I think having only nine dough pieces would make the final buns too big. And I used a nine-inch round cake pan; the recipe calls for an eight-inch square pan. Regardless of which pan size you use, I recommend putting a sheet tray on a rack beneath the buns’ pan for any drips from the glaze bubbling over. I had some, but not a lot. You can assemble the buns a day ahead, which I did, then let them sit at room temperature for about an hour and a half to two hours before baking them (it took closer to an hour or so for them to bake, the recipe indicates 50 minutes).

Sticky buns ready for the oven.

And there they are.

The final sticky buns were scrumptious, especially as they were eaten and enjoyed straight from the oven. Despite the dough confusion, the buns had a good texture and seemed to rise appropriately. This recipe will go into permanent rotation for weekend visitors and certain special occasions, or also for when I feel like just having a good ‘ol homemade sticky bun.

Sticky buns are even better when friends are involved. Thanks for being my guinea pigs, Rebecca and Megan.

(Editor’s Note: I used the recipe as it appeared in the print edition. On the Bon Appétit website, the recipe has been amended as follows: Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, 1–1 1/2 hours (or 2–2 1/2 hours if dough has been refrigerated). Chill dough for 2 hours. And then it goes directly into the sticky bun recipe. So, make the dough, let it rise, chill it for two hours and THEN proceed with the sticky bun recipe. I had done it in reverse (made the dough, chilled it, let it rise, on to sticky buns recipe), but it still worked. The Bon Appétit online editors also note: The online version of this recipe has been updated with more information than the version that appeared in print. A good reminder to doublecheck recipes and sources, if possible and when time allows. Or, always follow your gut…in cooking and life!)

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