I admit it; on a cold and rainy weekend I turn into a bit of a slug. I stay in bed as long as possible, I find movies that I simply must watch, and I crave my favorite bakery foods, warm and fresh. Years of pulling hot, yeasted breakfast breads from the oven in the light of dawn have made me crave them in the moody darkness of rainy days. Nowadays, I’m much more likely to be padding around in warm slippers and comfy clothes than manning the bakery ovens, but I that doesn’t mean I can’t make some of those wonderful breakfast breads. The hardest part is deciding which one to make - sticky buns, cinnamon rolls, Danish, almond croissants, cinnamon swirl bread – if it’s warm, slightly sticky, and made for the breakfast table, it’s on my list of possibilities.
Fresh homemade Danish make me weak in the knees, but it’s not the project for a slug. I save Danish for a weekend that has plenty of invigorating sunshine. I need to be fully awake to fold and layer the dough precisely, and form the lovely shapes – a process that, while entirely manageable on a weekend, is not something I can undertake on a rainy one. Ditto with croissants. And while cinnamon rolls are always welcome, the onset of fall has me hankering for maple syrup, which means it’s time for the gentle sweetness of maple pecan sticky buns. I didn’t always like them. Too much topping makes sticky buns soggy and doughy. And let’s face it, they are often a mountain of sugar masquerading as morning food. But with all the ingredients in balance, I find them irresistible. And while it’s true they aren’t exactly health food, they are so completely satisfying that an occasional indulgence is an absolute necessity in my life.
Luckily, my favorite sticky bun recipe isn’t very time-consuming, and delivers deep satisfaction for the time invested. I make the Rich Breakfast Dough the night before while I’m cooking dinner (I mean, I’m in the kitchen anyway, right?). I let it rise during dinner, then shape the Maple Pecan Sticky Buns just before I do the dishes, so I can clean everything at once. I cover them with plastic and let them rise slowly overnight in the refrigerator. The next morning, I set them on the counter to continue rising at room temperature for an hour or so while I cook the bacon, make the coffee, and decide on a movie. The buns go straight into the hot oven and are ready in less than 30 minutes. Start the fire, turn on the movie, and snuggle up on the couch – it’s time for breakfast.More Sticky Buns for Breakfast ideas and recipes follow after the jump
Rich Breakfast Dough
Makes about 1½ pounds
A leaner version of brioche dough, this can be used for all those wonderful, yeasted breakfast breads you love, like sticky buns and coffee cake. Classic brioche, while delicious, is unnecessarily rich when paired with flavor-packed fillings and toppings. Despite the reduced amount of eggs and butter, this dough is still soft and easy to work with, and it bakes into a tender, flavorful partner for all manner of fillings, both sweet and savory.
- ½ cup (4 ounces) warm whole milk (110° to 115°F)
- ¼ cup (1¾ ounces) sugar
- 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast, or 1¹⁄8 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
- 2½ cups (12½ ounces) bread flour
- or unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, very soft (not melted)
- Mix and knead the dough: Combine the warm milk and sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Whisk by hand to blend well. Let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. Add the egg and yolk and whisk by hand until well blended. Stir in the flour and salt with a silicone or rubber spatula. Attach the dough hook and knead on low speed for 2 minutes. The dough may look ragged at this point, but don’t worry—the addition of butter will smooth it out. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 1 minute. With the mixer running, add the soft butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to blend in before adding the next. Once all the butter has been added, decrease the speed to medium-low and continue to knead for 5 to 6 minutes longer, until the dough looks soft and silky.
- Rise the dough (First Rise) : Lightly butter or oil the tub or bowl, scrape the dough into the tub, and brush the surface of the dough with a little butter or oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rise until doubled, 1 to 1½ hours. If you are using a tub, be sure to mark the starting level of the dough with a pencil or piece of tape so it’s easy to tell when the dough has doubled. At this point, the dough is ready to be punched down and used in your recipe of choice.
Storing: The dough can be punched down and refrigerated overnight. Wrap in plastic, leaving a bit of wiggle room for when the dough continues to expand in the refrigerator, or place in a bowl large enough to allow it to expand; cover with plastic wrap. (If you don’t leave room for expansion, the dough will burst through the plastic wrap.)
Maple-Pecan Sticky Buns
Makes 10 buns
Sticky buns are a favorite throughout the country, and each region seems to have its own variation. You’ll like this one, with the deep, caramel-tinged flavor of real maple syrup paired with its finest dance partner—pecans. Be sure to turn these out of their baking pan while they are still quite warm, or the topping will stick to the pan and the dough to the topping. But if this does happen, set the pan on a burner turned to medium and, wearing an oven mitt, rotate the pan for 20 to 30 seconds, until the butter and sugar mixture is melted again. Turn out as directed.
Equipment: Stand Mixer Fitted with a Paddle Attachment or a Hand Mixer and a Medium Bowl, Bowl Scraper, 10-inch Round Cake Pan, Rolling Pin, Pastry Brush, Silicone or Rubber Spatula, Chef’s Knife, Instant-Read Thermometer, Cooling Rack, Thin Knife or Small Spatula
- 1 recipe Rich Breakfast Dough
- ¾ stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter,
- softened (65° to 68°F)
- ¹⁄³ cup (2½ ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
- ¹⁄³ cup (3¾ ounces) maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
- 1 cup (4 ounces) chopped pecans
- ½ stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- ¹⁄³ cup (2½ ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Make the topping: Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer and blend on medium speed until the mixture is smooth and slightly lightened, 2 to 3 minutes. You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl, though you may need to beat the mixture a little longer to achieve the same results. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer running on medium, pour the maple syrup in a thin stream down the side of the bowl and blend until smooth and homogenous. Scrape the topping into the cake pan and spread evenly. Scatter the chopped pecans over the top. Set aside while you make the buns.
- Roll the dough: Dust your work surface with flour. Turn the risen dough out of the tub and onto the flour. Press down firmly with your hands to expel as much of the gas as possible, but don’t knead the dough or the gluten will be too developed for the dough to roll easily. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Roll the dough into a 10- by 16-inch rectangle. Position the dough so that one of the long sides is parallel to the edge of your work surface. Brush any remaining flour from the surface and underside of the dough.
- Make the filling: Place the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in the bowl of the stand mixer and blend on medium speed until the mixture is smooth and slightly lightened, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Use a silicone or rubber spatula to spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the long side opposite you.
- Shape the buns: Beginning with the long edge closest to you, roll the dough into a cylinder, gently tucking and tightening as you roll. Wet your fingers and rub a thin film of water along the empty border. Finish rolling the dough onto the border. Roll the dough backwards so that the seam is facing upward and pinch all along it to seal the dough. Turn the seam side down and use a chef’s knife to cut the roll into 10 equal pieces. Set each bun with a cut side up on your work surface and gently flatten it slightly with the palm of your hand. Place the buns into the prepared cake pan, spacing them evenly.
- Proof the dough (second rise) : Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and set aside to rise until the rolls have almost doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes (longer if the room is cold).
- Bake the sticky buns: Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Bake the buns for 30 to 35 minutes, until the buns are deep golden brown and the centers register 185°F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then turn the buns out of the pan. To do this, run a thin knife or small spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen the buns. Place a large plate or rimmed baking sheet upside down on top of the cake pan. Wearing oven mitts, hold the cake pan against the plate and invert it. The sticky buns will fall out of the pan onto the plate, along with their syrup and nuts. Serve the sticky buns warm or room temperature.
Storing: The sticky buns are at their best the same day they are made, but will keep, covered with a cake dome at room temperature, for 2 days. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Reheat in a 350°F oven for 7 to 10 minutes, until warmed through.
Tools of the Trade:
- Viking 7-qt. Professional Stand Mixer
- Instant Read Thermometers
- Things Sur La Table® Cooling Grid
- Red Silicone Scraper Spatula
- OXO® Pastry Brushes with Natural Boar Bristles
Recipes and Photos are reprinted with permission from Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC. The Art and Soul of Baking © copyright 2008 by Sur La Table, Inc.