Friday, January 4, 2013

sticky buns galore

If you are counting calories, do not continue reading. Also, if you don't believe that all things taste better with butter and sugar, then this recipe may disgust you. And, one more thing.. I cannot assure you that this isn't a jump on the diabetic train.

Okay, let's get to the good stuff.

Dare I say, I know how to make me a good sticky bun. My interest in making sticky buns all began a few years ago when I watched an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay featuring Joanne Chang. From that moment on, I knew I could never make cinnamon rolls without a sticky goo.

Years ago when I started this sticky bun mission, I found an A-MAZ-ING brioche dough recipe here. The yield for the original recipe was way too much for me. However, in my attempt to halve the recipe, I realize now I totally don't know how to do math. Duh, 3 teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon. 1 1/2 is half of 3, not 2 1/4. Wow. I don't even know how that happened. I have no excuse for how I messed that up. But you know what? It ended up working out just fine.

So here's how I make my sticky buns:

Sticky Buns Recipe
(yields about 24)

Brioche Dough
(adapted from Artisan Bread in Five)

3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 tsp granulated yeast (1 packet)
2 1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey, melted butter, and lukewarm water in a 5 quart bowl (I use a stand mixer with paddle attachment)
2. If using a stand mixer, switch to dough hook and mix in flour. This can also be done with a spoon in a regular bowl. Mix until flour is just incorporated.
3. Cover the bowl (not airtight) and allow to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours.
4. Wrap the dough up with plastic wrap and pop it into the refrigerator to chill. The dough can be used as soon as it's chilled and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

I use a stand mixer now because I've become dependent on that gem. However, when I first made this, I alternatively used the bowl and spoon method. Honestly, go with whichever you prefer. The outcomes are exactly the same, in my opinion.
The key is to not over mix. However, I want to stress that incorporating the flour well is very important.  If there are lumps in the dough, those lumps will harden after it rises and even more after it's chilled. I advise adding the flour a little at a time, but still.. I think lumps are pretty much inevitable without over-working the dough. The upside is, the lumps have no impact on the outcome of the dough after it's baked. I do my best to make sure the dough is as smooth as possible when I roll it out, but I think I'm just personally irritated with the idea of lumpy dough.
I usually make this dough the night before I want to make sticky buns. Because of the time it takes for the dough to rise and chill, doing everything in one day is just too much even for me. So, chilling time is usually overnight for me. When I open the refrigerator in the morning, my wrapped dough looks more like an inflated pillow. Don't be alarmed. That's just the yeast still working. Once you unwrap the dough it looks normal.

Prepping the brioche dough: Once the brioche dough is all set and ready to use. It's time to roll that baby out. You will need lots of all-purpose flour handy to prevent your hand, board, rolling pin-- everything- from sticking. All-purpose flour will be your best friend guaranteed.

You can use the whole batch of dough at once, use only half, a third, whatever floats your boat. I use it all because my friends hate when I don't make nearly enough. I never measure the dimensions of my dough rolled out. But a good rule of thumb is to start from the center and roll outwards. You want to roll the dough into a rectangular shape, about an even 1/4" thickness all the way around. The dough shouldn't be too thin, because it will be more difficult to roll up once the filling is in there.

Cinnamon Roll Filling

1 3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup cinnamon

1. Mix light brown sugar and cinnamon together. Or if you don't want to waste a bowl to mix these in, just dump the light brown sugar and cinnamon straight onto the dough and blend together.
2. Spread all over the rolled out brioche dough, leaving about a 1/2" border around. Although I tend to only leave that border only along the sides where I begin rolling and where my rolling will end. 
3. Additional filling ingredients are optional. I love using some chopped nuts or diced apple. If you do want to add something extra, center it along the length of the roll. Do not spread it all over-- I've done that and the rolls won't be as easy to roll or cut up. 
This is the about the proportion I use to fill the whole batch of brioche dough rolled out in one rectangular sheet. However, more/less of this cinnamon-brown sugar mixture may be needed depending on the surface area of the dough you are place it on.
I use quite a bit of cinnamon with the brown sugar because, as it cooks, they will caramelize quite nicely and that cinnamon sugar will combine with the goo. It's best to use your own judgement.

Rolling the cinnamon rolls:
1. Start from one end (one of the longest ends) and start tucking in the dough.
2. Continue rolling and tucking underneath. The dough should be rolled up as tight as possible. The tighter it's rolled up, the better the filling will stay inside.
3. Once you get to the end, I use a pinching technique-- pull the loose end over to complete the roll and pinch it closed. It should stick. (It sticks better if there is little to no flour on this end.)
4. Now, let this hang out while you get the goo ready.

The Goo

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp whipping cream

1. On medium-high heat, melt the unsalted butter in a saucepan on the stovetop.
2. Stir in the light brown sugar. As this mixture heats, it will bubble. Continue gently stirring for about 2 minutes.
3. Lower the heat to about medium and add the honey and whipping cream. *
4. Stir until consistency (about 1-2 more minutes)
5. Turn of heat and remove saucepan from stove. Add in optional toppings as desired.

**NOTES: I use the whole batch of goo for one baking dish. However, I end up with more sticky buns than will fit in the dish. So, double the batch of the goo or do as I do and make it twice for 2 variations.

Apple Goo: 1 1/2 cups diced granny smith apple
Orange Pecan Goo: 1 tsp orange zest + 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice (*add this at step 3) + 1 cup chopped pecans

Sticky Bun Assembly: 
1. Pour the complete goo mixture into a baking dish.
2. Spread the goo along the bottom of the dish evenly.

3. Cut the cinnamon rolls-- about 3/4". If the dough seems too sticky to cut through, at a little all-purpose flour to your knife. I never have a problem with a super sharp knife though.
4. Then, spread the cinnamon roll slices out onto baking dish, leaving a little room in between each and not pressed up against the sides of the dish. They will rise and poof when baked.
5. With your fingertips, press down on the center of each roll. This will help them them bake at an even level or else the final product will have protruding middles.
6. Pop them into a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 22 minutes or until they begin looking golden brown on top. The cinnamon sugar swirl should look less sugary/coarse and more liquidy and caramelized.

7. Once they are done baking, pull the dish out of the oven and let them cool for 3-5 minutes. When serving, flip the rolls over and spoon extra goo from the dish over each of the rolls so it can drip in between all the crevasses of the swirls.

Apple-Stuffed Sticky Buns with an Apple Goo:

Sticky Buns with an Orange Pecan Goo:

Dive in and eat one right away-- they are the best when they are warm, the goo is still gooey, and the brioche is perfectly tender.

I don't make these sticky buns all the time. I think they are so great, because they are really a treat. I only make them about once or twice a year. These sticky buns are filled with so much sugar and butter, which is why they are so delicious. I strongly believe in indulging, but that's always best (and to me, even more satisfying) in small doses. If you are craving something sweet, this never fails.

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