Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Sticky Buns

As you might remember from a Tuesday's with Dorie post back in May on Pecan Sticky Buns, my family makes sticky buns every year for Christmas morning.  I am the baker of these buns and have tweaked recipes to my preference over time.   We started with a recipe my mom found, and used this recipe until maybe 3-4 years ago, when I found another recipe that looked like it might be worth trying.  If I am going to try out a new sticky bun recipe, I have to do so NOT on Christmas day, to make sure it is Christmas-sticky-bun worthy!  The new recipe was from Cooks Illustrated, and while there were parts that I liked, there were parts I didn't.  So I have combined the two recipes to make our new "official" Christmas sticky bun recipe. 

This recipe takes a bit of time, although it's nothing compared to many of the bread recipes I have recently tried, with multiple rest periods and rising periods.  This recipe rises twice - once on the counter, once overnight in the refrigerator.  So really, the only important (thus time consuming one that you actually WAIT for) is the one on the counter.  Not so bad for a yeast bread, really.

Christmas Sticky Buns
adapted from many sources
makes 12 3-1/2 inch buns
3 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (if you choose to use active dry yeast, you will need to use about 25% more, plus dissolve it in a bit of the buttermilk and let it sit for about 10 minutes to get creamy before using)
4 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for work surface
6 TB unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm

2 TB butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 TB cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Pecan Glaze
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 TB corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup pecan halves (or more to your liking)

For the dough:
In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk the eggs to combine.  Add buttermilk and whisk to combine.  Whisk in the sugar, salt and yeast (if you used active dry yeast, add the yeast with the rest of the buttermilk so all wet ingredients are together).  Stir in about 2 cups of the flour and the butter, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.   Stir until evenly moistened.  Add all but about 1/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead with the dough hook at low speed for 5 minutes.  Dough should feel soft and moist but NOT wet and sticky.  Knead the dough for 5 minutes more.  The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom.   Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for about 1 minute to ensure the dough is uniform.  The dough should not stick to the work surface during kneading - if it sticks, knead in additional flour 1 TB at a time.

Lightly spray a large bowl or plastic container with cooking spray.  Transfer the dough into the bowl and flip the dough over so the top is now coated with cooking spray as well.  If it does not appear to have picked up much of the cooking spray, go ahead and spray the top of the dough.  You want the dough to stay moist on top.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Assemble buns:
Combine DRY filling ingredients in a small bowl (everything except the butter).  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently shape/roll the dough into a 16 x 12-inch rectangle, with a long edge closest to you.  Spread the softened butter over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border along the top long edge.  Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4 inch border along the top long edge.  Press the filling into the dough to secure.  You may have some filling left over - use as much as you like!  Beginning with the long edge nearest to you, start to roll the dough into a tight cylinder.  Firmly pinch the seam to seal, and roll so the seam is down.  Gently stretch the dough so the diameter is even throughout and a length of 18 inches.  Flatten the ends so they are an even thickness.

Using a long piece of sewing thread (doubled over and knotted) OR a piece of un-waxed, non-flavored dental floss, slice the dough into 12 equal pieces.  If you have never used string to cut buns, I think you will find this to be a great method:  Gently lift up the dough and shimmy the thread under the middle of the roll.  Holding one piece of thread in each hand, bring the ends around and over the roll, keeping the thread tight and crossing the ends over until the thread goes all the way through the dough.  You have successfully cut the roll all the way around at the same time!  Now scoot the thread down one of the lengths of the roll, and cut in half again and again until you have the number of rolls you desire. By using this method instead of a knife, you do not squish the rolls, you cut them uniformly all the way around, at the same time. 

Make the Glaze:
Melt the butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan.  Remove from heat and stir in corn syrup.  Spread the pecan halves face-down on the bottom of a lightly buttered 13x9-inch baking dish, and pour the glaze over the pecans.  Arrange the buns cut-side down i the prepared baking dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate 10-14 hours.

Bake the buns:
First thing in the morning, place the baking pan in a warm-water bath (about 120F) in a kitchen sink or large roasting pan, for 20 minutes.  Remove from water bath and let stand at room temperature until the buns are puffy and pressed against one another, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  About an hour before baking, adjust your oven rack to the lowest position, place a pizza stone on the rack (if using), and heat oven to 350F.  Place the baking pan on the pizza stone and bake until golden brown and the center of the dough registers 180F on an instant-read thermometer, 25-30 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto a rimmed sheet pan, cutting board, or platter.  With a rubber spatula, scrape any glaze remaining in the pan onto the tops of the buns.   I recommend starting this process first thing in the morning, so when you are ready to eat, the buns are ready.  We tend to open presents while the buns are rising and baking, which fills the house with the yummy smells of baking sticky buns!  Mmmm.
Printable Recipe

Before I could even get a photograph of the full pan of sticky buns, there were only 3 left!  Take this as a sign of how delicious these buns really are!  What a special Christmas treat!

One thing I thought of this year, is to add some chopped pecans to the filling part.  Just an idea.

The original recipe from my mom actually makes 2 dozen buns, which is quite lovely.  Growing up, we used to eat the second pan the next day, for two days of decadent breakfasts.  As our family grew, the extra buns helped us totally pig out on the buns on Christmas morning.  This year there were 4 adults and 1 child for Christmas morning buns, 1 dozen buns were plenty.  Could I have eaten more buns?  Yes.  Indeed I think I could eat the entire pan.  But should I??  Probably not.  Regardless, if your family is larger and/or you want more buns, you can easily double this recipe.  Just make sure the bowl you use for that counter-top rise is really quite large OR you use two separate bowls, so you don't overflow!

Try this out.  You won't regret it!!

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