I am obsessed with food. Not so much eating it, but making it. I’m a big DIYer, and jump at the chance to make something that you could just as easily buy. I am also obsessed with food magazines, and pretty much anything food-related on the internet. So after reading this month’s Saveur, I didn’t need much convincing from Mark to make these super buttery (with just over 2 tbsp butter per serving), sugary, yummy-looking buns. I had a lovely idea that after making them I’d parade around the neighbourhood with the kiddo, sharing these still-warm treats with my friends, leaving us with one or two to enjoy. We ended up having two each for breakfast, then bringing two to a lovely friend, then I needed to have another one just to be sure they were still good (they were… there may have also been a late-night snack in there.) Next day Mark and I discovered that they’re also good topped with ice cream and candied peel syrup (that’s part of another project I’ll tell you about soon). Now they’re all gone. Thank god. I can go past my kitchen without having to look the other way just to avoid being tempted to gobble up the rest of the tray.
Pecan Sticky Buns (adapted from Saveur Magazine, Nov 2013)
1⁄4 cup water, heated to 110-115°
1 1⁄4-oz. (8 g) package active dry (not instant) yeast
1⁄2 tsp sugar, plus 1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups (14 oz, or 28 tbsp) unsalted butter (divided), plus more for the pan
1⁄2 cup milk, room temperature
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
3⁄4 tsp kosher salt (or 3/8 tsp regular table or sea salt)
1 whole vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 egg, plus 1 yolk
3 1⁄4 cups AP flour (or whole wheat, or a combination of the two), plus more for dusting
2⁄3 cup packed dark brown sugar (or 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar plus 2 tsp molasses)
1 cup chopped pecan pieces
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
Mix together water, yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer (or into a large mixing bowl if you’ll be kneading by hand). Let it sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. (Enjoy the smell of yeast as it wakes up. Dream of the goodness that is soon to come.)
Meanwhile, melt 1/2 cup (4 oz) butter. (I like to measure butter by weight, because it’s less messy than trying to deal with measuring spoons or cups. 2 tbsp = 1 oz, 1 cup = 8 oz.) Add melted butter, 1/4 cup sugar, milk, light brown sugar, salt, egg and yolk. Split vanilla bean (if using) open lengthwise and scrape out the seeds onto a plate using a knife, add seeds to bowl and stir until combined (or stir in vanilla extract if you’re using that instead. I just like the look of the vanilla seeds dotting the dough.)
Add the flour and mix on low speed until the dough comes together, then turn it up to med-high and knead about 8 minutes or until smooth (or knead by hand on a floured counter for about 10 minutes. The advantage of this method is that you get to work off some of the butter that you’ll soon be
devouring enjoying) and the dough passes the windowpane test. (To do the windowpane test, grab a walnut-sized ball of dough and stretch it out using your fingers. If you can see the light behind it without tearing the dough, then it’s ready. If not, keep kneading for a minute or two and try again.)
Form the dough into a ball, put it into a bowl (I just threw it back into the mixer bowl) and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a slightly damp (clean) kitchen towel. Let it sit until it’s roughly doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours (might be longer or shorter depending on the room temperature).
While the dough proofs, make the topping. Heat together 10 tbsp (5 oz, or about 2/3 cup) butter and the dark brown sugar. Boil gently for about 3 minutes, until the sugar is nicely melted and combined with the butter.
Lightly butter a 9 x 13″ baking pan. (Tip from Sayla: use old butter wrappers to butter your pans. Save them in the freezer for when you need them. You’re so clever, Sayla!) Pour the melted butter/sugar goodness into the pan and sprinkle 2/3 cup pecans.
Next, make the filling. With an electric mixer, cream together 10 tbsp (5 oz, or about 2/3 cup) softened butter with 3/4 cup sugar, the cinnamon and nutmeg, until fluffy. Set aside.
Roll out the dough to a 10 x 18″ rectangle (or 14 x 18″ if you want thinner layers, but more of them) on a lightly floured surface.
Spread the spicy butter fluff onto the dough, leaving about 1/2 – 1″ on the long edge farthest away from you unbuttered. Sprinkle on the rest of the pecans (you could also add raisins for an extra sweet kick. Or some fresh or frozen blueberries.) Starting from the long edge nearest you, roll up the dough.
Cut the cylinder into 12 even pieces using a serrated knife or bench scraper (the serrated knife works best, in my opinion, but then make the cuts on a cutting board.)
Place the rolls into the pan, placing the end pieces cut side up. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge overnight (or 6-12 hours.)
In the morning, or an hour before baking, pull the buns out of the fridge, remove the plastic wrap and let them sit out at room temperature for about 1 hour. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375°. Make your first coffee while you impatiently wait for breakfast to be ready. Or go back to bed for an hour. Bake the buns for about 1/2 hour, until they are nicely golden, or when your kitchen smells so good that you can’t stand waiting any longer. Cool the buns 5 minutes in the pan, while you make your second coffee.
Loosen the buns with a knife, then place a tray over the pan, and flip both pans together. If all goes well, most of the sauce will have flipped onto the buns, scoop the rest back onto the buns while the pan is still warm.