Friday, January 9, 2009

Recipe: Pecan Sticky Buns, New Version

Yield: 12 large buns or 16 small buns Equipment: two 6-cup nonstick giant muffin pans; two 12 x 17-inch sheet pans to catch the dripping caramel

This is the richer, sweeter version of our Pecan Sticky Buns. We think of this as an “East Coast” version as compared to our original Midwestern-style sticky buns.


Very warm water (105º to 115ºF) ¼ cup

Active dry yeast 2¼ teaspoons

Warm water (90ºF) 1¾ cups

Unsalted butter, melted 3 tablespoons + 1½ teaspoons

Unbleached bread flour 2 cups

Unbleached all-purpose flour 2 cups

Sugar ⅓ cup

Kosher salt 1 tablespoon + ½ teaspoon

Dark brown sugar, firmly packed 1¼ cups

Unsalted butter ½ cup + 1 tablespoon

Dark corn syrup ⅛ cup

Pecan pieces, toasted (see page 242) 1 cup

Sugar ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon

Cinnamon 1 teaspoon

Unsalted butter, softened 4 tablespoons

1. Combine the very warm water and yeast in a large mixing bowl and stir to dissolve the yeast. Let stand for 3 minutes. Add the remaining warm water and the melted butter to the yeast mixture and whisk together.

2. In a medium bowl, add the flours, sugar, and salt and whisk together. With your hands or a wooden spoon, mix the dry ingredients into the yeast mixture until the dough gathers into a shaggy mass. Move the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Do not knead extra flour into the dough. Instead, use a plastic scraper to loosen the dough from the work surface. This is soft, moist dough. If it seems too stiff and hard to knead, add extra warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough softens. Gently shape the dough into a loose ball, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 20 minutes so the dough can relax.

3. Gently knead the dough for 1 to 2 more minutes, until it becomes smooth, supple, and elastic. Shape the dough into a loose ball, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, and turn the dough to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise at room temperature (75º to 77ºF) until it has doubled in volume, 1½ to 2 hours. A hole poked into the dough with a finger should stay indented. The dough should hold its shape and not collapse.

4. While the dough is rising, combine the brown sugar, the next measure of butter, and the corn syrup in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted and the sugar is completely moistened and beginning to melt (it won’t be dissolved). Whisk the mixture until it looks silky and a little lighter in color. Remove it from the heat.

5. Spray the muffin cups lightly with nonstick cooking spray or grease them with softened butter, then apportion an equal amount of the caramel into the bottom of each cup (approximately 35 g/1.23 oz. for the giant muffin cups). Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the toasted pecans over the warm caramel in each cup and press them down slightly.

6. In a small bowl add the sugar and cinnamon and stir until evenly mixed.

7. When the dough has doubled in volume, gently pour it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Flatten the dough by patting and stretching it with your fingers to form a 13 x 10-inch rectangle, with the long sides across the top and bottom of the rectangle. Work gently so you don’t tear the dough. The dough should stretch easily at this point, but if it resists, let it rest for 5 minutes before resuming stretching. Check to be sure the dough isn’t sticking to the work surface, adding flour to the table if necessary.

8. Spread the remaining softened butter evenly over the dough, all the way to the edges. Sprinkle the cinnamon-and-sugar mixture generously and evenly over the butter. Starting with the bottom edge, roll up the dough jelly-roll fashion into a long log; if the dough sticks to the table as you’re rolling, use a dough scraper to loosen it gently. Pinch gently but firmly along the seam to seal it. If necessary, gently roll the dough back and forth to make a nice uniform log.

9. Cut the log of dough into 12 equal pieces. It’s easiest if you mark the log fi rst to show where you’re going to make the cuts—a slight indentation with a knife’s edge will do—then use a sharp serrated knife or a metal dough cutter to cut completely through the log. Lay one piece of dough, cut side down, on the top of the cooled caramel in each muffin cup. Let the rolls rise, uncovered, at room temperature until the dough has almost doubled in volume, about 1 to 1¼ hours. The rolls should fill the pan and rise almost to the top of each cup.

10. About 20 minutes before baking, position two racks in the center of the oven with enough space between them for the muffin pans, and preheat the oven to 375ºF.

11. Line two 12 x 17-inch sheet pans with baking parchment and put one muffin pan of sticky buns on each prepared sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer, until the tops of the buns are golden brown. It’s important to bake the buns long enough so the dough is cooked all the way through and the caramel topping develops properly. 12. Set the muffin pans of buns on a wire rack to cool for 1 minute. Then quickly but carefully turn each muffin pan upside down onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Leaving the muffin pan in place, let it rest for another minute so the hot caramel can run down around the sides of each bun. Gently lift off the muffin pans to release the sticky buns. Immediately scrape out any hot caramel and pecans remaining in the bottoms of the cups and spread it on the tops of the buns, filling in any bare spots. Let cool until just warm before serving. (Clean the muffin pans by soaking in very hot water to dissolve the caramel.) Store any leftover rolls covered with foil or plastic at room temperature, and reheat them in a toaster oven before serving.

TIPS and TECHNIQUES This recipe calls for dark corn syrup and dark brown sugar. Both ingredients contribute to a darker, deeper-flavored caramel that flows nicely to cover the individual buns. If you have only light corn syrup or light brown sugar, either can be substituted. Your caramel topping will be lighter in color and have a milder flavor but will still taste delicious. To use regular-size muffin pans instead of the giant ones, spray 16 regular-size muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. Use 26.0 g/0.93 oz. caramel and 1½ teaspoons pecans in each cup. In step 9, cut the log of dough into 16 equal pieces, put 1 piece in each prepared muffin cup, and bake as indicated.

CREDIT: The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread (Wiley 2008); Photography by Aimee Herring