Saturday, February 24, 2007

Pretty Amazin Sticky Buns

These are from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice, my go-to bread book, and a must-have if you're at all interested in bread making. The recipes are as dead-on reliable as Marcella Hazan's. (Though I haven't succeeded in making sourdough starter yet, but I think that's more to do with whatever local yeasts may or may not be living in my apartment...)

A favorite for weekend morning quartet rehearsals.

Peter Reinhart notes in the intro that the dough itself isn't really that rich, which is true (one egg, and just over half a stick of butter). But once you add in the sticky stuff, it's pretty decadent. The alternative would be to drizzle a glaze over the top, which would add plenty of sugar, but at least no more fat (and would still be pretty yummy). Both recipes are here.

6 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
5 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter (or shortening)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla (orig calls for lemon extract or grated lemon zest... that'd be good, too)
16 oz (3 1/2 cups) unbleached bread flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/8-1/4 cups milk (orig recipe says whole or buttermilk, but I've always used skim or 1%)
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 tbsp sugar plus 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon)

The butter, egg and milk should all be at room temperature or the yeast won't perform as well. If you haven't had a chance to leave things out, you should definitely heat at least the milk in the microwave until it's no longer cold to the touch (but not more than about 110 degrees). Depending on your microwave, it might take 30-45 seconds. You could also take the chill off the butter in the microwave. If you want to warm the egg, you could stick it in some warm water for 10 minutes or so.

If you don't have a scale, note that for 3 1/2 cups of flour to be equivalent to 16 oz (or roughly 4.5 oz per cup) you need to use the "sprinkle" method of flour measuring (use a second cup measure to lightly sprinkle the flour into your main cup measure and don't pack it in or tap the cup). If you just scoop the the flour into the cup measure, you'll end up with roughly a 5-5.5 oz cup of flour.

I always use the mixer to make this, because it makes the whole process pretty trivial. But you could always do it the old fashioned way if you felt like it or wanted the kneading workout. Or if you wanted more time playing with the dough. This dough is beautiful dough to work with... just enough fat to make it smooth and silky and not at all sticky, but not so much that it's greasy.

1. Mixing: 20 mins Start with the paddle attachment in the mixer. Cream together the sugar, salt and butter. Add the egg and vanilla and whip until smooth. Add the flour, yeast and milk. Mix on low speed until combined. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium. You'll be mixing for about 10 minutes. The dough should come together in a ball more or less right away. If not, you may need to add more flour. After a minute or two, dough should have cleaned the sides of the bowl, and be sticking only slightly at the bottom of the bowl, if at all. If not, gradually add more flour. I've never seen it be too dry, so I don't know what that would look like, but you could add more water or milk.

You know you're done mixing (or kneading) when the dough passes the "windowpane test." Grab a hunk about the size of an egg, and see if you can stretch it so that it's translucent without any rippage (not even a little bit). The best way to figure out what I'm talking about is to try the test at various points in the mixing. You'll see how it rips early on, and gradually gets closer to the goal of a nice thin membrane. Don't worry about over mixing. Nothing really terrible happens if you mix for 12 minutes instead of 10. But if your dough doesn't pass the windowpane test, it means the gluten isn't fully developed, and your bread won't have the right texture. You can actually use this test in most bread recipes.

At this point, if you're not giddy about how beautiful and fantastic this dough feels, you've either done something wrong or I'm a little weird about these things.

2. First rise (ferment): 1-2 hours Cover the mixing bowl lightly and wait until the dough doubles in size. I don't bother oiling the bowl... the dough isn't going to stick. Depending on whether your ingredients were at room temp, and the temperature in the room, and the potency of your yeast, this could take anywhere from 1-2 hours. I've never had it take longer than that, but if you need to wait longer, maybe your kitchen is just cold.

3. Shape the buns: 10 mins I use a 9 x 9 brownie-type pan, but sometimes when the dough is really active, that seems a bit small. I may look for a slightly larger pan. Butter or oil the pan, even if it's non-stick. If you're making sticky buns, take the sticky bun carmel yumminess (recipe below) and spread it about 1/4 inch thick on the bottom of the pan. Put the dough on a clean surface. You shouldn't need flour... it won't stick. Flatten it out into a rectangle about 18 inches wide and a half inch thick. (I just use my hands, but you could use a rolling pin.) Spread the cinnamon sugar over the dough (at this point you could also add a judicious sprinkling of raisins, nuts, dried fruit, whatever) and then roll the dough up away from you into a log. I usually make 9 rolls, so cut the log into 9 roughly equal pieces (about 2 inches thick) and arrange them in the pan. If you're not going the caramel yumminess route, you can also just plop them on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

4. Proof: 75-90 mins at room temp, or overnight in the fridge If you're proofing at room temp, just be sure they've doubled in size again. Otherwise, you can keep them in the fridge (which slows the final proofing) for up to 2 days. If you go this route, they need to sit at room temp for 3-4 hours before baking, first to come up to room temp, and then to finally get a chance to proof.

5. Bake at 350: 30-40 mins Be sure to preheat the oven. I've just noticed that the recipe says to put the sticky buns in the lowest oven rack. I generally put them in the middle. NOTE: If you're going the non-caramel/baking sheet route, bake them for 20-30 mins, and in the middle of the oven.

Be sure the middle one(s) are really done before you take them out of the oven. The outer ones tend to brown before the middle ones, so don't be tempted to take them out too early.

6. If you can possibly stand it, let them sit at least 20 minutes before serving. If you didn't use the caramel sauce in the bottom of the pan, now would be the time to drizzle them with glaze.

Caramel Yumminess
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla or lemon extract
1/2 cup corn syrup, Lyles Golden Syrup, honey... whatever

Cream the sugars, salt and butter for a minute or 2. Add the syrup and extract and beat until fluffy.

This makes a little more than you need, but keeps well in the fridge or freezer.

2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup warm milk
1 tsp (or to taste) vanilla, lemon extract, rum, grand marnier, whatever

Mix it all up.

1 comment:

Emily French said...

Next time you're in NY, we need to go to Peter Pan Bakery in Greenpoint. Speaking of sticky buns, they have cinnamon buns the size of your head.