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Sticky Buns

My first ever job was working at a Mrs. Fields bakery called La Petite Boulangerie while I was in high school. During the summer and on weekends, I would arrive at the bakery at 6:30 in the morning (can you believe they trusted a 16-year-old with keys to the place?) and along with the baker, prepare all the muffins, cookies, and breads for sale. The last thing out of the oven was always the cinnamon rolls and sticky buns, and the smell of cinnamon would permeate the bakery for hours.

On the rare occasion we didn’t sell out of these goodies, I’d bring them home to my family and we’d microwave them before gobbling them up. And every so often, I’d put one aside in the morning and my dad would stop by the bakery for a sticky bun fresh out of the oven. They quickly became one of his favorite treats. So, when I found this recipe I bookmarked it and knew I had to bake them the next time I was at my parents’ house, and I’m so glad I did. The buns are soft and flavorful, and the sticky sauce is the perfect combination of maple and cinnamon. In fact, you may even be tempted to eat it by the spoonful.

Photos of the long yet not difficult process here [1].

Dough Ingredients
1 large egg yolk
1 c. whole milk (I used lowfat)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange (I omitted this)
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 tsp. (1 package) active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 c. sugar

Sticky Sauce Ingredients
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Egg Wash
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. whole milk or heavy cream (I used low fat milk)

Cinnamon Sugar
1 Tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 c. sugar

1 c. whole natural almonds, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped (I used walnuts and put them in the pan with the sticky sauce at the beginning)

First Rise

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, combine the egg yolk, milk, vanilla, zest, and one-third of the flour. Mix on medium speed until it is a smooth paste. Add the butter in pieces and mix to combine.
  2. Change the mixer attachment to a dough hook. Add the remaining flour, the yeast, salt, and sugar and mix on low speed to combine. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the dough forms a ball and is no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl. The dough should be nice and elastic. If it is very sticky, slowly add up to 1/2 cup more flour. (I used the additional 1/2 cup.)
  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Sticky Sauce Preparation

  1. Generously butter a 9×13 inch baking pan.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon, stirring until it reaches a rolling boil.
  3. Remove from heat and pour into the prepared pan. Set aside to cool.

Second Rise

  1. When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough into a rectangle that is 12 inches wide by 18 inches long.
  2. For the egg wash: In a small bowl, using a fork, whisk together the egg and milk. Using a pastry brush, brush it over the surface of the dough.
  3. For the cinnamon sugar: In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle over the dough, leaving unsugared the bottom 1 inch of one long side of the rectangle.
  4. Starting at the top edge of the rectangle, roll the dough toward you jelly-roll style and pinch the bottom seam closed. Slice the roll into 12 pieces approximately 1 1/2 inches thick, and place them cut side up about 2 inches apart on top of the sticky sauce in the pan. Spray the buns lightly with nonstick vegetable cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap (or lighly butter one side of the plastic wrap). Refrigerate overnight.

Complete the Buns

  1. When you are ready for the final rise, remove the buns from the refrigerator. Bring about 3 quarts of water to a boil. Place an empty roasting pan large enough to hold the water on the bottom of your cold oven. Pour the boiling water into the pan.
  2. Remove the plastic wrap from the buns. Position a rack in the center of your oven. Place the pan on the rack in the oven (do not turn it on!) and shut the door. The steam of the water will help the buns in their final rise. The buns will just about double in size in 30 to 45 minutes. (If your fridge is on a super-cold setting, the buns may need a little longer to rise. If they need more time, just boil some more water and refill the roasting pan.) When the buns have doubled in volume, remove them (and the roasting pan filled with water) from the oven.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Using tongs, turn the buns over onto a serving dish. Pour the sticky sauce in the pan over the buns and sprinkle with the chopped almonds.

Recipe adapted from Not Microwave Safe [2].