Overnight, over-the-top Sticky Buns

December 26, 2009


Twas the night before Christmas,
and all through the fold
tensions were climbing
for Carters young and old.

The Wee One was ill,
intense fever-management underway;
phone calls to doctors, lukewarm baths,
and the older two left solo to fight play.

Evening plans discarded,
a hasty dinner we eat.
Hyped-up children thrown in bed,
and Mom and Dad are beat.

So Mom begins to do
what always betters her head
she rolls out a rich dough
for the mornings’ breakfast spread.

Sticky buns. A new experiment,
a probably-once-a-year feat.
The next morning, thankfully, all is better;
The gooey rich buns a welcome morning treat.

I’ve been meaning to try my hand at sticky buns for a long time now. Even before our Christmas Eve went awry, I was planning to make them to eat on Christmas morning (so it wasn’t an entirely chaos-induced, spur-of-the-moment venture begun at 8 pm). Even pre-meditated, it was very therapeutic, working with the dough — for some reason, my most tranquil moments often come while solo in a quiet kitchen, rolling out pie crusts and bread dough (even more so when a glass of wine sits nearby on the counter).

I’m not kidding when I say they might be a once-a-year feat. Not because they are all that difficult, but because they are richer than just about anything we eat for breakfast, ever. I’ve never been one who handles sweets in the morning very well, so even when we do what we call “special breakfast,” we try to keep things on the healthier (but still delicious) side.

These buns aren’t as bad as some, but they are totally loaded with maple syrup, refined sugar, and white flour (though I do sneak some whole-wheat into the recipe). They are not a brioche or croissant-based roll, so they aren’t the flaky kind of sticky bun. They are a soft milk-and-egg bread dough, with a sweet cinnamon filling, and a maple-pecan glaze that bakes into the upper layers and then oozes over the sides after you turn them out. Soft, sweet, buttery, and amply sticky.

I created this recipe to be plenty for about 6 people (if everyone gets two, which — truly — is more than plenty). They bake in a 9×12″ pan, and the best part is that you make them the night before, and let them rise in the refrigerator. When you wake up the next morning, they go straight into your oven and are ready to eat in about 45 minutes. Your house is filled with the scent of sweet cinnamon and baking bread, and you can sit about at leisure with your first cup of coffee while watching the kids open gifts from grandparents. And continue work on that knitting project that’s supposed to be finished in less than a week. Pretty much a perfect morning, in my book.

This recipe would double easily, if serving a crowd. Just divide your doubled dough after the first rise, let it rest, then roll out two different rectangles, and double all the filling/topping ingredients. If you’re feeling adventurous and are not wanting to donate 3/4 cup of precious maple syrup to the bun cause, you could try an equal amount of homemade caramel sauce (omitting the called-for butter in the topping below since it’s already in the caramel sauce). Just promise to let me know how it goes.

Overnight Maple-Pecan Sticky Buns

for the dough:

  • 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup whole milk, warmed to about 115º
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

for the topping:

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup pecans

for the filling:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (or sucanat/rapadura)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted

About two hours before bedtime, mix together the water/milk, melted butter, honey, wheat flour, 2 cups of all-purpose flour, and yeast (either in a large bowl or in your standing mixer fitted with dough hook). Mix well, until a rough ball of dough forms. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

Add the eggs and salt, and knead the dough, slowly adding the remaining 1/2 – 1 cup all-purpose flour. If you’re using a mixer, the dough should knead on a low-medium setting for about 6 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl, and be smooth but still shiny, tacky to the touch but not super-sticky. If the dough is too dry, drizzle in a little extra water as it kneads. Removed to a lightly-oiled bowl, turn to coat, and let rise in a warmish place (I use my microwave since it’s over my oven and tends to stay warm) until doubled, about 45 min. – 1 hour.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, toast your pecans. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet, and toast in a 325º oven (I use my toaster oven) for about 5-10 minutes, until fragrant and lightly deeper in color (watch them carefully so they don’t burn). Remove to cool, then chop coarsely, and set aside.

Remove dough to a lightly-floured work surface, knead briefly, and let rest, covered for 10 minutes. While the dough rests, make your filling and topping mixtures: For the filling, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. For the topping, melt the butter and maple syrup together (microwave is fine, just watch it so it doesn’t boil over and cause a big mess).

Roll your rested dough into a 15×20″ rectangle. Brush entire surface with remaining 2 Tbsp of melted butter, then sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly over the top. Roll the dough, starting with a long end, into a 20″ log (jellyroll-like). Using a serrated knife, carefully cut log into 1 1/2″ pieces (you’ll end up with about 15).

Pour your syrup/butter mixture into the bottom of a 9×13″ glass baking pan, then sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly over the mixture. Place your rolls into the pan (they will fit rather loosely), and loosely cover with oiled plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator to rise overnight (alternatively, let rise in a warm place until doubled, then bake).

The next morning, pour yourself a cup of coffee, remove the rolls from the refrigerator (discard plastic wrap), and preheat your oven to 350º.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until well-browned on top. Let rest for about 5 minutes in the pan, then turn the rolls out onto a cooling rack set into a rimmed baking sheet (this will catch all the extra goo). Let rest another 5-10 minutes (if you can wait that long) and enjoy.

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