Sticky buns epitomize all that’s wonderful about weekend breakfast; indulgence, leisure, hanging out with people who are happy to see you in your pajamas, and of course, an excess of butter. They go perfectly with strong coffee too. And because I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the hosts for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie, I get to share the sticky bun recipe from Baking with Julia with you.
I’ve eaten and baked many a sticky bun. I’ve even written about them before. But this sticky bun recipe – made from brioche dough, is a keeper. Watch (part 1 and part 2) Nancy Silverton – the contributing baker and driving force behind the La Brea Bakery – make these sticky buns for Julia Child. See if you don’t end up wanting to run into the kitchen and bake.
These buns remind me of those I discovered in Illinois. Until researching this post I had no idea that sticky buns are considered a Philadelphia specialty. And the buns in Philly are often credited to the Amish, who are also a substantial presence in East Central Illinois where I lived.
Before tasting Amish sticky buns, I was strongly repelled by anything resembling a cinnamon roll. The first Cinabon opened in a mall where I worked in as a teenager in the eighties. Imagine, that over-the-top cinnamon smell, now synonymouswith terrible food courts everywhere, was once a novelty, a relief from stale mall air. But the buns were much too sweet, too much cinnamon, not enough texture, and tasted artificial to me. Too much like the mall itself. And about as far from a good sticky bun as you can get.
The length of these two recipes is daunting. But with a heavy duty mixer and a cold kitchen counter, nothing is that far out of reach. My mixer did walk around the counter a bit while the brioche dough came together, but never came close to overheating. It’s seventeen years old and going strong, if a little loud.
I was emotionally prepared for the dough to separate when I added the last round of butter – (thanks to Dorie) and oh, so relieved to have it comeback together with a lovely satin surface.
After that, the brioche rises and chills overnight, and then you are on to the sticky bun recipe. And you immediately add more butter. (Read Nina Planck’s Real Food. She’ll convince you that butter is the least of our problems.) Personally, its the white flour that makes me twitch. But yeast pastry and whole wheat flour are usually a sad combination, and this recipe is both too expensive and too time consuming to risk failure. And really, whole wheat brioche? I’d rather have the real thing, once or twice a year, in small portions. Nancy Silverton gets seven sticky buns from half a recipe for brioche dough. I got 16.
I did replace half the butter in the glaze with maple syrup, and I used raw sugar, rather than brown – I melted the ingredients together, and then spread in the bottom of the pans, with the chopped pecans. And I made my buns into an overnight version, letting the buns complete the last rise, slowly, over eight hours in the fridge. The hardest part was withstanding the smell during the baking, and waiting till the glaze was cool enough to let us dig in safely. We lasted for 30 very long minutes.
Be sure to check out the blog of my co-host, Nicole of Cookies on Friday, and the participating baker’s links. If you are a baker, get a copy of Baking with Julia. It’s both an education and a document of culinary history. Today, Nancy Silverton is better known as a chef/restaurateur rather than as a baker– but her culinary roots reach back to pastry and to the California food revolution.