Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cooking my Bookshelf: Caramel Sticky Buns

Husband out of town for the last few days, and son had a friend stay over last night. For breakfast this morning: Caramel Sticky Buns! The recipe comes from The Best of Southern Living, Oxmoor House, 2007. There's no author listed, but as a compilation of recipes from the magazine Southern Living, I presume they just have their test kitchen put this together. I don't actually subscribe to Southern Living, although I have read it a couple of times. The recipes are an interesting mix of made-from-scratch with the occasional use of convenience products. The authors also have a thing for bacon and cream cheese--although not always in the same recipe. If you've ever seen Paula Dean cook on TV, think Paula Dean only slightly more upscale and slightly (but only slightly) less obsessed with butter. The authors also seem to enjoy putting coconut in their desserts, which I'm not overly fond of.

Today's recipe is for Caramel Sticky Buns. Sticky buns are usually yeast buns rolled with butter and cinnamon sugar baked in brown sugar and butter with pecans. These are very similar, only you make a caramel sauce to bake them in, rather than just butter and brown sugar. The photos are taken on my new iPhone 4S, because my husband left with the camera.

Here's the recipe as written:

Caramel Sticky Buns
Makes 1 dozen

Caramel Sauce
1 (16-ounce) package hot roll mix
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Prepare Caramel Sauce; set aside
2. Prepare roll mix according to package directions. Let stand 5 minutes
3. Pour Caramel Sauce into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch pan; sprinkle with pecans. Roll dough into a 15- x 10-inch rectangle. Spread with butter, and sprinkle with sugar cinnamon. Roll up, jelly-roll fashion, starting at the long edge. Cut into 12 slices. Arrange, cut sides down, over Caramel Sauce.
4. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 F), free from drafts, 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
5. Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes. Let bunds sand on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert onto a serving platter. Serve buns warm.

Caramel Sauce
Makes 2 1/2 cups

2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts, stirring occasionally; remove from heat.
2. Bring sugar, water, and lemon juice to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-high, and boil, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until mixture begins to brown. Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 or until caramel-colored, stirring occasionally.
3. Gradually whisk cream mixture into sugar mixture, whisking constantly. Remove from heat; let stand 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat until a candy thermometer reaches 230 F (thread stage); cool.

So, the caramel sauce takes a little longer than you might think, unless you've made caramel or candy before. It took me about 40 minutes total. A few notes: go by color (rather than time) in the first part of the recipe--you want a nice brown, but don't burn it. I found it took a few minutes more than what was stated. If you've never made caramel before, you may be wondering why the heck you need to use a big old Dutch oven to boil about an inch of liquid. You see that part in the instructions when it tells you to add the cream mixture to the boiling sugar mixture gradually? Take that part seriously--when you start to add the cream, the whole thing will bubble up incredibly high. Trust me when I tell you that you don't want to have to clean hot caramel off your stove, so add gradually and whisk constantly. It will eventually calm down, and you can proceed with cooking it to 230 F. It took about 25 minutes for me.
Here it is at about 225 F. Resist the urge to try some
at this point, unless you didn't actually need your tastebuds.
See how it looks like molten lava?
That comparison is more accurate than you think.
Now, for the bun part of the recipe, I really don't know what "hot roll mix" is. I just make rolls from scratch. I did have a box of bread machine sourdough bread mix languishing in the cupboard. I'm not sure why I bought it, since I no longer use a bread machine and making your own dough really isn't hard. But, here it is:
Since rolls usually have some added sugar, I put in about 2 tablespoons of sugar, then mixed according to the directions. Instead of letting it rest 5 minutes, I let it rest about 25 to let it start to rise. The mix was 14 ounces rather than 16 ounces, as called for in the recipe. I am unclear as to why the recipe calls for a mix--putting together fresh sweet yeast dough is no more difficult than kneading this stuff. The caramel sauce was a much bigger pain in the neck than making dough from scratch would have been.

After 25 minutes, I rolled out the dough.
I didn't actually measure it--I just eyeballed it. Probably not as rectangular as it should be, but oh well. Then I spread the softened butter. You could make sure the butter is very soft then us a knife or a spatula to spread it, but I just used my hands. I mixed the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkled it over the buttered dough.
I rolled up the dough the long way, then pinched it shut.
Since to dough was originally 14 ounces rather than 16, I used a large (10") cake pan rather than a 13"x9? pan. I also cut the dough into 10 pieces rather than 12. First I poured in about half of the caramel sauce, then sprinkled on chopped pecans.
Then I arranged the dough disks.
I covered them with plastic wrap, then let them rise for 30 minutes.
Ready for the oven!
I baked for 22 minutes, adding a couple of minutes due to the shape of the pan. After tasting them, they probably could have used another three minutes in the oven, as the center ones were a little undercooked on the bottom.

A word about baking--make sure you put some aluminum foil under the pan while you're cooking, because the caramel may bubble over. Cleaning burned caramel of the bottom of the oven is not on my list of fun things to do.
You don't really want to clean that stuff off your
oven, do you?
After the 10 minute rest, I turned the buns out onto a plate. I had to bang the plate and pan on the counter a few times to get the buns to release, but it did work.
One more hint if you've never worked with hot caramel. Soak all the dishes and pans in hot water before trying to wash them--the hot water will dissolve the sugar, making cleanup a lot easier.

The verdict? I loved them. Daughter "didn't like the nuts." Son "didn't like the caramel." I am raising Philistines.

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