February 22, 2012

I’ve been busy. It’s that time of year, isn’t it? Head down, trying to make a dent in the perpetual to do list.

There has been a lot of cooking, but nothing of any particular interest. Just the old favorites, pantry friendly, quick meals that satisfy and don’t demand. It’s also the time of year I begin to evaluate the previous year of preservation. Will I need more tomatoes next year? Are the pints as useful as the quarts? That urge to pickle asparagus not once, not twice, but three times has resulted in a dozen jars still to go. And asparagus season is only moments away. Lesson learned.

Peach jam doesn’t get used, but peach pie filling does. Raspberry jam, plain and simple, is the household favorite, and I need more.

Indeed, 47 pints of frozen pesto was just way too much. Four basil plants will be enough this year.

The lessons go on and on.

While doing inventory, I found the last of the sticky buns. A recipe I’ve made since I was a teenager, and one I turn to when I need some quiet kitchen time, wanting to make a recipe so familiar it’s meditative.

When I moved to my first apartment, The Fannie Farmer Baking Book was one of five cookbooks my mother insisted would start my library. The other cookbooks, for the record, were Joy of Cooking, Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and the Gourmet Cookbooks, Vol. I & II. And a subscription to Gourmet, of course.

Long before it was bloggable, I baked every recipe in the Fannie Farmer book, to teach myself how to bake. It was a two or three year process, during which time I fell in love with lemon squares, sables and homemade hamburger buns. I brought dessert into work frequently, and became known for my sweet confections.

And oh, gracious, the sticky buns, those were special. There is a rhythm, a process, a quiet contemplative path to making these breakfast treats – the ambrosia of a warm, caramel soaked and covered yeasty eggy buttery roll.

The recipe makes three pans, or 24 rolls. Way more than any human being needs at one time.  Just because they have that allure and no one needs to eat two dozen sticky pecan rolls. Not that it’s ever happened or anything.

So I devised a way to make the effort pay in triplicate. Freezing. It’s so simple and you’ll have a treat on hand and waiting for the perfect moment. However you might define perfection.

All I know is.. when I found a pan-full of sticky buns this week, it was cause for celebration.

Take the frozen rolls out after dinner and just leave them on the counter until morning. They will defrost, and then rise. In the morning, bake and serve in about half an hour. Your household will be happy.

I use these amazing paper pans. They’re reasonably priced and available through King Arthur and many kitchen stores.


Sticky Buns
From The Fanny Farmer Baking Book, with my notes and methods
Makes 24 rolls

Sweet yeast dough
5 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 c warm water
1 c warm milk
1/4 c white sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
2 tsp sea salt
4 oz unsalted, best quality sweet butter, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
4-3/4 to 5 c white whole wheat flour

In a small bowl, bloom the yeast in the warm water for five minutes.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat together the milk, sugar, salt, butter and eggs until frothy, add the yeast, then add half the flour.

Stir well and then allow this mixture to stand for ten minutes, for the flour to absorb the liquids.

Add the remaining flour and stir well with the paddle attachment of a mixer) until it’s sort of rough and shaggy.

Turn out the dough onto a floured board, cover with the bowl and allow the dough to rest for ten minutes.

Flour your hands and using a bench scraper, turn and fold the dough until it becomes silky and elastic. Sprinkle with additional flour as necessary, but keeping extra flour out of this dough is what keeps it light textured, so try to use a quick, light hand. I like to use the bench scraper as a tool to turn and incorporate the dough and think it works better than my hands, as they tend to be too warm. Cold hands are the way to this dough’s heart.

Once it’s beautiful and smooth, form a tight ball and place in a buttered bowl. Cover and let rise until double, about two hours.

While the dough is rising, make the caramel glaze by mixing together

6 oz best quality unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 c brown sugar

Then stir together the filling

3 oz best quality unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch allspice
pinch clove
1 c toasted chopped pecans
1 c plumped golden raisins

Butter the inside of three paper ring pans, or three pie dishes, or one 9×13 pan.

For the following tasks, I like to use my scale, weighing the whole, dividing by three, and then portioning each element out, as it makes everything very tidy and perfect.

Divide the caramel glaze between the pans, coating the bottom of the pan generously.

When the dough has risen, deflate and then divide it into three parts.

Roll out each segment into a rectangle 8″ x 12″.

Place 1/3 of the filling on the rectangle and then roll up, jelly roll style, starting from the 12″ side. Press the seam together well.

Cut each roll into eight pieces, placing the pieces in the pan, snuggled up next to one another.

At this point, you can easily place a pan into a ziplock gallon sized bag, remove the air, and place the pan right into the freezer until you are ready to serve.

Preheat the oven to 375°

When you are ready, take the pan out of the freezer and let it warm up overnight on the counter. Open the ziplock bag to allow the yeast to work and breathe. The rolls will rise. (Or if not frozen, just allow the pan of rolls to rise – about thirty minutes, then proceed with the baking.)

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until they are toasty brown and the caramel is bubbly.

Remove from the oven and let them cool in the pan for a few minutes – at least five – then invert onto a serving pan and pull the baking dish away with a big Ta-Da!

Eat these rolls warm. Really.



17 Responses to “when in doubt, bake sticky buns”

  1. Linda

    I love those disposable pans! I’m not a big sticky bun person but my guests always love them! And so does my husband….

  2. Gail

    Q. What could be better than warm sticky buns?
    A. Sticky buns waiting in the freezer ready to be baked; that’s what’s better.

  3. Amanda

    I have fond memories of visiting my grandparents and going to the farmers market early in the morning for a pan of fresh warm sticky buns. Freezing them is a brilliant idea. I’ll have to give this one a go when we’re eating sugar again.

  4. Wendy Read - Sunchowder

    Ah yes! These look oh so tasty, would love some time to make them..sorting through 100 lbs of citrus today 🙂 I have a beautiful monkey bread stoneware piece, these would be perfect..a girl can dream…

  5. Couscous & Consciousness

    I love the idea of freezing these – that would make for a wonderful Sunday morning treat – and I love your paper pans. I’ve seen them in the shops here and never would have thought to use them for something like this, but that’s a brilliant idea.

    Here in New Zealand, Joy of Cooking is not a book I had ever heard of until an American friend of mine showed me her well-used copy a while back – it’s been on my wish list ever since. It’s getting close to the top of the list now thought, so hopefully soon 🙂


  6. Elyse

    I live your writing. I can hear you talking as i read
    What exactly is white whole wheat flour?

    • Cathy

      I get it at the grocery store – a King Arthur product. You can sub AP, white all purpose, flour.

  7. Sara

    Cathy, I love sticky buns and you have given me the encouragement with this wonderful post to attempt on my own!

  8. Barbara | Creative Culinary

    Your story made me glance at my library. Joy of Cooking (with a price inside the cover of $8.50!). Julia and Fannie too although I also have a 1974 edition of Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. It’s not so new anymore but it was an invaluable resource for most of the basics that started me on this journey.

    Love nothing more than a recipe that makes extras that can be frozen. Wishing I had some now; they look fantastic Cathy.

  9. Alex

    Soooooo delicious and easy! I’ve never been able to make any kind of sweet roll before now, but I will definitely keep this recipe.


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