After meeting Peter Reinhart at the Western Reserve School of Cooking and sampling a host of his baked goods, including two kinds of sticky buns, I couldn’t wait for an excuse to do some baking. The Fourth of July holiday weekend — with family visiting from out of town — gave me just such an excuse.
Although I tested recipes for Peter’s most recent book, Artisan Breads Every Day, and of course picked up the book as soon as it came out, before the class I still hadn’t baked anything from it. I decided to remedy that by making two kinds of sticky buns for breakfast on Saturday. I made one recipe of sticky buns, and baked half of them with Susan’s (Peter’s wife) formerly secret caramel pecan slurry and the other half with honey almond slurry.
As with many of the recipes in Peter’s new book, the sweet dough came together quickly with very little mixing. It is kept at least overnight or up to a few days in the refrigerator, where it ferments and develops its structure. I also mixed up the slurries, so that on baking day all I had to do was throw it all together.
On Saturday morning I got the dough out of the fridge, cut it into two pieces, and let it rest for about 20 minutes while I prepared the cinnamon-sugar mixture and melted some butter. I rolled each half of the dough out to a 12- x 15-inch rectangle, brushed it with butter, and sprinkled it generously with cinnamon sugar. Then I rolled the dough up from the long side and sliced it into rolls.
I had to soften the slurries in the microwave for a few seconds, as they firmed up to the point of being impossible to spread. Then I slathered the slurries in 9-inch round baking pans and added the buns.
I let the sticky buns rise for about two hours, until they had risen to fill the pans, then prepared the oven for baking.
At first, I forgot to set the pans on a sheet pan to catch any overflow, but I remembered before the slurry boiled over into the oven. The buns took longer to bake than the recipe suggested. In class, Peter stressed the importance of checking to slurry to make sure it has caramelized before taking the rolls out of the oven.
As you can see from the picture, I had pretty good caramelization, with the exception of the very center of the buns made with Susan’s slurry (on the right).
When I pulled the pan out of the oven, it was like I had turned on a bug light for everyone in the house. Within a few minutes, when I was ready to cut them, everyone in my and my sister’s families was standing in my kitchen with anticipation. And once I began serving? Well, no one left the kitchen until both pans of sticky buns were completely gone.
Forgiving my lack of modesty, my sticky buns were every bit as good as the ones we sampled in class. And even though I grew up in Lancaster County, PA, eating traditional sticky buns much like Susan’s recipe, I have to say that I preferred the subtle sweetness of the honey almond buns. But it was such a close call that I think I have to make both of them again just to be sure.
Oh, and there’s one more version in the book I haven’t made yet — creamy caramel. I feel it is my duty to give it a try, too.