I've always been afraid of yeast, very afraid. Just the thought of cooking with something that is alive and growing in my dough makes me want to just go to the bakery and buy something pre-made. To date, I've made one recipe that included yeast: hot cross buns.
That was until I watched a Julia Child PBS special with Nancy Silverton of La Brea bakery in LA. She made these fantastic looking sticky buns with her brioche dough and I thought "Mmmm, brioche. Mmmmm sticky buns. I can do this!" Julia Child actually said they were the best sticky buns she had ever had IN HER LIFE. Now THERE is a compliment!
So without thinking twice, ("Am I capable of a La Brea recipe?" "Can I make the best sticky buns Julia Child has ever had IN HER LIFE?") I headed into my kitchen where by some miracle I actually had a package of yeast in the bottom of my bread basket. One packet was just enough for the sticky buns.
So I re-watched the special and scribbled down the recipe, trying to catch everything she was doing as she was doing it. (It's really helpful to watch her technique, bread baking can be the devil).
The most difficult part of this recipe is that it takes time, lots of time. It's not a difficult recipe to make, it's just rather time consuming waiting for the yeast to do its thing over and over and over again. (In the recipe below, I have highlighted the time requirements in red.) I wanted these for brunch on a Sunday, so I completed most of the recipe on Saturday. Before bed Saturday night I cut the rolls, placed them in the sugar/butter mixture and put them in the refrigerator overnight. Sunday morning at 8 a.m. I removed them from the refrigerator and let them rise until about 11:30 (more time because they were cold). They were ready to eat by noon. If I had wanted to have them first thing in the morning, I would have set my alarm for 6 a.m. to remove them from the refrigerator, then baked them at about 8:30 or 9:oo.
Let's just say these babies were worth the wait. My husband and I immediately ate two each and I refuse to allow myself to think about the calorie count in those two sticky buns. But after a two day wait, we couldn't put off our indulgence any longer. There are three buns left...who knows how long they will last.
This dough recipe is based on a brioche recipe. You can use it for brioche, sticky buns, cinnamon buns, desserts, etc. Don't be afraid! You'll be so glad you made them! They are probably the best sticky buns I have had IN MY LIFE!
2 1/4 tsp. dried yeast (one packet)
1/3 cup warm milk
1 egg (room temperature)
1 cup all-purpose flour (scoop flour and then level off with a knife)
Place the above ingredients in your mixing bowl (using a stand mixer). Mix it up a little with a spatula.
Cover this yeast mixture with a second cup of flour, which will insulate the sponge so it does not dry out. Let mixture sit.
After 30 or 40 minutes the yeast mixture should rise and crack, which shows you that the yeast is alive. If you get no rise, your yeast is probably not good.
Add to the mixing bowl, on top of the dry flour "insulator":
1/3 cup (rounded) sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup flour (reserve another 1/2 cup flour to add if needed)
Turn on the mixer at a slow speed, using the hook attachment. The dough should wrap itself around the hook. Let it mix for 15 minutes, adding the reserved 1/2 cup of flour if the dough looks too wet. When the dough is ready, you should hear a slapping sound on the side of your bowl.
Prepare 1 1/2 sticks of butter:
Your butter should be room temperature, not too soft, not melty (or your brioche will be greasy), cool but plyable.
Mash the butter on your counter top using a rolling pin, to get the butter to the same consistency as your dough.
Incorporate your butter little by little into your dough, and mix until all the butter is incorporated, scraping butter from the side of the bowl with a spatula if needed.
Stop as soon as the butter is incorporated. You should hear that slapping noise again.
The temperature of the dough should be cool so the butter doesn't get oily. Transfer your dough to a lightly oiled bowl and put it in a warm place until it doubles in volume (about 2 hours).
Once the dough has risen, gently turn it clockwise in the bowl to redistribute the yeast. The dough will lose some of its air which is ok, it will rise again.
Place dough in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours (or overnight).
You will need:
3 oz. butter at room temperature
1 egg, beaten
flour for surface
Divide chilled dough in half. Put one half back in the refrigerator.
Roll out the dough to 11 x 14 inches. Be sure not to touch the dough too much, and use flour on your surface to keep dough from sticking. Turn dough as needed.
Dot 3 ounces of room temperature butter throughout the surface of the 11 x 14 sheet of dough.
Fold the sheet of dough in thirds (left side over the center, then right side over that). Chill for 30 minutes. Do the same with the second half of your dough that is in the refrigerator.
After 30 minutes, your dough is ready to roll.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface (add more flour as necessary). If butter peaks out add a little extra flour in that spot. Roll again to an 11 x 14 inch sheet.
Using one beaten egg as a wash, brush the egg wash all over the surface of your dough, being sure to get to the ends so the dough will close.
2 Tb sugar
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 stick butter room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
20 - 25 whole pecans
Take 2 Tablespoons of sugar mixed with 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle over the egg wash. Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans on top of the sugar mixture.
Starting with the side closest to you, roll up your dough (not too tight). Place dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment and cover with saran wrap. Freeze for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare your pan: spread one stick of softened butter on the bottom of the pan and add 1/2 cup brown sugar over that. (You can also add more chopped pecans to this mixture if you don't want to use whole pecans on the rolls.)
Cut the frozen log into 7 - 8 rolls 1 1/2 inch thick. Place 2-3 whole pecans on the top of the roll, and place it pecan-side down in your pan. Don't let rolls touch, they need space to expand.
Let these rise for another 2 hours or so.
Preheat oven to 350F. Bake rolls for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Let rolls cool for about 5 minutes, then invert onto your serving dish. Scrape any remaining buttery sauce out of the bottom of your pan.
Serve warm or room temperature.