Brioche-style Sticky Buns

Bon appétit!
Bon appétit!

I’m really excited because I’ve just found the perfect sticky bun recipe. I love sticky buns and have eaten many over the years, but I’ve always thought there were a few aspects that could be improved. This new recipe does all that and the result is a sticky bun that’s better than I ever imagined. First of all, I don’t like raisins, and these are entirely raisin-less. Second, they’re made from a rich butter- and egg-laden brioche dough, so they’re much lighter and fluffier than a typically dense sticky bun. Third, there’s no cinnamon, which might sound surprising, but it allows the flavour of the brioche and the sugar topping to really shine. Fourth, each bun is shaped individually from a rope of dough, eliminating the usual annoying step of rolling out dough and slicing into rounds. They’re utterly decadent, but totally worth it. Make them today — but please don’t faint at the quantities of butter and sugar beforehand!

Rich and Sticky Buns (from Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid)

2 tsp active yeast
2 tbsp water
2-3/4 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup pastry or cake flour, or about another 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
3/4 lb (3 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft (so it can be squeezed through your fingers)

Topping
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar

Dissolve the yeast in the water in a small cup. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add 2-3/4 cups of the all-purpose flour, the pastry or cake flour, eggs, sugar, and salt, and mix on low speed for 5 minutes, stopping occasionally to pull the dough down off the dough hook. The dough will be quite stiff; add up to 1/2 cup more flour if it seems very soft.

Leaving the mixer on low speed, toss in approximately 2 tbsp of the softened butter and mix until incorporated, then toss in another 2 tbsp. Repeat until all the butter has been incorporated, then continue mixing for another 3-5 minutes, until the dough is soft, almost gooey, and climbing up the dough hook; it should also be pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in volume, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Pull the dough away from the sides of the bowl and transfer to a plastic bag. Flatten the dough and seal the bag, then refrigerate for at least 6 to 8 hours, or as long as 18 hours.

Prepare the topping before removing the dough from the fridge: Place the butter and sugar in a heavy saucepan and melt them over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the mixture and set aside. Pour the remaining mixture into a 13-by-9-inch pan that’s well-greased.

shaped buns, ready for the oven
shaped buns, ready for the oven

Turn the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut it into quarters and then cut each into 3 pieces. (Each piece should weigh approx. 3 oz.) Work with 1 piece at a time, leaving the rest covered with plastic wrap. Roll the dough under your palm to a thin top about 16 inches long. Twine it into a figure eight, twist once more, and tuck in the round edges (the ends). Lay on the syrup in the pan. Repeat with the remaining pieces, placing them tightly in the pan in 3 rows of 4 each.

Cover the buns with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1-1/2 hours, or until approximately doubled. Preheat oven to 375 F.

If reserved topping has solidified, warm it gently until it is just liquid. Drizzle it over the buns, spreading with a pastry brush. Bake the buns for 20-25 minutes, until a rich golden colour. Immediately invert them onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Let stand for an hour to firm up before serving.

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