Ah, sticky buns: my preferred cousin to the cinnamon bun. Not that I have anything against cinnamon buns, you understand… but cream cheese icing and I have an on-again, off-again relationship (I keep cheating on it with chocolate ganache frosting). There’s something about the super-thick, gooey, and in places hard-baked crunchy caramel that gives sticky buns their name… and I prefer it to a dairy-based topping for these spiraled goodies.
There’s a back story here (surprise, surprise). I don’t think I’d truly fallen in love with sticky buns until my family and I took a road trip (picture: giant Safari van towing a pop-up camper) out to Canada’s east coast. For a couple of days, we camped in the gorgeous Bay of Fundy National Park and stocked up on supplies in the neighbouring town of Alma. This particular town needs to be commended for two things: lobster and sticky buns. There’s a teeny tiny bakery called Kelly's that sells them by the half-dozen, hot from the oven every morning. We learned quickly to get ‘em before they were gone. I can’t remember how we heard of Kelly's… perhaps Mom and Dad had found it during their east coast trip in 1984. That could explain my devotion to these buns… I could have been exposed in utero, since I had accompanied my parents as a first-trimester bun in the oven (pun totally intended). At any rate, returning as a young adult, I immensely enjoyed them again after a dinner of lobster and corn on the cob. Definitely a weekend in food from the archives to remember.
I’ve had a few attempts at sticky buns in the past, and they’ve always been lackluster. Last weekend, though, I was hit with a craving and went for it. I did some Googling, and found this recipe from a Washington D.C. baker’s blog. They look fantastic, as you can see for yourself in Pete’s blog pics. Again, trusting everyday-people-turned-food-bloggers took precedence, and I attempted to follow the dough recipe to a tee. This included halving the recipe for the caramel topping, as Pete suggests. The only problem was the yeast. In the recipe, it looks like Pete just tosses in the yeast with the rest of the ingredients, without letting it “bloom” (a.k.a. wake up from it’s dormant little Fleischman’s package nap) first. Then again, he didn’t really specify what kind of yeast he was using, either… he could have been using an active yeast cake. Hrm. In the end, against my better judgment, I tossed the dry yeast in where the recipe indicates.
|Some call it kneading; I call it "frustration management"|
|Ready to roll.|
This was a mistake. The dough did not rise. I gave up after two hours and formed the rolls; the rolls, in turn, did not rise. I could still see the little dried yeast granules distributed throughout the dough like little tan-coloured poppyseeds. Not cool. In the end, I nestled almost all the rolls together in my glass pie dish, said a quick little prayer, and popped them in the oven.
Now, given the yeast situation prior to baking, I had placed these rolls quite close together. I figured, if they haven’t risen in the past four hours of prep, they wouldn’t rise now. I was wrong. Luckily I had placed my pizza pan underneath to catch any overflow, so my oven didn’t go up in burnt caramel smoke. Whew.
In the end, the sticky buns were MORE than edible… in fact, they only lasted a few days. The dough was a bit dense, sure, but still quite tender and moist. I wish I had trusted my instincts and “woken up” the yeast with a touch of warm water and a pinch of sugar… but then again, this mistake means I get to try, try again!
Hoping my next batch “rises to the occasion”,