This recipe started circling through my head a couple weeks ago but there was never any time to give it a shot. Deadlines, more deadlines, taking the cat to acupuncture, taking myself to acupuncture (Note: the cat and I have different doctors…) and then more deadlines.
This past week, though, Rick was off work and we were celebrating our anniversary with a vacation at home – getting to all those things there’s never enough time for, watching the last of the Veronica Mars series (we’d never seen it!) and many, many different Fast & Furious movies as the new movie is hitting theaters. We stayed up way too late on our last night off. Even though we had to be up at 5:30 for Rick to go to work, we watched all of Fast & Furious 2 and had to talk ourselves out of staying up for Tokyo Drift.
So with the week off there was time to start the batter Saturday night and see if it could endure a retarded rise overnight in the refrigerator. It did, though if I leave it overnight again I’ll grease the bowl – it was a little hard and a little wrinkled when it came out in the morning. Kind of the way I feel most mornings.
I gave the dough half an hour or so to warm up, even though it had risen to the top of the bowl.
For the bread, I took half the batter and punched it down on a lightly floured marble pastry board. I had a very small packet of walnut halves I’d coarsely chopped and then roasted at 325 for 15 minutes just on a sheet of foil. (Some time ago I bought a little two part hand-crank nut grinder from King Arthur Flour. It looks like something that Lucy Ricardo would be selling, just like a late night TV ad: “But wait! There’s more!” But it’s actually fabulous. Drop the nuts in, turn in one direction for larger pieces, another for smaller, and the chopped nuts drop into a measuring cup.)
I had less than an entire palm-full of toasted chopped walnuts and I scattered them over the bread and kneaded them in, along with what was seriously only a dusting of cinnamon – maybe two very judicious sprinkles and that was kneaded throughout too. Then formed a loaf which remained very small and cold and unfriendly until it went into the oven. It never peeked over the pan, never did anything to prove itself willing to turn into a fragrant, delicious loaf.
For the buns, I used a cupcake tin for 12 regular size cupcakes. At first I thought I really wanted a larger sized tin but this turned out perfect. Each cup got about a teaspoon and a half of very cold salted butter, and 2 rounded teaspoons full of light brown sugar. The majority of the toasted walnuts were divided among those cups, then 3 got a sprinkle of cinnamon, 3 got a sprinkle of both cinnamon and nutmeg, 3 got both cinnamon and nutmeg and two slices of frozen and thawed organic peach slices, and 3 just got brown sugar and walnuts.
With the exception of the peaches, all of the toppings went into the preheating oven so the butter and sugar could melt and meld. The peaches went in after the melted bits came back out of the oven and were therefore between the caramel and the bun, which worked out very nicely. Pretty as two slices are bracketing the bun top, cutting it into bite sized pieces would stop the entire slice of peach from coming off in one bite.
The dough for the buns got cut into 12 pieces, rolled into balls and placed in the cups on top of the butter, brown sugar, etc. Bread and buns were covered with a light tea towel and left on top of the oven to warm. Oven preheated to 425.
The buns took 15 minutes and came out fantastic. Only problem is when turned upside down onto waxed paper, they left a lot of sticky caramel and nuts on the tin. I thought butter would be enough to discourage that. Next time, then, either nonstick tin or a light greasing with vegetable oil (canola doesn’t seem to leave a vile, Hello, I’m vegetable oil taste).
The nutmeg somehow gets lost, though there’s no harm in sprinkling it gently. I’d guess I used less than 1/8 teaspoon for all the cups that had it.
The bread came out at 25 minutes. It tapped hollow and turned out of the pan beautifully and it’s really, really good bread. It’s a thick, hearty bread, which makes no sense, since the loaf itself feels light as a feather. I think it could have used 2 to 3 more minutes, so probably depending on variations in ovens, time for the bread is best put as 25 to 30 minutes.
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 packages active dry yeast (not rapid rise)
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ cup hot water
2 cups all purpose flour
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the buttermilk. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Add the salt and sugar. In a large mixing bowl, 2 cups all purpose flour. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the buttermilk/yeast mixture, and pour in the ¾ cup of hot water. Mix in just enough flour to make a thick paste.
Let the sponge rise for 20 minutes, covered with plastic wrap or, if you’re like me and can’t remember to buy cling wrap, cut up a large plastic baggie and drape it over the bowl.
1 to 3 more cups all purpose flour
Mix 1 cup flour into the sponge. When I took the dough from the bowl, it was very sticky, and only had the initial 2 cups + this additional cup. On my lightly floured marble board, I kneaded for about 8 minutes, adding an entire fourth cup of flour.
Return to a good sized mixing bowl, cover and allow to rise. This is where I covered the bowl with the savaged gallon plastic bag and put the whole thing in the refrigerator until the next morning. Next time if I leave it overnight I’ll oil the bowl. Otherwise I think a clean or well-scraped bowl would be enough if the dough is just going to rise on the counter.
When the dough came out of the refrigerator Sunday morning I let it sit for about 30 minutes to warm, despite it being very well risen. I preheated the oven to 425 while it was rising.
On a lightly floured board I punched down the dough and divided it in half. The bread got the dusting of cinnamon, scant handful of toasted walnuts and was kneaded gently to form a loaf. I used a regular sized loaf pan, nonstick, light colored, and lightly greased.
For the buns, see above, with the details about caramel sticky topping.
Both buns and bread rose under a light clean dish towel on top of the oven as it preheated. Buns baked for 15 minutes, bread for 25; see above for details on the bread – it could have used a little more time.
A lovely, fattening experiment that resulted in a guilt-ridden early morning hike today but more than worth it. I get the urge to make sticky buns about once a year, and most of the time have been less than thrilled with the recipes – enough so that I don’t have a go to recipe. This might be the one; definitely the bread was perfect and the buns? Are all gone.