Cinnamon rolls were born in the Nordic countries, the Americans popularized them, and now you can eat one in most cities around the world. It is not very difficult to deduce why: they are beautiful and their spiral shape makes them impossibly tender, with thin layers that separate with each bite in a kind of sponge cake puff pastry. They also hold up very well over time thanks to the glaze, and are very easy to prepare compared to other pastry preparations. Come on, everyone wins here.
The only problem that I see is that I have already eaten many. Most of them are quite similar in shape, flavor and texture, it is difficult to find a cinnamon roll that makes you say “wow”. There are exceptions, of course: in Madrid the bakery novomundo she makes amazing buttercream puff pastry; and Panem some cinnamon-filled puff pastry knots that make you say “wow” and smile with emotion. But hey, I’m going to beat the bush: the cinnamon rolls are a bit seen, and you have to vary a bit.
Today’s recipe is that of the first cousins of the cinnamon rolls: the sticky bun. The name translates as “sticky buns”, and its definition is as follows: they are normal cinnamon rolls, but instead of having the classic white frosting, they are baked on top of toffee mixed with honey and pecans. They then invert, revealing shiny, fluffy, and most of all, sticky buns. They’re sweet just right, as they should be—hard when that classic white frosting kicks in—and the contrast of textures and flavor that the pecans provide make them, IMHO, a bit superior.
This recipe also includes a tangzhong, a Japanese technique that involves cooking a premix of flour, milk, and water to gelatinize the protein in the flour and increase its water-absorbing capacity. Therefore, by adding the tangzhong to the dough we will get juicier buns, and also a shorter kneading.
The brioche dough is a bit sticky, but with patience and a willingness to eat everything ends up going well.
for the buns
- Tangzhong (20 g flour + 20 ml water + 20 ml milk)
- 450 g of wheat flour
- 7 g dry instant baker’s yeast
- 50g of sugar
- 2g of salt
- 100 ml of whole milk
- 75 ml of water
- 2 eggs L
- 50 g unsalted butter
For the filling
- 25 g unsalted butter
- 150 g of brown sugar
- 4 g ground cinnamon
- Zest of 1 orange
- Nutmeg to taste
For the glaze
- 125 g unsalted butter
- 125g brown sugar
- 50g honey
- 10 g of cane syrup (optional)
- 2g of salt
- 150 g pecan nuts
To prepare the tangzhong, add the water, milk and flour to a saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir frequently, until it thickens a lot and a sticky and elastic mixture is created. Transfer it to a bowl and let it cool completely.
In a large bowl, add the flour, instant baker’s yeast, sugar, and salt. Mix with a whisk, make a hole in the center, and add the milk, the water, the 2 eggs and the tanzghong. Beat until the mixture is homogeneous and begin to incorporate the flour little by little, creating a dough, passing to the hands when the rods no longer serve.
When all the flour is incorporated and a dough has formed, add the cubed and cream-textured butter in three batches. Incorporate each batch completely by hand before adding the next.
When all the butter is incorporated, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 12 to 15 minutes, or until smooth and fully springs back when pressed with a finger. At first the dough will be a bit sticky, but little by little it should gain structure and become easier to work with.
When the dough is ready, shape it into a ball, transfer it to a lightly floured bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. Let it ferment for two hours at room temperature, or until it has doubled in volume. You can also let it ferment in the fridge overnight, which will further develop its flavor.
While fermenting, chop half of the pecans into irregular pieces and grease a pan with butter. Add the butter, brown sugar, honey, cane syrup, and salt to a skillet, and place over medium-high heat. Mix frequently, until all the sugar has dissolved and a thick, homogeneous mixture has been formed. Transfer all the glaze to the mold, and then spread the chopped walnuts over the entire surface, as well as the rest of the whole walnuts.
Melt the butter for the filling in the microwave and let it cool. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and, when ready, remove the sourdough from the bowl and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll it out with a rolling pin, giving it a rectangle shape, until it measures approximately 50×30 cm. Glaze the entire surface with the cold melted butter, sprinkle all the cinnamon sugar, and grate the orange peel and nutmeg on top.
Roll the dough in on itself, working from side to side and going little by little, making sure it is tight. When fully rolled, lightly pinch the end to seal.
Cut off the ends, and then divide the roll with a serrated knife into 12 equal pieces, dividing it in half, then each half in half, and each half in three. Transfer each piece to the mold with the cut facing up, leaving space between them for growth. Cover the pan with greased plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let it rise at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the rolls are puffy and spring back slightly when pressed with a finger.
Put the rolls in the oven at 180 degrees, heat only from below, for 25 minutes, or until golden. If you want to make sure they’re done and have a thermometer, the inside of the rolls should register 93 degrees.
Remove the rolls from the oven and let them cool for three minutes. Separate the edges with a knife, place a tray on top and turn them over. Tap the base of the mold, and then lift it up. If any of the frosting is left in the pan, quickly spread it back onto the buns before it gets too cold.
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