Published September 1, 2004.
These bakery favorites are often too sweet, too big, too rich, and just too much.
Various recipes yield less than perfect results. One was too lean-more like a sugar-soaked baguette. One was cakey, with an insubstantial crumb, and it had a meager amount of sticky goo. Another was doughy and had a hard sugar veneer. The most laborious recipe resulted-some 18 hours later-in overly rich sticky buns that weren’t worth the time or the effort. Those recipes that contained nuts, which were baked beneath the buns, had in common soggy, steamy pecans or walnuts that contributed little to either flavor or texture.
A sticky bun should be neither dense nor bready. The crumb should be tender and feathery and the sticky glaze gently chewy and gooey; the flavor should be warm and spicy, buttery and sweet-but just enough so that devouring one isn't a feat.
These multi-component treats demanded a series of ingredient testing that led cooks to settle on a buttermilk base that left the buns' flavor and texture rich without being heavy, the crumb tender and light. Six tablespoons of melted butter and 4 eggs later, the dough was sweet and moist with substantial chew. Only dry ingredients remained, all-purpose flour ultimately outperforming bread flour. A spiced sweet and assertive filling followed, using brown rather than granulated sugar because of its superior texture and deep color. For warmth and fragrance, ground cinnamon and ground cloves were added. For purely aesthetic glazing purposes, light brown sugar beat out its darker counterpart. Two tablespoons of heavy cream turned a once-taffy-like glaze to a more creamy caramel consistency that did not glue itself to the pizza stone-propped baking dish. Rather, the elevation vastly improved the evenness of browning and allowed the bottoms of the buns (which, bear in mind, later become the tops) to bake through in spite of all the goo that they sat in. Ten minutes of pre-inversion cooling allowed the glaze to take on a texture viscous enough to generously blanket the surface. Crowned with a toasted pecan topping - butter, light brown sugar, corn syrup, and toasted, chopped pecans - the sticky buns had achieved greatness.list of recipes