Monday, May 9, 2011

Honey Buns

Honey Buns

Yes, Houston, we have honey buns.  I emerged from the kitchen covered in flour, short on patience, and a little bit sticky, but my first attempt at gooey, doughy yeast buns was a success.

Leftover honey from winter led to looking through my recipes and finding a honey bun recipe I clipped a year or two ago, and then buying the special ingredients like mascarpone cheese and creme fraiche to make them over Easter when Emily was here, but not actually doing it, and then being under pressure to make them over the weekend before the expiration dates. 

Honey Buns
adapted from Martha Stewart magazine, not sure which issue
Makes 9 (plus two extra portions of dough for future use)

For the dough:
2 T. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup whole milk at room temperature
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1/2 cup honey (any type)
2 t. coarse salt
1 t. vanilla
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the surface
vegetable oil, for the bowl

For the filling and topping:
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup honey (any type) plus more for brushing and drizzling
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 T. sugar
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup chopped pecans

I made the dough the night before.  Notice there aren't any photos.  It was challenging to figure out to follow the recipe which wasn't clear enough for me as a newbie to making yeast rolls.

Make the dough:  sprinkle yeast over warm water in a small bowl.  Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  This didn't happen.  Maybe my water wasn't warm enough to start.  So I microwaved it for a 5 seconds, hoping that it would start to foam if it got warmer, but then I was stressed that I had killed the yeast.   

Whisk milk, butter, eggs, honey, salt and vanilla with a mixer on medium speed.  Add yeast mixture, and whisk for 1 minute.  Switch to dough hook, reduce speed to low, and add 4 cups flour.  After flour is incorporated, raise speed to medium and continue kneading.  My mixture looked awful.  Sort of like butter bits suspended in a milky solution, but it looked better after I added the flour.  Maybe my eggs and milk and butter weren't warm enough.  They are supposed to be at room temperature.

Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing until dough no longer sticks to the bowl.  My dough kept sticking so I just kept adding flour.  About an extra cup.

Raise speed to medium-high, and knead for 10 minutes.  (Alternately, knead by hand until smooth, 15 to 20 minutes.)  My Kitchenaid stand mixer really got a workout.  The machine wobbled and was very hot by the end.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until dough is very smooth, about 5 minutes.  My turn for a workout!  Five minutes is long time to knead!  Glad I had a machine to do the first part.

Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic and set aside in a warm, draft free spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  I used our oven for this step.  Earlier I heated it to the lowest setting, then turned it off, and left the door open.  Inside it was probably in the 80's by the time I put the dough into rise.  This step went well.  My yeast was not dead!  The dough doubled quickly.

Punch down dough.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 3 portions.  Roll each into a ball.  Freeze 2 for up to 3 months (thaw in refrigerator before using).  I put two in the freezer and one in the fridge overnight, tightly wrapped in plastic.

In the morning, I continued.

Make the filling and topping: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in honey, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a gentle simmer, then remove from heat. Let cool. Combine mascarpone and creme fraiche in a bowl. Mascarpone is like Italian cream cheese, and creme fraiche is like a fancy, more expensive version of sour cream.

Roll remaining dough into a 10 by 13 1/2 inch rectangle.  Brush lightly with honey, spread mascarpone mixture evenly on top, leaving a 1 inch border, and sprinkle with pecans.  Starting on one long side, roll dough into a log.  Pinch along seam to seal.  Cut into nine 1.5 inch slices.

Pour honey mixture into a 8 inch square baking pan.  This is the sticky component.

Place buns, cut sides down, in pan, 3 to a row.  The two smaller ones, the runts of the roll, capsized.  Next time I will know to have the filling spread evenly across all the roll before slicing them.

Let buns rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes.  Mine grew too big for the pan.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place oven rack in lower third.  They are getting gigantic! Oh, no!

Bake buns, rotating halfway through, until brown and bubbling, about 1 hour.  I lost most of my sticky sauce when the pan overflowed.  Good thing I put them on a cookie sheet to catch the drips.

(If buns darken too quickly, cover with foil.)  I foiled mine, but they still burned a little.

Set a wire rack on a baking sheet.  Immediately invert buns onto rack.  Drizzle with honey, and serve warm.

The sugar and honey formed a candy-like surface, similar to a caramel apple, which was a little too chewy for my taste.  But, the dough inside was soft and had a good flavor.

I missed the traditional flavors of cinnamon and whatever else is in a sticky bun. Honey was nice, but seemed too mild. So, with my two remaining portions of dough, waiting to be used in the freezer, I am going do a little research and then attempt to make traditional sticky buns. 


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