I got the nutty notion to make sticky buns yesterday. After Googling, "World's Best Cinnamon Roll", I decided that I already had more know-how than most of those recipe writers (and copy-and-pasters).
My ideal cinnamon roll should be light, tending toward fluffy, with a tender crumb and a distinct, but not heavy cinnamon sugar filling. Raisins are o.k., but quite superfluous. A simple powdered sugar and water icing, lightly flavored with vanilla and lemon zest is sufficient for this type.
The sub-category, the ultra rich, nutty and gooey sticky buns with pecans, or, second best, walnuts, should be heavily glazed by the sticky bun caramel schmear. All is rich with real butter.
My Google research came up with all sorts of baffling recipes. Some had no eggs. Others, no milk. Some had an insufficiency of fat in the dough; calling, for instance, for a tablespoon of oil.
I rejected all those, and turned by favorite source book, "The Fanny Farmer Baking Book", by Marian Cunningham.
Two sweet dough recipes are given; a standard one, rich with eggs, milk and butter; and a potato sweet dough, which promises to be lighter and fluffier though milk less.
Why not combine the best of both for optimal results? I do that a lot. The problem is, while moving from one recipe to another, I skipped over the sugar, the very thing that makes it a sweet dough. I rationalized that because of all the enriching, sweet fillings and toppings that the dough would carry, the small amount of sugar in the dough would never be missed. (I was a bit dazed from having just awakened from a nap. That's my excuse. Or maybe I DID put in the sugar. )
I was right: after the bulk dough spent the night in the fridge, I let it come towards room temperature for a couple of hours, then rolled it out. It was very easy to work with.
I patted on and spread 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, then a heady blend of dark brown sugar and cinnamon. (Why had I ever used white sugar for this before? It's much better with brown sugar.)
Then I prepared the schmear for the 3 cake pans. One and 1/2 sticks more of softened butter, a little over a cup of brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of honey (dark corn syrup is usually called for, but honey tastes so much better), a tablespoon of flour; blending well. I added a tablespoon or two of very hot water to smooth it out.
This schmear coated 3, 9 inch round cake pans very generously— a bit too much, so that there was overflow and burning of the excess during baking. That's why I put the cake pans on foil lined baking sheets, and another sheet in the bottom of the oven.
Each schmeared pan got a generous handful of pecan halves distributed more or less evenly. The pans hold 8 cut medium sized buns. One pan got only 7. This is a constant in making these. They almost never come out even in number. The cut buns should be lightly pressed into the shmeared pans to help them coalesce during the final proofing (rising).
After proofing on top of the stove as the oven preheated to 350º-375º F., they were ready to bake in about 45 minutes. Thirty minutes oven time saw them mostly done, but with a lot of smoke from burning glaze overflow.
Usually, when the cake pans of buns are inverted onto aluminum foil or parchment paper, they need to return to the oven for 4 or 6 more minutes to finish browning the gooey bottoms.
It's prudent to wait 5 minutes or so for the buns to cool before eating them. The hot glaze is tenacious and unrelenting in burning the tongue or skin.
They are wonderful. We ate 3 for breakfast, then I carried 4 to Sra. Chucha and family.
There's more left here, some to eat soon and some for the freezer.