Monday, August 3, 2009

Sticky bun

After watching a clip on YouTube, Throw down with Bobby Flay- Sticky bun, I marked down my calendar on the upcoming weekend, "occupied all day". I needed to make this.

The recipe comes from a successful Flour Bakery-Boston. Joanne Chang, who runs the place and if you watched the clip, she won the challenge, of course. Since then, I started to google the famous Flour's sticky bun. People raved about it. The reviews/comments on Flour's pastries are something like this: to die for, extraordinary, worth all the time and effort, sticky buns on steroids, and much much more. The only complaint is about the place being too crowded that people described it as a madhouse, which, I find this rather be a compliment than a disappointment. No one can blame the place of its popularity. (!?)

Joanne uses Brioche dough. I had my first brioche years back. It was not impressive, a greasy type that left some kind of waxy feelings in my mouth. I doubt if this this recipe would throwdown my past brioche disappointment. Before I started , I read the recipe and I sighed. Butter butter butter, this was it. Brioche is born rich (of butter and egg) compare to other kinds of breads. Flour to butter ratio ranges between 50:100 and 100:100. Joanne's falls in the first category known as poor-man brioche. I am glad to start with the leaner version. The result was very satisfying and I do not think I would alter for richer dough. In other words, I do not want to spend my week end on the thread mill, if not necessary.

Brioche Dough:

2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-ounce cake yeast = 0.4 oz of active dry yeast, = 0.30 oz of instant dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt (or half the portion if table salt is used)
1/2 cup ice water
5 eggs
11 ounces butter, softened

2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1/2 pound butter
15 ounces brown sugar
5 ounces honey
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup water

First thing first. It's summer time. The weather is hot and humid. Kitchen temp is around 31 C and humidity is above 60% as it had been raining all week long. I was thinking that I might not need all the wet ingredients so I cut back half of the water in recipe.

Also, since I was skeptical of the result, I halved the recipe and used only 2 eggs (supposed to be 2.5 eggs as called for in the recipe) which weighed 95 g. So, in order to replace missing half egg, I added 25 g of water instead (well, egg white contains water, right), apologies for my love of convenience. I use the combination of bread and all-purpose flour as instructed. The cake yeast seems to be the problem for home baker like me. I used SAF instant yeast, reduced it to one-third of cake yeast which was around 0.15 oz. Be reminded that I halved the recipe. The tiny amount of yeast was almost beyond my scale capability to measure. I guess the scale accuracy is 0.05 oz so it blinked back and forth between 0.10 and 0.15.

As mentioned before, I cut back the water by half knowing that adding butter would make the dough soggy later on, especially in a warm/humid kitchen. The dough was really dry at first. But when added butter (it was half liquid-solid state and I think it was over melted. The instruction calls for soft stage), it became very wet and sticky.

I attached the hook to my stand mixer but finally changed to paddle. I continued to beat at medium speed for 15 minutes. The dough, or should I call it batter (?) was wet and it did not pass window pane test. And yes, even that I reduced the water by half the dough was wet. So I added 2 tablespoons of flour, beat further for 5 minutes. Well, ya I know....I was mumbling to myself that this was a disaster. I should have figured it out sooner that more flour was needed. Professional bakers who are reading this are so ready to whip me to death. zzchez...z..

The dough finally came off the bowl , which was a good sign. It almost passed the window pane test. I decided to stop the machine, feared that beating it further would mess up the leavening. The dough looked oily, soft and pliable. I rested the dough over night in the fridge. Note that the recipe requires to rest the dough for 5 hours.

Goo – Put butter and sugar in a non stick pan, medium heat. Reduce until very thick. Let warm. In a separate bowl, stir together honey, cream and water. Stir cream mixture into butter+sugar mixture, stir until well blended. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for next day, it will become more solid after resting in the fridge.

Baking day – Turn on the oven to 350 F. spread goo on roasting pan, at least 2.5 inch tall, set aside. I have an 8" x8"x2” pan which was not tall enough. I later found out the goo boiled and overflew, a bit messy there .
On a flour surface, roll out the dough into approximately 1/4-inch thick. I would recommend 8"x8” rectangular perhaps? Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans and sprinkle evenly on the brioche. Or alternately, I sprinkled cinnamon generously until it covered up the dough then sprinkled brown sugar. I think I used around half cup. Keep in mind that the bun will be topped with Goo, so make it skimpy on sugar at this point, just enough to make nice brownish layer. Roll the dough up as tightly as possible as it will unwind during rest period. I wonder if it is possible to seal the edge? Some suggested to brush edges lightly with egg to seal. Well, I did not try that.

Warnings for those who work in warm kitchen. The dough tends to be sticky as you roll. So you'd better work quickly. I did so, tried my best to roll the dough into a nice rectangle but ended up rolling the dough unevenly into Oklahoma-state shape, approximately 8"x12", yielded 8 large rolls, 1 mid-size roll and 3 tiny rolls. Yes, I know I'm such a novice.

Each roll was around 1-1.5 inch thick. I placed 9 buns, evenly 1/2-inch spaced in the pan. For the 3 small rolls, I put them into individual muffin cups which are 1.5 time as large in volume. Cover with well-greased plastic wrap and allow rising until they expanded 1.5-2 times of original size. It took around 1.5 hr in my kitchen.

See, the bun hugged each other nicely in roasting pan. Zzch ! one photo shot for nicely proofed buns.

Place the pan in the oven and bake until light golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. I smelled the burnt caramel (as well as trouble) when the goo was sizzling and dripping out of my 2 inch tall pan. Oh no, I was hoping that my neighbor who are pensioners would not knock my door with walking stick and ask what was burning. If you have taller pan, do use it.

I rotated the pan at 25 minutes to get it cooked evenly. After 40 minutes, the top turned light golden brown. I took them off the oven, let cool for 20 minutes and then invert onto a large plates.

For the 3 tiny pieces that I placed in muffin cups. I baked with the rest of proper-sized buns. They turn out to be nicely shaped, wrapped up tightly in muffin cup. When inverted, the goo did not make them soggy. This was because I poured goo just enough to coat, around them. The ugly ducks finally turned out to be swans.!

The buns that I baked in 8'x8' pan, top bits were a bit soggy. The dough texture however was very impressive. I would say ‘extraordinary’ soft , light and fluffy. It is worth all the effort and the messy (goo) that I need to clean up . I took a bite and I thought it made my day. So I took the second one....(on and on). Before I munched them all up, I decided to put it down and finally finish some photo shoots.

Then, I was thinking about the last 2 tablespoon of flour that I added in later stage of kneading. Um...may be it was just small amount and didn't ruin the rest of the texture. Maybe?

The goo is just lovely, it gives milky aroma. I added a pinch of salt by the way. My Chinese colleagues said it’s totally too sweet. They had it cold the next morning i.e. took right out of the fridge, and told me the texture was good. It is so wrong that they had it cold, don't you think?

Some notes on the goo :
- It makes the bun soggy. Not sure what have gone wrong. Next time I will spread just enough to brown the bun. Think we can always put some more on top of finished product.
- It is too sweet for Asian taste, perhaps. But I think I am totally fine with it as is.
- I may experiment replacing butter with cream. But probably need to reduce further until it becomes very thick.

The sticky bun is addictive especially when it was warm. I could not put it down after the photo shoot. Best is to walk away. Well, there is nothing wrong with occasionally enjoying some indulgence as long as you don't go overboard. Moderation is what you need to repeatedly whisper to yourself.
To do after munching the second bun, sign up for half marathon in December. Yes! run baby run, baby run...n.