A light brioche dough, core of cream cheese and light helping of caramel make these buns especially lovely. They are served at Birch & Barley’s Sunday brunch; boxes can be ordered ahead for takeout.
These are not hard to make, but they do involve several steps. Watch how the chef makes them at wapo.st/tiffanystickybuns.
You will have much of the toffee sauce and half of the cinnamon sugar left over. The sauce is great to serve on ice cream or warm gingerbread, and it makes a nice gift.
Make Ahead: All of the prep work (dough, toffee, nuts, cinnamon sugar) can be done at least several days in advance and the results refrigerated or frozen. The dough takes 2 days to prepare. It needs to rest in the refrigerator for 5 to 12 hours on the first day; the assembled, unbaked buns can be refrigerated overnight, then need to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours before baking.
Servings: 12 - 24
Yield: Makes 12 large buns or 24 regular-size buns
- For the topping
- 1 pound dark brown sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 18 tablespoons pecan halves
- For the cinnamon sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- For the dough
- 3 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup sugar, plus a pinch for the yeast mixture
- 1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) loosely packed fresh yeast (may substitute 2 tablespoons plus 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast)
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 11 tablespoons (5.5 ounces, or 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 12 tablespoons chilled regular or low-fat cream cheese, cut into 36 pieces total for large buns and 72 pieces total for regular-size buns (do not use nonfat)
For the topping: Combine the dark brown sugar, cream and butter a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved, then cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Whisk or briefly blend with an immersion (stick) blender, then cool to room temperature; the yield is about 4 cups. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use or for up to 2 weeks.
Toast the pecans in a dry skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned. Cool, then coarsely chop. Store at room temperature until ready to use.
For the cinnamon sugar: Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a wide, shallow bowl.
For the dough: Combine the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat on low speed to mix well.
Stir together the yeast, water and remaining pinch of sugar in a large measuring cup (with tall sides). Add the eggs and use an immersion (stick) blender to puree until smooth and well incorporated.
Pour the yeast-egg mixture into the flour mixture. Beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined, for about 5 minutes, stopping a few times to scrape down the beater and the sides of the bowl.
Add the butter in three additions, allowing it to become thoroughly incorporated. Once it has all been added, beat for 5 minutes (on medium speed) to form an elastic, pliable dough, stopping to scrape down the beater and the sides of the bowl as needed.
Grease a large bowl with nonstick cooking oil spray. Transfer the dough to the bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 and up to 12 hours (overnight). It will rise.
Once the dough has rested, spray the wells of a 12-count (or two 6-count) jumbo muffin pan(s) with nonstick cooking oil spray. (Alternatively, use two 12-count muffin pans with regular-size wells.) Place a tablespoon of the toffee and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the chopped toasted pecans in each well.
Turn the dough onto a clean, dry surface (or spray the surface with a little nonstick cooking oil spray as needed). Divide the dough into 12 pieces of equal size (or 24 pieces, if using regular-size muffin pans). Roll each piece of dough into a log 5 to 6 inches long. Roll each log in the bowl of cinnamon sugar, then transfer to the clean, dry surface and flatten slightly.
Use the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture to coat the pieces of cream cheese.
Space 3 teaspoon-size pieces of the coated cream cheese evenly apart on each flattened log of dough, then roll the dough into a spiral bun, standing 1 rolled bun in each greased muffin well. At this point, the buns are ready for a final rise (see below), but they can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
About 1 1/2 hours before you are ready to bake, transfer the pan(s) of unbaked buns from the refrigerator to a warm place to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until they have almost doubled in size, with domed tops.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have 3 large baking sheets at hand, plus some ovenproof items that can be used as weights.
Place one pan of proofed buns on a rimmed baking sheet, to catch drips. Use nonstick cooking oil spray to liberally grease the underside of one baking sheet, then place it, greased side down, directly on the tops of the buns. (If you are baking 2 pans of buns, bake them 1 pan at a time.) Place a large, heavy cast-iron skillet or other ovenproof weight on the top baking sheet; that will ensure flat bottoms when the baked sticky buns are inverted.
Bake on the middle oven rack for 25 to 28 minutes (or 15 to 17 minutes for a convection oven), or until deep golden brown (peek under the tray to check doneness). Transfer to the counter; carefully remove the weight and top baking sheet, then immediately invert the muffin pan onto the third (clean) baking sheet. Gently wiggle the pan, and the buns should dislodge easily. Coat with any remaining toffee in the pan. (Repeat the process if you have a second pan of buns to bake.)
From Tiffany MacIsaac, pastry chef at Birch & Barley in Logan Circle.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.