Christmas Morning Sticky Buns
Borrowing again from Carl Sagan (what can I say? I'm a big fan), I've always viewed cooking through the same way he viewed science: less as a specific body of knowledge and more as a way of thinking. “It urges on us a fine balance between no-holds-barred openness to new ideas, however heretical, and the most rigorous skeptical scrutiny of everything — new ideas and established wisdom.”
From reading my previous posts with State14, you'd think that I'm one to constantly throw off established traditions in favor of doing things bigger or better. The idea, however, has never been to shake things up merely for the act of doing it, but to examine these hallmarks to see if they're really worth sticking with.
With the holiday season now in full-swing, we once again fall back on the traditions we know and love. Religious or secular, we all have something to be happy for this time of year, whether it be spending time with loved ones, exchanging gifts, outdoor sports, or even just a few extra federal holidays off from work.
For me, Christmas is the tradition, although my family has never been religious. We always went to cut our own tree. We always watch the Rankin/Bass specials. We always have dinner with one set of grandparents or the other. And for breakfast, my dad always makes these amazing sticky buns.
I don't know where or when my dad came up with this recipe. I don't even know when it became our thing for Christmas morning. It's just kind of always been there. He's always been a bit-of-this and pinch-of-that type of person when it comes to food, which is largely, if not entirely, how I started cooking myself.
The dough isn't a sweet dough, like you would use for cinnamon rolls or maybe doughnuts. Surprisingly, a potato bread from Betty Crocker's Cookbook c.1978 (a copy of which I've seen in nearly every home kitchen, with varying degrees of duct tape holding the spine together) forms the base of of these decadent buns.
From there, the recipe is more or less guesswork. I like to imagine that my dad, as he's known to do, flung open the pantry cabinet doors and started grabbing things that might go together: brown sugar, cinnamon, nuts. The real kicker is butterscotch pudding mix. There's no liquid that goes into the topping, so rather than a thick glaze, the buns are coated with sticky caramel, which quickly sets to a hard-crack when given a chance to cool (in all likelihood, they won't last long enough).
Scarfed down with copious amount of eggnog, these sticky buns formed the basis of my Christmas memories. For the first time, probably in my whole life, I won't be spending the holidays with my family. Dad retired from the military this year (woo!) and they decided to spend the winter in warmer weather; With record-setting low temps sweeping the Green Mountain State, I can't say I blame them. However, Christmas morning isn't Christmas morning without dad's sticky buns, so it's a sure bet that I'll be popping them in the oven bright and early.
I certainly could make these a different way, informed from a professional standpoint. But that really isn't the point this time 'round.
Butterscotch Sticky Buns
makes 8-10 rolls, depending on size
· Active-Dry Yeast, 1 package (2¼ teaspoons)
· Water, 105F to 115F, 1½ cups
· Mashed Potatoes, unseasoned, 1 cup
· Granulated Sugar, 2/3 cup
· Butter, unsalted, softened, 2/3 cup
· Kosher Salt, 1½ teaspoons
· Egg, whole, 2 each
· All-Purpose Flour, 7-8 cups
In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in potatoes, sugar, butter, salt, eggs and 3 cups of flour. Beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth. Switch to dough hook attachment and mix on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Add enough flour to form a workable dough. Divide dough into 8-10 equally sized pieces.
· Cinnamon, ground, about 2 tablespoons, plus more as needed
· Brown Sugar, about ½ cup, plus more as needed
· Cook-and-Serve Butterscotch Pudding Mix, 1 box
· Pecans, chopped, about 1 cup
· Dough, from above
Grease the bottom of a bundt or angle food cake pan with butter or cooking spray. Over the bottom of the pan, sprinkle cinnamon, brown sugar, pudding mix and pecans in an even layer. Place dough evenly around the pan, leaving enough room for the dough to expand slightly. Lightly top dough with more brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover lightly with a towel and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350F. Remove pan from fridge and allow to come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Bake at 350F until a toothpick inserted into the dough comes out clean, about 35-50 minutes. Invert onto a plate or serving tray, serve hot.