Yesterday, Alice sat down at Penzey‘s where I was picking up some spices to color. When I was done checking out and walked over to inspect my artwork, she said, “This is a caramel roll.”
Well, Alice, I can take a hint. So last night, I mixed up the tried-and-true sweet batter for cinnamon and sticky buns from my favorite bread cookbook (The Bread Baker’s Apprentice). This time, I skipped nuts and fruit and modified the caramel recipe, and took what was a super-solid recipe into mind-blowing sweet roll goodness.
Without further ado:
Sarah’s Sticky Rolls
(adapted ever-so-slightly from Bread Baker’s Apprentice)
- 6.5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5.5 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten
- grated zest of one lemon
- 3.5 to 4 cups flour
- 2.25 teaspoons instant yeast (the instant yeast is important. Forget active dry yeast if you want to bake bread; find a place you can trust that sells SAF instant yeast, an airtight container to store it in the fridge. For the investment, you’ll have far less frustration with bread.)
- 1.25 cups buttermilk
- .5 cup cinnamon sugar (6 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons cinnammon)
- .5 cup granulated sugar
- .5 cup brown sugar
- .5 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- .5 cup agave syrup
cream the sugar, salt, and butter together in a stand mixer using the paddle. Get it good and fluffy. Then whip in egg and zest until smooth and fluffy again. Then add the flour (start with 3.5 cups and reserve the last half cup to get your consistency right), yeast (this is why it is critical to have instant yeast… you can add it right in with the flour and don’t have to dissolve it in anything), and buttermilk. Mix with the paddle on low speed until the dough forms a ball; then, switch to the dough hook and knead (on 2 if you are using a KitchenAid mixer) for at least 10 minutes. I always spend about 5 minutes finishing the knead by hand, mostly because it is fun to have the girls help with this final part. Add your extra flour if you need it here; it’s more of an art than a science, but the dough should be silky, elastic, and should pass the windowpane test.
Put that bad boy in a big ceramic bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and put it somewhere warm to rise until double (I turn the oven on to 150 while I’m mixing, then turn it off once I start kneading. The lightbulb and pilot light, combined with the little bit of heat, make an excellent proofing box).
Mix up the cinnamon sugar sometime while you are waiting (it’ll be 2-4 hours, so plan accordingly).
Also while waiting, mix up the caramel. Melt the butter, sugars, and salt in a saucepan over as low of heat as you can tolerate. Once melted, but not at all browned, pour in the vanilla extract while whisking, then the agave syrup (still whisking). Remove from heat and pour into the bottom of the pan you’ll bake your rolls in (I like an old-fashioned 9×13 metal cake pan for this job).
To shape the rolls, turn out the doubled dough to an oiled surface (Pam on the countertop at this house). Use a rolling pin to make a 10×14 or so rectangle of dough. The most important thing here is to make it at least 2/3 inch thick; I like about 3/4 inch thick, personally… but I like fluffy, pillowy sticky buns. Once you have your rectangle, sprinkle it with the cinnamon sugar and then roll it up the long way, like a giant sweet dough cigar, making a cinnamon sugar spiral. Cut the dough cigar into 12 equal pieces, and put them on top of the caramel in the pan, giving them as much room as you can to expand. Put a lid on that badboy and toss it in the fridge overnight.
Grab the rolls out of the fridge 3 or so hours before you want to bake them so they can proof (yes, this may mean getting up at 5am, digging them out of the fridge, then crawling back into bed, if you are serving them at 9am).
Once proofed, crank up the oven to 350. Once fully heated, bake for 30-40 minutes on the bottommost shelf of the oven until golden brown and caramelicious. (Hint: I always make too much caramel, so it bubbles out of my pan. I have learned to add a drip pan to the bottom of my oven.)
Let rest for 5 minutes, then turn upside down onto a cookie sheet. Grab your coffee, a plate, and a napkin, maybe the NYT crossword, and enjoy.