Aida Mollenkamp has just released her first book – Keys to the Kitchen published by Chronicle Books, October 2012 – and I’m thoroughly enjoying cooking from it. The book is very like Aida – smart, fun, witty, knowledgeable and most of all down to earth – these really are tips you will want to learn and recipes that you will keep coming back to – each time tweaking them to make them your own. This book would be top of my list for anyone who loves to cook but is in need of some guidance in the kitchen to improve their skills and bump it up a notch or two.
The subtitle of the book is The Essential Reference For Becoming a More Accomplished, Adventurous Cook – and it really is just that. Take her listing of ingredient quantities – rather than give us the traditional US way of measuring with cups she uses both cups and grams – so you can weigh your ingredients which will result in much more accurate cooking. This is especially useful when baking. The photograph of the cup of almonds illustrates this point – the 115g of toasted sliced almonds called for in the recipe comes up in a peak above the cup top. If I had measured out using the cup I would be short of more than an almond or two. Not the end of the world when it comes to the nuts that embellish these sticky buns but it could make all the difference if you use too much sugar or heaven forbid not enough butter. Being brioche there’s a lot of butter!
When I first flicked through the book, drooling over the sumptuous photographs by Alex Farnum and loving the clear, informative illustrations by Alyson Thomas, I folded over the corner of page 156 – the recipe for Almond Brioche Sticky Buns. I had been planning to cook up a batch of sticky buns as a birthday present for Krissy Lefebvre when she returned from New York and this recipe called out for me to try it.
The recipe is marked as ‘Difficulty – Hard’ – I’m not sure why because I found it pretty straightforward. It did give me extra brownie points from my husband who read the ‘Hard’ and was even more complimentary about the finished bun as he tucked in to it. “Better than anything store bought, really professional, well done!” [Funnily enough the other recipe I marked to attempt was also 'Hard' - the Caramelized Fennel Tarte Tatin, I'll get back to you on how this came out.] With a little planning – the dough is left to rise in the refrigerator overnight – you can roll out the brioche dough in the morning and have a large batch of sticky buns for a late breakfast/brunch. Below you can see I got a little carried away and measured out the 18″ x 8″ rectangle for the dough using my wooden yard stick. Next time I do this recipe I will change the dimensions of the rectangle to 18″ x 12″ – this would give the finished rolls more of a spiral. I also used Organic Turbinado raw cane sugar in my spice filling – this gave a nice sugary crunch in the finished buns, but you may prefer to stick with the regular granulated sugar in the original recipe.
I also cut the salt down from 1 tablespoon to a teaspoon – there’s salt in the glaze and the spice filling and I really didn’t miss it in the finished buns. I also only had fat free milk in the refrigerator.
I am planning to make this again – trying to figure out if I can freeze half the batch, and at what point in the rising process? I know from Trader Joes frozen sticky buns they come flat and frozen and then double in size over night, ready for baking. I wonder if I could risk it? Perhaps I’ll just divide the recipe in half next time.
And now to the House of the Rising Buns… Knowing when the buns were perfectly proofed was a little tricky – the recipe says to wait until ‘rolls are almost doubled in size and have risen into one another, about 30 minutes’. I used the finger-dent test – when you gently press the dough in the 1/2 inch indentation should gently spring back slowly and incompletely – if it needs more time it springs back immediately. Be warned – if you leave the buns to proof for two long they will pass a point of no return and be overproofed – the indentation won’t spring back at all. Pop the buns into the oven and wait and enjoy about 30 – 40 minutes of heavenly spicey scents – this would be an excellent choice for baking if you wanted to sell your house quickly – filling every room with the rich aroma of sugar and spice and all things nice.
The finished buns are then inverted onto a plate in one quick move – I have a long rectangular platter that is the perfect size for the tray of buns. Using a clear glass baking dish is useful at this time – not only to see that the buns are cooked all the way through but to watch as the air gets under the buns and they come away from the baking dish and onto the platter.
Aida’s book opens with one of my favorite Julia Child quotations ‘Everything in moderation… including moderation.” These sticky buns are lacking in all moderation – and they are so good it’s hard to show constraint – I could have eaten one, two even three in one sitting! Perhaps I did – my memory escapes me. Who’s counting? – moderation in moderation remember. I know that Krissy worked her way through 9 of the buns this week – with a little help and two thumbs up from the little Lefebvres too!
Almond Brioche Sticky Buns
Adapted from Aida Mollenkamp – Keys to the Kitchen, published by Chronicle Books, 2012, used with permission.
1 cup/240ml skim milk (heated to 100 F/38 C to 115 F/45 C
1/4 cup/50g granulated sugar
1/4-oz packet (2 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast [make sure to get instant or active dry yeast - don't use rapid rise yeast in this recipe because it won't produce the same results).
6 tablespoons/85g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature, plus extra melted butter for coating the bowl and pan
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 large eggs (at room temperature) lightly beaten
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups/500g unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup/100g granualated sugar - I used Organic Turbinado raw cane sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup/115g unsalted butter
1 cup/200g packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup/60ml heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup/115 g toasted sliced almonds
Makes 12 large sticky buns
For the Brioche Dough
1. Place the warm milk and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and sprinkle with the yeast. Set aside to reset until the mixture bubbles - about 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Coat the inside of a large bowl with butter and set aside.
3. Add the salt, zest, eggs and vanilla and mix until evenly incorporated.
4. Add the flour a spoonful at a time until the dough is moistened throughout and starts to come together. Mix on medium speed until the dough completely pulls away from the sides of the bowl to form a ball, and is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the 6 tablespoons of butter piece by piece, letter each fully incorporate before adding the next.
6. Place the dough in the prepared bowl, turn to coat in butter and cover with plastic wrap. (I used the 'Nancy Silverton plastic wrap ribbon' to wrap around the top of the bowl to seal the plastic cover). Set aside in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 1 hour.
7. When the dough has doubled in size, fold it in onto itself, cover again and place it in the refrigerator overnight to rise, 12 to 36 hours.
For the Spice Filling
In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt, mix well and set aside.
For the Glaze
1. Combine the butter, brown sugar, agave syrup and salt in a medium pan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Cook without stirring until fluid and well combined - just swirl the pan as needed to help cook evenly.
3. Remove from the heat, pour in the cream and swirl to combine. Set aside until ready to use.
To assemble the Sticky Buns
1. The following morning remove the dough from the refrigerator and let rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. [I spent this time making up the spice filling and the glaze].
2. On a well floured work surface with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 18 – 20″ x 8″ rectangle. [I would make the rectangle at least 20 inches next time I make up the buns - rather than the 18 inches called for in the recipe].
3. Spread the butter evenly over the dough, spinkle with filling and press to ensure it adheres to the dough.
4. Starting at the long edge closest to you, roll up into a cylinder (as necessary stretch dough to ensure it rolls up evenly). Using a sharp knife coated in butter trim off uneven bits at the end and then slice the cylinder into 12 (1 1/2 inch) buns.
5. Coat a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with butter and pour in the glaze to cover the bottom. Scatter the almonds evenly over the glaze and place the buns in the pan. (At this point you can cover the buns in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night). If baking immediately set, uncovered, to rise until rolls are almost doubled in size and have risen into one another, about 30 minutes.
6. Heat the oven to 350 F and arrange the rack in the middle. (If the buns have been refrigerated, let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.)
7. Bake the buns until they are puffed, golden brown, and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center roll reads 190 F, 35-40 minutes. My buns were a little brown before they were fully baked and so I used a little foil to cover for the last 10 minutes of baking.
8. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before inverting onto a plate. Serve immediately.
Garnish with pine nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans instead of almonds.
Use ginger, cardamom or nutmeg in place of the cloves.
Swap orange zest for the lemon zest.
I am definitely thinking up a Christmas version of these – a riff on stolen or pain d’epices or panettone – with holiday spices and nuts – perfect for Christmas morning for stocking opening by the tree… okay, okay far too soon to be thinking about this in October – but Target already have their Holiday decorations and shelves up – oh yes they do!
For those of you who live in Los Angeles Aida is planning a few book events:
10/27 – Party at Handsome Coffee Roasters