apricot pecan cinna-buns

May 15, 2012 § 12 Comments

Published over 25 years ago, Baking with Julia is not shy about the butter. After all the cookbook is based on Julia Child’s PBS television series, and one of her famous lines is “If you are afraid of butter, use cream.” A young Nancy Silverton, known more for her artisanal sourdough breads than excessive use of butter, shows she can be right at home in Julia’s kitchen, with her brioche-based pecan sticky buns weighing in at over a pound of butter and 3/4 pound of sugar for a dozen or so buns. I reduced both ingredients by more than half, and we still enjoyed a rich and sweet breakfast treat. Although not as deliciously decadent as the originals, at least we lived to tell about it.

The recipe begins with an unusual method of proofing a sponge under half of its flour. When the flour “cracks”, you have a clear indicator that the sponge is ready to use. I’m in L.A. baking at sea level this month. My mom’s KitchenAid mixer is probably close to 50 years old, so I baby the old girl and skimp on the mixing time and keep the speed on low.

This is the softest stickiest brioche dough I’ve ever made (I only add 4 oz. instead of 6 oz. of very soft butter, but make it up with 1/4 cup of full fat yogurt). Since the sponge was really active, I decide to skip the room temperature rise and put it directly into the refrigerator for an overnight rise. It almost doubles overnight.

I decided to skip Nancy’s signature technique of laminating 6 more ounces of butter into the chilled dough. Instead I made a filling by beating 3 oz. of very soft butter with 2/3 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and a generous pinch of salt.

I toast then chop 1 cup of pecans and chop 1/2 cup of California Bleinheim apricots. I line the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment. Only when everything is ready do I take the dough out of the refrigerator. I’m going to roll out all of the dough instead of doing half at a time, so I need to work fast so it doesn’t warm up and get sticky. To save more time I also want to get the buns into the pan without having to re-chill the dough (think how late can I sleep and still have these in the morning).

The cinnamon butter sugar mixture doesn’t look like enough but easily covers the full batch of rolled out dough

Sprinkle your choice of goodies over the filling and then gently but quickly roll up towards the “naked” edge which will stick and hold everything inside. Brush off any excess flour with a pastry brush, and if the dough sticks to the board, free it with a knife or other metal edge.

It’s easiest to mark then cut the roll into halves, then quarters and then cut each quarter into 4 pieces. The ends are smaller, so I stuff them into the center of the pan, arranging the rest of the buns in a 3 x 5 pattern. In less than an hour, the buns have proofed to fill the pan and are ready to bake. (My lighting isn’t consistent, but yes, the dough was a beautiful golden yellow from the farm eggs I used.)

Since I’m using a bigger pan than the recipe specified, I reduce the baking temperature slightly to 325°F and bake until the tops are pretty evenly browned. This dough is so moist, tender and rich I don’t really miss the sticky topping, and using a buttery filling gives a similar effect to laminating, while saving a lot of time. The shortcuts also cut down on the messes and cleanup time, so I’ll probably stick to doing these cinna-buns instead of sticky buns. This is my new favorite brioche recipe though, and you can find links to the recipe, plus other bakers’ buns at Tuesdays with Dorie.


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