Sticky Buns

Yesterday, Penn sponsored an event for Senior Week called Walnut Walk, an eight-hour bar crawl across Philadelphia. There were 18 stops, and all offered drink specials for those of us graduating (and some offered drink specials for everyone, which made for severe crowding). There are about 2500 seniors in our class, so the event was inevitably a hot, hot mess.

But if there's anything that we've learned from our four years here, it's that days like yesterday go much more smoothly when everyone is stuffed with food before they begin. We'd been meaning to serve one final brunch after we had so much fun cooking for Homecoming, and yesterday gave us the perfect opportunity. It's amazing how much you can do without homework.

We knew that we had to do cinnamon buns, as we've been meaning to do them forever (along with bagels, which we have yet to accomplish). Both of us love the mall-bought variety, but there's an artificialness to them that we thought we could avoid. We chose a recipe from Epicurious for Ultimate Sticky Buns that reviewers raved were easy and out of this world -- our two criteria. We modified it slightly by increasing the filling, so I'll post what we did below. In the end, they turned out ridiculously delicious. The dough was so sweet and thick, and the filling was gooey and sticky and wonderful. It seeped throughout the buns so that every single bite was dreamy.

Don't touch that dial, more brunch recipes to come in the next few days!

1 cup warm water
4 tsp dry yeast
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup dry nonfat milk powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup water
3 cups pecan halves

4 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

To make dough, mix 1/4 cup warm water, yeast, and pinch of sugar in small bowl. Let rest until foamy, about 8 minutes. Beat remaining sugar, butter, milk powder, and salt in large bowl. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in remaining 3/4 cup warm water and yeast mixture, then 3 cups flour (1 cup at a time.) Using rubber spatula, mix in 1 cup flour, scraping down sides of bowl frequently (dough will be soft and sticky). Sprinkle 1/4 cup flour onto work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Butter another large bowl. Add dough; turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm area until doubled, about 2 1/2 hours.

To make glaze, grease one large pizza pan (or two 10-inch round cake pans) Beat brown sugar, 1 cup butter, honey, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in medium bowl to blend. Spread half of glaze in bottom the pan. Sprinkle pecans over.

Punch down dough, and divide in half. Roll each dough piece out on floured work surface to 12x9-inch rectangle. Brush any excess flour off dough. Grease dough rectangles with remaining 1/4 cup butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over rectangles. Starting at 1 long side, tightly roll up each rectangle into log. Cut each log into 12 rounds. Place rounds, cut side down, prepared pan, spacing evenly. Cover with plastic wrap. (Can be made 1 day ahead; refrigerate.) Let buns rise in warm area until almost doubled, about 1 hour (or 1 hour 25 minutes if refrigerated).

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake buns until deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Run small knife around pan sides to loosen sticky buns. Turn hot buns out onto platter. Cool about 30 minutes and serve.