Walnut Maple Sticky Buns

So I thought that my experience of the dreaded Vehicle Inspection Center was a one-time thing that I had conquered. Ha!  Little did I know that there is an annual visit requirement to renew your car registration.  That includes: going into the office to pay for a vehicle inspection (where the idea of a line does not exist).  Then going to get in your car and wait in line for your inspection (even here a line just barely exists because it is harder to crowd up when you are in your car). Then wait for the inspection to be completed.  Then wait for your certificate to be printed up.  Then finally wait in line to file for re-registration of your vehicle. 
   Back home, you can renew your registration by mail, but here, I guess we would have to actually have an address and a real mail system first if that were to be an option.  Hmmm...or the possibility of an online option might be a wild and crazy idea. 
If you drew a line from left to right, and created a spectrum from left with things that you detested and to the right with things that you love....Any type of Vehicle Registration Center would certainly be on the left just beating out the doctor's office, and Sticky Buns(!) would certainly be on the far right.  The warm buttery smell of cinnamon, browned butter and toasted nuts can pretty much brighten up any average day.  I think sticky buns are actually really under utilized....imagine if you gave a really mean, nasty person a sticky bun.  It would at the very least make them quiet for a minute while they ate it.
I usually find myself tending away from sticky bun recipes because they can be complicated and have multiple steps, but this one was actually fairly easy, especially considering the stellar results.  You don't need any special kitchen tools, but you do need a little patience to let the dough rise. 

I used walnuts, obviously, but you can really use any nut, or a mix.  The only one stipulation is that they really need to be toasted.  The flavor multiplies dramatically when they are toasted.

Really good sticky buns are surprisingly hard to find here in Abu Dhabi.  I have never actually seen them at any hotel's magnificent brunch...and if they were there, I would seriously like to challenge them against these.

Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz and The New Sugar & Spice by Samantha Seneviratne

For the dough
6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 85g) unsalted butter, cubed
2/3 cups (160ml) whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups (320g) flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

For the topping
6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 85g) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (45g) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) good quality maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup (140g) nuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped

For the filling
1/4 cup (45g) dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces, 42g) butter, salted or unsalted, at room temperature

1. To make the dough, warm the butter, milk and sugar in a small saucepan. Pour into a medium bowl and let stand until slightly tepid. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk, stir gently, and let sit in a warm place until it starts to bubble, about 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Mix in the egg, flour, and salt, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes.  Knead the dough a few times until it’s a smooth ball, place it back in the bowl and cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Time can vary, and it may take longer, or less time.

3. While the dough is rising, make the topping. Lightly butter a 9-inch (23cm) round or 8-inch (20cm) square cake pan. Heat the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and salt in a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer and cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. When it gets foamy, after a minute or so, when a few of the bubbles start to get larger, remove from heat. (Samantha notes in her book that if using a thermometer, the temperature should read 212ºF (100ºC).

4. Pour the maple caramel into the prepared cake pan and strew the nuts over the caramel. Set aside.

5. To make the filling, mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

6. When the dough has risen, knead the dough a couple of times on a lightly floured countertop and roll it into a 10-inch (25cm) square. Spread the softened butter over the dough and sprinkle evenly with the filling mixture. Roll up the dough as tightly as possible and using a serrated knife, cut the dough into 8 or 9 slices. If using a square pan, cut into 9. If using a round pan, cut into 8. Place them in the pan with the cut side up. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean, lint-free kitchen towel, and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour. After this rise, you can also put them in the refrigerator if you want to bake them early the next morning.

7. Ten minutes before you’re ready to bake the sticky buns, preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Place the pan of sticky buns on a baking sheet lined with foil (to catch any overflow drips or spill) and bake until the center roll is lightly browned on top and it doesn’t feel soft when you press it with your finger, 25 to 30 minutes.

8. Remove the rolls from the oven. Let cool for 5 minutes then run a knife around the outside. Then tip the sticky buns out onto a cooling rack or serving platter.


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