Happy Thursday, folks! Happy Passover/Easter/whatever to you as well! Last night I hosted a little gathering at my apartment in celebration of the coming of Spring; everyone brought some food or some wine and we had a wonderful spread. I did have one real goal for the evening though, to use up all of these leftovers from my friend’s Passover seder on Tuesday night! I had a dozen hard-boiled eggs which were pretty easy to work with … I made deviled eggs with sriracha (definitely a winner). But then I had a HUGE tupperware filled with charoset, which for those of you who don’t know, is a traditional Jewish “paste,” (I’m at a loss for a better word, perhaps “relish”? “Chutney”?) of fruit, nuts, honey, and sweet wine that has a symbolic place at the table during the Passover seder.
And we had a lot of it leftover.
So I set out thinking how I could incorporate it into a dessert. This was the first experience I’ve ever had with a seder, or Passover really for that matter, but the flavor of the fruit and nut blend was surprisingly familiar – it reminded me of the sweet, nutty filling of baclava, or perhaps the sweet, nutty, fruity filling of a rugelach (also a traditional Jewish confection). I thought of crumbly pies, chewy granola, all sorts of delightful things that come together from the natural pair of fruit and nuts. And I couldn’t find a proper recipe anywhere online for something to do with the charoset! There were crumbles, and pies with a matzo crust (I wasn’t too interested in that), but not surprisingly, there weren’t any recipes involving charoset with any kind of leavened bread. I thought I’d pioneer this field, and take advantage of the sweetness of this paste I’d suddenly come into a great deal of, and turn it into sticky buns.
Which led me to the discovery of the BEST sticky bun dough in existence. And the “sticky bun” formula is totally customizable. This batch was filled with charoset and topped with some vanilla bean glaze leftover from my last batch of doughnuts. But it could have EASILY been filled with brown sugar and cinnamon and topped with sugar and caramel and pecans. Get creative! I have no idea how this particular charoset was made, but I know there were golden raisins, apples, walnuts, cinnamon and a bunch of other delightful things in it, and there are recipes all over the internet if you’d like to make some. For your convenience, and the sake of having a complete recipe though, I’ll include a basic cinnamon/sugar filling for you, and the recipe for my vanilla bean glaze. Have at it! Also, apologies for the lack of detailed process pictures, I don’t have a real camera at the moment. But Bon Appetit has a good how-to for assembling sticky buns!
THE BEST STICKY BUNS
Dough (adapted from Bon Appetit)
2/3 C milk
4 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp sugar (you’ll use them separately)
1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast (or one 1/4 oz. envelope if you’ve got envelopes)
2 large eggs + 1 egg for a wash
2 3/4 C AP flour + extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
1/2 C (one stick) + 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 C (one stick) unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 C dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 C (half a stick) unsalted butter
splash of milk
1 vanilla bean
2 C confectioners sugar (approximately, it could take more to get the desired consistency)
1/2 tsp corn syrup (not necessary, but helps achieve that optimal “glaze” texture)
1. Start with the dough, since it’ll have to rise for a bit. Heat your milk in the microwave or in a saucepan until it’s hot, but NOT scalding. You want it cool enough that you can dip your finger in and say “this is comfortable.” You want it hot to help the yeasties along and if it’s too hot for you it’s DEFINITELY too hot for them. (Temperature should be about 105°F if you wanna check.) Add 1 Tbsp of your sugar, whisk, and sprinkle your yeast over top, whisking again. Let it sit until it’s foamy and alive, about 5 minutes. Once foamy, whisk in both eggs until incorporated.
2. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with your flour, remaining sugar, and salt, and mix. If you’ve got a stand mixer, check out how BA did it in their recipe, but I don’t, so you can stick with me for the hands-on way. Add your milk mixture and stir with a spatula, and start adding your stick of butter, in inch-sized chunks. With your spatula / your hands, fully incorporate the butter into your dough. Keep working at it, kneading it in the bowl for a few minutes, until all the butter is in there and invisible and it starts looking smooth instead of greasy. If it doesn’t stop looking greasy, sprinkle a little more flour over it and give another minute or two of kneading.
3. Set your dough ball it in another bowl, lined with your remaning Tbsp of butter, melted, to avoid stick. Cover in plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size. Then refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or overnight if you’re working ahead of time.
4. For the filling, you literally just mix everything together. Using a hand mixer if you want, or don’t. It’ll be fine.
5. When your dough is ready, flour your surface and turn it out of the bowl, and punch it down. Roll it out into a big rectangle, about 12″ wide, and as long as you’d like. I made mine about 20″ long and got 12 buns out of it. If you’ve got a square baking pan, go for 12″x16″ and try to get 9. Spread your filling out on your rectangle and roll it up. Cut it into discs with a knife, and flatten each one out as your arrange it in your parchment-lined baking pan. They shouldn’t touch yet! They’ll do that as they cook. You definitely want a pan with walls too so the buns can all squish together as they bake. It keeps them nice and moist that way. Let them rise in a warm place for another hour or so.
6. Preheat your oven while they rise to 350°F. After they rise, beat your remaining egg with a splash of water and brush it on top of each one. Stick ’em in the oven on the middle rack for about 50 minutes, until their tops are golden and they’re cooked through. Rotate halfway through, and if they start getting brown too soon, tent some aluminum foil over the top.
7. Make the glaze! Melt the butter in a saucepan with the milk, scrape in the vanilla bean guts and throw in the bean and stir for 5 minutes. Remove the bean and stir in the corn syrup if using, and then remove from heat and add the confectioners sugar. Stir until smooth.
8. Let cool for 10 minutes or so until they’re not deathly hot, and then just dump that glaze all over the top. Spread it all around every bun and make sure no bun gets left behind (ha). Serve immediately! Or save for a little later and just pop them in a warm oven for 15 minutes. They are so soft and delightful when they’re warm, and will definitely be good a day later too, given the same warm-oven treatment.
Perfect for brunch, or dessert, or breakfast, or lunch, or ANYTHING. Except Passover … leavened bread is a problem there, but no one at my party last night seemed to mind… But I bet they’d make a great Easter brunch addition!
Cheers to the arrival of Spring and the end of this ghastly winter!