Classic Sticky Buns

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This is a recipe that the very pregnant Atlas found in a magazine my mother picked up called Donna Hay (it’s Australian.  Hello, Australians!).  I figured I would master the basic sticky buns so that later she and I could do the more complicated, fancy variations (so stay tuned for that).  We’ve already made one version of lovely cinnamon buns on Ali Does It, but I’m not above trying new recipes to see which ones I like the best.  So here goes!

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Let’s start with the dough.

Take a small bowl and 2/3 cup milk and heat up the milk until it’s lukewarm.  Add to that 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast and give it a wee stir.

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Set that someplace warm for 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to bubble and foam up.

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Lightly beat up 2 eggs.  Just bruise them a little.  Rough ’em up but no broken bones.

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And melt 125g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter (I used salted butter and left out the 1/4 teaspoon sea salt I was supposed to add).

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Plop 3 cups flour and 1/4 cup sugar into the bowl of your electric mixer.

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Add in the yeast mixture, the butter, and the eggs and mix on low for 1 minute until everything is combined.  You are supposed to use the dough hook attachment but I couldn’t find it so I went with ol’ reliable the paddle here.

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After a minute, turn the mixer to high and beat for another 5-8 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

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Scoop the dough out into a clean, lightly greased bowl, cover it with a damp tea towel, and set it somewhere warm to rise for an hour.

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Now the tops of these puppies are going to be covered in a sticky gooey maple glaze, which is actually going to go in the bottom of the pan and then when it’s all ready you’re going to flip it upside down.

For the glaze, take a small saucepan and dump in 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 75g unsalted butter (or salted, if you’re daring like me — it’s roughly 1/3 cup for you imperials).

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Cook, stirring, over low heat until everything is melted and dissolved.  Raise the heat to medium and bring your sugar mix to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until smooth.

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Pour the glaze into the bottom of a lightly greased 20cm x 30cm baking pan (~9″ x 13″) and set aside.  Isn’t this pan nice?  It’s like the one in the magazine, and I said to my dad, “hey, if you were thinking of a Christmas present for me, this would be nice,” and he said, “we did.  It’s upstairs.”  TADA.  Early Christmas present.

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Once the spatula cooled off enough not to burn my face, I ate the toffee off it. It was lovely.

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Now we’re going to make a cinnamon butter to spread inside the rolls.  In the bowl of your electric mixer, dump 100g softened unsalted butter (I used salted, and eyeballed it to be somewhere between 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup — this isn’t an exact science), 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.

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Whip those silly for about 5 minutes, until all pale and fluffy and heavenly.  Set that aside.

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Now take your dough, which should have doubled in size, and slap it between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper.  Roll it out into a rectangle that is about 60cm x 25cm (2 feet by a little less than 1 foot).

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Spread your cinnamon butter all over the rectangle, leaving a 1cm border all around.

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Sprinkle that with 1 cup toasted pecans (I had no pecans, so used raisins instead. I like raisins).

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Take your dough by the long side and roll it up tightly into a happy tube.

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Trim the edges of the bun so everything is even and cut it into 12 equal disks.

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Place the pieces cut side up in the maple glazed baking tin, cover with another damp tea towel, and leave somewhere warm to rise for another 45-60 minutes or until they’re doubled again.

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I took advantage of a cold day to sit them in front of the fire. This is the proofing stage.

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Here they are all puffed up.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and place your baking tin on a baking sheet (to prevent burning sugar spillovers).  Bake for 20 minutes, cover with aluminum foil, then bake for another 15-20 minutes, until all golden and lovely and fully cooked.

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I erred on the side of caution and resisted the urge to continue to bake mine after 35 minutes. The dough around the sides was soft and pale and I wasn’t sure it was cooked but it totally was and made a nice moist bun.

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Let those stand in the pan for 2-3 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool (you might want to line your rack with some parchment to catch drips).  I think I may have cooked  my maple glaze a bit long because it hardened quite a bit.  It was still super good, but not as sticky as I thought it should have been.

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Final step: EAT THEM.

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Cinnamon Buns: What I Do At Work on Fridays

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Remember how I started that Sweet Treats group at work? Not only do I get a glorious baked good every Friday morning, but I get to experience a number of new and intriguing recipes. This one is from one of the women I work with, who, before she became a legal assistant, was a professional baker (strangely enough, she is one of several former and current professional bakers associated with the firm, and I’m not sure why).  She made these glorious sticky things for us one rainy Friday a few years ago and I asked her for the recipe almost before I’d swallowed the first bite.  I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to make these for myself.  She says the recipe is a little dicky to make, in terms of time consumption, but not too hard, and totally worth it.  And I totally agree.

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Definitely dropped these on the floor while taking them out of the fridge. It’s all good.

Start with 1 cup milk, and warm that to 115°F (about 46°C — use a thermometer).

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Add to the warm milk 1 tablespoon yeast and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and stir to dissolve.  Let that sit for about 10-15 minutes.

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In a large bowl, mix together 1/2 cup melted butter, 2 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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Add in the yeast mixture and stir to combine.  Add in 1 cup granulated sugar, and then 6-7 cups white flour (you may not need all of it, or you may need more; such is the way of yeast breads, so do one cup at a time), stirring with a wooden spoon until well-combined.

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Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed, then cover and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

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On a clean surface, roll out your dough into a large rectangle.

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In a bowl combine 2 cups brown sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1/2 cup melted butter.  This is your roll filling.  If you wanted you could put pecan pieces or raisins in here as well. Since this was my first time making the recipe I left them out, but they’re totally doable.

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Spread the filling over the rectangle of dough.

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Make sure you go right to the edge.

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Grab one of the long ends and roll it up into a neat little torpedo.

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With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 16-18 little discs.  It’s easiest to do this by cutting the roll in half first, then cutting each section in half again, and then each further section in half, et cetera. The human eye is pretty good at estimating middle points, so this is the best way to ensure that each disc is evenly thick.

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Let those rise for another 45 minutes.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and find yourself a large rimmed baking sheet, about 12″ x 18″ or so and arrange your discs on the sheet, cut sides flat. I put mine on parchment paper. Leave a good amount of space between them because they will spread.

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Bake those suckers for about 30 minutes, or until the tops are browned.

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While the buns are cooling, combine 2 cups confectioners’ (icing) sugar with 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons milk, and 1 250g package of plain cream cheese (room temperature).

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Spread the frosting on the buns while they are still warm enough to make the frosting a little runny, but not too warm that the frosting melts right off them.

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AND THEN YOU EAT THEM.  ALL OF THEM.

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Driving “Up Island” in a Smart Car

Michell's

This is my last post about our west coast trip, I promise.

While we were staying in Victoria, the Pie and I took two days out and drove up to Courtenay to visit Tim, one of the Pie’s childhood friends from Ottawa who had made the move west.  Tim was best man at our wedding.  There’s pretty much only one highway that goes the length of Vancouver Island, and if you go anywhere north of Victoria you are going “up island”.  Courtenay-Comox, while situated pretty much in the middle of the length of the island, is considered to be the farthest you want to go up island.  When I was a child, I actually thought it WAS at the northern tip of the island.  It turns out instead that nobody really wants to go that much farther than Courtenay-Comox, and the best way to go further is to take a boat.

So we rented a car.  My firm gets me a corporate discount at Enterprise rentals, and they’ve always treated me well.  Since it was just the two of us and we were only traveling for two days we rented an economy-sized car.  I joked as we were waiting in line that I’d love to take the little Smart Car in the parking lot on our trip, and the Pie rolled his eyes.  Little did we know that it was the only “economy” sized car left in the lot!  Have I mentioned that the Pie is 6’4″?  This was going to be interesting.

Courtenay-Comox

Neither of us had ever driven a Smart Car before so we took it on as a challenge. Here is the super-awesomely small rear view mirror. There are no blind spots in this car, so it’s not a huge deal.

Courtenay-Comox

And the nonexistent leg room.  And the lack of gadgets. And our pasty, pasty legs.

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But the whole roof was glass, which was neat when you are driving through the mountains.

Courtenay-Comox

Though because the car is energy-efficient, it seemed to always want to be in the highest gear possible, which meant it rumbled along like it had a diesel engine.  An engine that never wanted to accelerate, and that shifted violently, like a newbie on a standard transmission.  And it was an automatic!

Courtenay-Comox

We booked it up to Courtenay, sliding through Chemainus and its famous murals and Nanaimo, where we got a coffee.

Courtenay-Comox

We hit Tim’s place in the mid-afternoon, and he took us out to Stotan Falls to cool off, as it was about 33°C and sunny.

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This series of short falls is a very popular place to come and sit in the sun and the water.  While much of it is very shallow, the limestone has worn away in spots to form these potholes, which can catch you unawares.

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Some of them are large enough to tuck yourself into, as Tim demonstrates here.

Courtenay-Comox

And you can swim in the deeper, cool water just after the falls.  Floater that I am, I nearly got swept away because I couldn’t get my feet under me, but Tim hauled me out safe.

Courtenay-Comox

In trekking around, we also got to see some neat fossils. That’s my foot, for scale.

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As well as the sheer neatness of the geology of this area.

Courtenay-Comox

Courtenay-Comox

That night we drove to Comox and had dinner on the sandy beach near CFB Comox.  While planes took off behind us, the sun set to our left.

Courtenay-Comox

The water was so warm that even the Pie went into the ocean and swam.  This is a history-making moment, people.

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This dog never left the water!

On the way home we got a brief tour of the organic spa that Tim owns with his partner Lisa.  If you’re ever in Courtenay and you need a massage, Ziva is the place to visit.  After my ordeal in the rapids I could have used a massage myself, but it was late.

Courtenay-Comox

Courtenay-Comox

Courtenay-Comox

The next morning, after saying our goodbyes, the Pie and I began our trek south, though in a more leisurely manner.  We stopped at a farmer’s market in Qualicum Beach, which happens every Saturday.

Courtenay-Comox

Our breakfast consisted of some locally roasted organic coffee, local tay berries, and home-made cinnamon sticky buns.

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The tay berries taste like a combination between raspberries and blackberries, and look like logan berries (what’s the difference, anyway?).

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The cinnamon buns were so sticky and delicious we may have died a little.

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These were my sticky and stained hands at the beginning of breakfast.  By the end I was a total mess. The camera was going to get sticky if we took a picture of that so we refrained.

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Then back to our Smart Car, which we had dubbed Blinky.

Courtenay-Comox

To give you a sense of scale …

Courtenay-Comox

We paused at the Little Qualicum River Falls, which were stunning.  I took way too many pictures, but you can see some below.

Little Qualicum River Falls

Little Qualicum River Falls

Little Qualicum River Falls

Little Qualicum River Falls

And had a brief stop in Cathedral Grove, home to some of the oldest and tallest trees on the island. We didn’t stick around too long, because the Falls hike and the Falls themselves had made us very thirsty.

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Then we had lunch in Coombs, which has to be one of the weirdest towns I have ever seen.  This exporter seemed to own the whole place, and had these strange (and not for sale) sculptures all over the open space.  The wooden and marble sculptures inside were even more fantastical, and many of them were pornographic.  We weren’t allowed to photograph any of them, though, and I’m not even going to get started on some of the strange chairs they had there.

Coombs

In the same place was Goats on Roof, a market place specializing in imported foods.  And all sorts of kitschy Asian paraphernalia, like these lanterns, which hung everywhere in the store.

Coombs

Let’s not forget that there were actual goats on the roof.

Coombs

It was a long drive both ways, but in the Smart Car we only went through one tank of gas, even with all our perambulations.  It was a nice change of pace to be on our own schedule and under our own steam, and we quite enjoyed the trip.  I was very sad when we had to return Blinky.  Not a good car for highway driving, but a fun challenge nonetheless.  And backing up was AWESOME. What a fun trip!

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