It’s been a little busy around here and I’m afraid this little ‘ol blog has suffered. Again. The thing is, I come home from work, hit the couch and pretty much stay there, unable to move a limb. It’s an extreme case of couch paralysis, folks. This weekend after teaching 3 classes in a row, I had enough energy (barely) to lean over and reach for my laptop. It was a major endeavor, trust me. As I was trolling through some websites something caught my eye. Hmmm … turned out to be a loaf of cinnamon bread but instead of being rolled up in a spiral, as is traditional, the dough was cut into squares then lined up in a pan, baking up into a sugary flaky delicious thing. It looked wonderful.
So I started clicking, trying to find the origin and discovered a rather long chain. Here’s the thing with recipes online … most bloggers use an existing recipe rather than creating an original one. I get it. Recipe development takes a special skill, a lot of time and a certain level of experience to do well and a great number of food blogs are written by enthusiastic home bakers so chances are they’re using someone else’s recipe. I’m not at all saying they don’t make good stuff, just that the majority use existing recipes as a jumping off point. Most of the good bloggers usually, and rightfully should, give credit when using and/or starting with someone else’s recipe. For example, I get tagged all the time for my pretzel rolls.
This cinnamon bread idea was intriguing so I started digging to see from whence it came. First I saw it on The Kitchn, who got it from Foy Update, who got it from Joy the Baker, who was inspired by Hungry Girl por Vida who got it from Leite’s Culinaria. Interestingly, the recipe started as lemon bread and transitioned into cinnamon along the way. I find it fascinating where people can go with a good idea. Aside from The Kitchn and Leite’s, I’d never visited the other sites before so it was an interesting adventure.
But what they all missed was that it was originally a Flo Braker recipe, right out of one of her cookbooks, that was featured on Leite’s. I’m rather surprised by this lack of acknowledgement. Here’s the thing with giving credit – nearly every recipe has an origin. Reading through all these blogs I got the feeling that they didn’t know who she was, which is a shame. Flo Braker is an amazing woman – a respected baking teacher for over 35 years, a fabulous author that develops consistently tasty recipes. Her books are a must-have for any baking enthusiast with Sweet Miniatures being one of my favorites. She knows her stuff. Let’s face it – this recipe is great, due in a large part, to her. So let’s give credit where credit is due.
I’ll climb off my soapbox now and get back to the bread. Immediately I thought pecan rolls. Sticky, gooey, caramel pecan rolls are always more appealing than cinnamon rolls anyway. So what I did was take the original Flo Braker recipe from Leite’s Culinaria with inspiration from Joy the Baker and added my sticky bun twist. Translation: I used Flo’s dough recipe, tweaked the method a bit, changed the filling mixture and added pecans. Presto.
Some of these sources made the dough by hand but I stuck with the original recipe method and used a standing mixer. There’s a reason for this. The dough is rather sticky and the mixer helps to develop the gluten in a way mixing by hand will not (well, not without a lot of kneading) to give the dough some structure during baking.
It’s not a difficult thing to do, this bread, though it does require some thought and can be a little messy. There’s some measuring to make the strips even and the toppings will fall off during assembly but that’s all right. You just pile it right back on and it’ll bake into a beautiful gooey crust.
The best part is the caramelized sugar that sinks to the bottom that makes the loaf all brown and glistening but it can also quickly become your personal nemesis. As with regular pecan rolls, you have to get this bread out of the pan while it’s still warm or you’ll be chiseling it out in pieces. Tasty pieces but pieces all the same.
As the loaf was baking, the dough sheets expanded and pushed a section, just left of center, up and out. It was not pagent winner but I did what any sensible person would do in such an emergency. I picked those layers off immediately and ate them to hide the evidence. I was going to flip the loaf anyway and they were rather hard to resist. This was a beauty – complicated looking layers covered with a caramelized brown sugar crust, dotted with little bits of pecans. It was gorgeous and fun to pick at, peeling off layer after layer.
It’s an interesting bread – rich and crispy with sugar and caramel around the edges and a tender soft dough within. Reminds me a lot of monkey bread but instead of little round balls, the dough is in sheets which makes it a little more elegant, a little more adult-like. Will it take the place of my all-time favorite pecan rolls from Nancy Silverton? Hell no, those are amazing, but this is much much easier.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: 5 STICKY FINGERS. Oh wow was this tasty. Sort of like an unrolled pecan roll. It’s fun to make too – rolling, measuring, and forming. Rather satisfying when all is said and done and since I wasn’t feeling all that great, the finicky details of putting it together was just the kind of thing I needed. And it comes out of the oven so very pretty – all gooey and mahogany brown. It’s also good for those who can’t commit. Have you met those people who want to share a pecan roll? What is wrong with them? You can’t have half of a pecan roll; it’s all or nothing pal. With this, they can just peel off a sheet. And then another. And another. And another. Because there’s no way they’re getting away with just one.
STICKY BUN BREAD adapted from a recipe by Flo Braker in “Baking for All Occasions” via Leite’s Culinaria
Makes one 9″x5″x3 loaf that should serve 4-6. Note the word “should”.
for the dough:
2 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour + more as needed; divided
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
¼ cup water
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla (I used vanilla paste)
for the filling:
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)
¾ cup chopped pecans
- For the dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer combine 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, yeast and salt. Set aside until needed.
- In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter is melted.
- Remove from the heat, add the water and vanilla and set aside until just warm to the touch.
- Pour the warm milk mixture over the flour mixture and with the paddle attachment, mix on medium until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened.
- Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated.
- Add ½ cup of the remaining flour, and mixing on low until the dough is smooth, 30-45 seconds.
- Add half the remaining flour (about 2 Tablespoons) and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.
- Sprinkle a work surface with flour and gently knead the dough until smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute, adding an additional 1-2 Tablespoons flour only if necessary to lessen the stickiness.
- Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45-60 minutes. (Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for the next step.)
- For the filling: in a small bowl, combine the two sugars and the salt. Set aside until needed.
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly butter or spray a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan.
- Shape the bread: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out the dough into a 20”x12” rectangle. Square off the corners as best you can – it will make for a prettier loaf.
- Smear the softened butter in an even coat over the entire surface of the dough, as close to the edges as you can.
- Evenly sprinkle the sugar mixture over the buttered surface then top with the chopped pecans.
- With a long sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough crosswise into 5 strips, each about 12”x4”.
- Stack the five strips, one on top of each other. A lot of the sugar/pecan mixture will fall off – just carefully pile it back on before stacking the next strip.
- Cut the stack crosswise to create 6 equal strips, each about 4”x2”.
- Into the greased pan, fit the layered strips, cut edges up and side by side. It will be a tight fit lengthwise, carefully push and prod as needed. Make sure with the two ends, you flip the strips so the toppings face in so the sugar doesn’t completely fuse to the pan ends while baking.
- Sprinkle any excess topping that has fallen off on top of the loaf.
- Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30-50 minutes. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for baking.
- Bake: Place the pan on a parchment lined sheet pan to catch any drips and bake until the top is golden brown, 40-45 minutes. At around 20 minutes I put some foil on top of the loaf to prevent overbrowning.
- Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes.
- Run a knife around the side of the pan and turn the loaf out onto a serving dish, scooping any caramel goop left on the pan on top of the loaf. The bread is best the day it’s made but keep any leftovers, if there are any, tightly wrapped.