February 22, 2011

Patience: A Delicious Virtue

Psst … Did you get all messy and sticky on Monday?

The truth is, I did and instead of Monday, I was leaps ahead of everyone else. Unless you were also far ahead in this game, well, then, I’d been exaggerating. But the fact is, for me, everything seemed to happen by chance.

If it weren’t for Good Eats, if it weren’t for Alton Brown, I wouldn’t have known that Monday, Feb 21, was National Sticky Bun Day in America.

Sticky Buns

On the far end of the world where I called home, the sticky bun is a name that resonates in everyone’s head. Its status and level of popularity is almost on par with that of the chocolate chip cookie. (I was referring to the soft and chewy type.) It strikes the victim (whoever that may be) with a nostalgic blow from the yesteryears—including me! Geez, I do miss my American friend’s sticky buns.

Sticky buns were one of the first breads I learned to bake in America. These are the buns I made under the guidance of Mary, my American friend, in January 2008. As pictured here, they are still being proofed for baking in the oven later on.

Now on this end of the world where I call home, the sticky buns aren’t something that echoes in everyone’s head. In Malaysia, unless you’re one of those Cinnabon fanatics, the sweet roll is probably unheard of. Its status and level of popularity is lagging way behind that of, say, the pisang goreng, a.k.a. banana fritter or fried banana. (See, I could be wrong. So please correct me if that’s the case.) Try walking on the streets of Kuala Lumpur and ask a few passersby, and you may just have them dumbfounded on the spot.

Pardon me, but why would you verbally abuse a bun by calling it sticky?

As it turns out, the sticky buns are simply cinnamon rolls with an upside-down-caramel-and-pecan topping. They were first created by some German settlers in the Philadelphia area. Because they somewhat resemble the shell of a snail, it was known as “schnecken,” which is German for these slimy, sluggish creatures.

Due to the influences from the States and my absolute need in drawing clear lines within the clutter, distinction has been made between Western-inspired and Asian-style breads. So, I turned to American bread guru, Peter Reinhart, for the recipe.

And for a shortcut to mature and flavorful, and, in the words of Reinhart, world-class, bread. The answer? Overnight fermentation of bread dough, for at least 24 hours.

That’s not short.

In most cases, for European artisan breads, sponges and pre-ferments, such as sourdough starters, are required. And these, when starting out, take days to cultivate and to develop some levels of acidity as well as their own distinctive flavors. Needless to say, the days and months spent later on to preserve the lives in these pre-ferments span years. Before the advent of such convenience in the form of instant yeast, yeast was preserved and passed down from one generation to the next. Thus, accounting for the time factor, the method of overnight fermentation is decidedly short.

First Hour of Overnight Fermentation of All-Purpose Sweet Dough
This is how I perform overnight fermentation: tightly encase the dough in a 2.5-gallon heavy-duty Ziploc bag. What's depicted here is the dough at the first hour of proofing in the refrigerator.

Instead of speeding up the process, you first wake the yeast up and then tuck it into a cozy environment within the tacky dough so that it can go on a feast—just for that brief moment. Now, this is where things get interesting and a little less humane: chuck the dough—the activated yeast and everything else—into the fridge. Don’t fret, you’re not killing the yeast but only retarding its activity. It turns dormant when the temperature falls below four degrees Celsius. “A lot of the flavor transformation in the dough takes place during the dormant stage,” Reinhart expounded on the process. “Because the starch enzymes are still at work even while the yeast goes to sleep.”

Twelfth Hour of Overnight Fermentation of All-Purpose Sweet Dough
Overnight fermentation: the bread dough, at 12 hours of proofing in the refrigerator. No, it's not done with that just yet.

If you’re an avid bread baker, a homemade-bread lover, who wants to learn more about the science behind overnight fermentation of bread dough, I highly recommend Reinhart’s “Artisan Breads Every Day.” Take my word for it. Reinhart’s books on everything bread and yeasty make great additions to your library of cookbooks.

Image courtesy of The Kitchn

With Reinhart’s recipe, I made about two nine-by-nine-inch pans of sticky buns. The creamy caramel slurry recipe he’s provided in the book is stellar. It’s sweet (duh!), creamy (ditto), sticky, and gooey. However, he doesn’t stop there. He offers two more slurry recipes for the schnecken, and one of which is contributed by Mrs. Reinhart. Boy, I’m so going to try them out when that sticky yearning strikes me again!

One more. I guess everything isn’t made flawless. The only complaint I have about his bread recipes is that the bread dries up much faster and thus turns crumbly, too, when compared to bread made via Asian recipes. And nope, I ain’t talking about those that cheat with improver and the like. In terms of moisture retention, the tangzhong method still wins, hands down.

A solution to that problem? Wipe the whole tribe of schneckens out in a day. Share with your family, friends, or whomever you care about. After all, good stuff is meant to be enjoyed together.

Heed my warning, though: Eating sticky buns makes a slight royal mess out of you.

Sticky Buns

Sticky Buns
Adapted from “Artisan Breads Every Day,” by Peter Reinhart

Yield: about 24 buns

1 recipe for all-purpose sweet dough (recipe to follow)

42 g ground cinnamon
170 g granulated or caster sugar
* Can try with light brown sugar instead, or a mix of both the sugars. *

Any neutrally flavored oil e.g. vegetable, canola, or sunflower oil, OR slightly cooled melted butter, OR milk – for brushing
* I used milk. *

170 g raisins, soaked in rum or water for about 2 hours till they're plump; then drained well – to taste; optional, though
142 g coarsely chopped toasted pecans or walnuts, or a mix of both – to taste; optional, though
  1. About 3 hours before baking, remove the bread dough from the refrigerator. Divide it in half and form each piece into a ball. Cover each ball with a bowl or plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
  2. On a floured work surface, roll each ball of dough into a 30-by-38-centimeter rectangle, rolling from the center to the corners and then rolling out to the sides. If the dough starts to resist or shrink back, let it rest for 1 minute or so, then continue rolling. The dough should be between 0.5 and 1 centimeter thick.
  3. For cinnamon sugar, whisk together (A) to combine. Brush the surface of the dough with melted butter, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface, leaving a 0.5-centimeter border. Sprinkle (B) over the surface if you like. Roll up the dough like a rug, rolling from the bottom to the top to form of a tight log. Now, make the slurry (recipe to follow).
  4. Fill the bottom of two 8- or 9-inch round pans or one 12-inch square pan with 0.5 centimeter of the slurry. Store any excess slurry in the fridge, where it’ll keep for at least 2 weeks. (I used up mine, though, which was a good news.) Sprinkle coarsely chopped toasted nuts over the slurry if you like, which is highly advised for flavor, but this is optional.
  5. Cut the log into 1-inch slices and place them on the slurry with the nicest side down, leaving about 1 inch of space between the buns. Cover loosely with a slightly dampen dishtowel or plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature, until the dough swells noticeably and the buns begin to expand into each other.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The slurry will melt, bubble, and caramelize, and the visible dough will be dark golden brown. Lift one of the buns with a metal spatula or a pair of tongs to check the underside of the dough, which should be light caramel brown, not white. The sugar slurry should turn a rich amber or golden brown, and all of the sugar should have melted to become caramel. (If it’s still grainy and not amber, continue baking; you can put a tent of aluminum foil over the buns to protect them from getting too dark while the slurry finishes caramelizing.)
  8. Remove the pans from the oven and let the buns cool for 2 to 3 minutes in the pans so the caramel begins to firm up. Place a platter or pan over the top of the baking pan. It should be large enough to cover the baking pan and hold all the buns. Wearing oven mitts or using hot pads, flip the entire assemblage over to release the buns and caramel onto the platter. Be careful, the glaze will still be very hot at this point. Use a rubber spatula to scrape any remaining glaze from the pan and drizzle it over the tops of the buns.
  9. Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

All-Purpose Sweet Dough
Adapted from “Artisan Breads Every Day,” Peter Reinhart

16 g instant yeast
225 g lukewarm water, at about 43°C

85 g granulated or caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

794 g all-purpose flour
* I much prefer unbleached organic all-purpose flour. In fact, I’ve been trying to incorporate unbleached, organic flours to my bakes. *
14 g salt
3 Tbsp milk powder or dry milk

300 g lukewarm milk, at about 43°C
113 g butter, unsalted or salted – cubed and kept chilled
Extra all-purpose flour – used as necessary, though, you may not need it
  1. Dissolve together (C) and set aside for about 10 minutes to activate the yeast. The mixture should appear somewhat frothy by then.
  2. Rub together (D) to release the citrusy oil and scent in the lemon zest, then stir into (E) and whisk together to combine.
  3. Stir the yeast mixture and warm milk into the flour mixture, and mix to combine, till you get a soft, coarse ball of dough.
  4. Turn the dough onto a work surface, and knead it by hand for about 4 minutes to develop the glutens. Then, thoroughly knead in the cubes of cold butter. Continue kneading till you get a supple, very soft, and tacky ball of dough. Knead on a lightly floured work surface for 1 minute or so, and form it into a ball. Place in an oiled large mixing bowl, and cover very well with cling wrap. Chuck the whole thing into the refrigerator and perform overnight fermentation of the dough for up to 4 days. The dough will rise remarkably during this stage.

Creamy Caramel Slurry
Adapted from “Artisan Breads Every Day,” by Peter Reinhart

113 g granulated or caster sugar
113 g light brown sugar
113 g heavy or whipping cream
14 g unsalted butter – melted or at room temperature
21 g light corn syrup
  1. Combine together (F) in a mixing bowl. If using a mixer, mix on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes. If mixing by hand, stir vigorously with large spoon for about 2 minutes. The mixture should be smooth and homogenous.


wendyywy @ Table for 2..... or more said...

When you mentioned it has pecans in it, then I'm bookmarking this!
My MIL got me 2 Ilbs of it on her recent trip back, kekeke.

I'm one of those who'd go blank if you ask me abt sticky buns. One day, I'll try making them, one day :)

DG said...

Your sticky buns looks soft & yummy. However, look at the preparation with so many stages .... I don't think I will be as patient as you :)

edith said...

I read this book once from the library. Was really good. Wanted to buy it but it wasn't cheap in Singapore. I think I will hint to hubby to buy for me as present. hehehe

Your buns turned out super sedap.

j3ss kitch3n said...

the buns looks good =)

CaThY said...

yummy buns! :)

Swee San said...

mmm I can smell it already!!

Janine said...

ooh i use reinhart's sticky bun recipe too and i love love love it :D

The Sweetylicious said...

the buns look so delicious and lovely (:

Joyce @ Chunky Cooky said...

These buns looks really gorgeous !

Honey Bee Sweets said...

There are several occasions that I wanted to make cinnamon buns too. But because I can't take the sweetness anymore, I always canceal the idea. Old already... Lol! I guess pre fermented dough version always yields a soft dough...;)

pickyin @ LifeIsGreat said...

Pei Lin, off the sticky bun topic but speaking about sourdough starters, have you made any sourdough from self cultivated starter in this Reinhart's book?

Pei-Lin said...

@Wendy: Wah, gam sohng! Pecans are costly here. But Mike doesn't take cinnamony stuff wor. How? K. Look forward to hearing your feedback. Thank you for being so supportive all along. =D

@Doris: Erm, not too elaborate actually. The instructions provided here are just uber detailed. I can be impatient, too, ya know? Thank you for the kind words, though. =)

@Edith: Hey, I remember you showed a copy of the book to us at your place when we met up last August. You even told me it was loaned from the library. Imported books are darn expensive here, too. Haha! I know he will. He loves you! Oh, well, thank you. =)

@Jess H., Cathy, Swee San, Jasmine, Joyce: Thank you!

Pei-Lin said...

@Janine: Really!? Oh, good! Then I'm not the only Reinhart fan here! =)

@Bee Bee: Hahaha! You must be kidding! I bet you still can take a little sweets here and there every once in a while. Of course, moderation is the key to everything, including consumption of dessert! LOL! Hmmm ... For Reinhart's dough, though, the bread dried up faster than Taiwanese and Japanese bread. That was my observation. Buddy, thank you for being so supportive all along!

@Pickyin: Ya, I'd run thru pages on the sourdough starters off this book of Reinhart's. Haven't been able to cultivate my own starter, as of now. See, it needs pineapple juice, freshly squeezed one. As of yet, I still haven't found a need to buy pineapple to juice it. I'll do so when the timing is right. I'd really love to make sourdough bread as I REALLY love to have sourdough sandwiches! =)

qinyi said...

looks yummy as your creations always do! i feel like getting my fingers all sticky and sinking my teeth into one right now.:) i have a soft spot for pecans. hehe. i think maple pecan is the best combo.

btw, 8th march is pancake day in the uk. would you like to share a pancake recipe? i still remember my visit to the international house of pancakes in the US in 2009. Lots of variety to pick from and i was spoiled for choice!

Anonymous said...

thanks for this tips

Pei-Lin said...

@Anonymous: Thank you so much! Thank you for the kind words and for popping by! Have a great day! =)

@Qin Yi: I think I've heard of that Pancake Tuesday deal. Am I right? Actually, I do have a favorite pancake recipe, specifically for American-/Canadian-style hotcake. You know, pancake can be French crepe or galette, Chinese scallion pancake, roti canai, Dutch baby, Yorkshire pudding, and so forth. I've actually thought of making hotcakes with that fave recipe of mine, but not now as I haven't found a time to do so. There's a carton of buttermilk in my fridge, which I'd bought for that and something else in order to use it up. I just need to find sometime to make hotcakes, since I've been craving for maple-syrup-drenched hotcakes, with a dollop of butter on top. I'll share that with you and the rest once I've gotten around to fix some hotcakes. K?

I love pecans, too! Agree, maple and pecans to make great combo. The woodsy, earthy tone of the couple. Mmm! Too bad, they are expensive in Malaysia. Both, I mean. Good-grade, dark amber, pure maple syrup from Canada costs a bomb!

Btw, sorry for not being able to reply to your email and for helping you out in London! Most of my contacts are in the U.S.!? LOL! But I shouldn't be laughing, I know, sorry! Sorry!

Thank you for being so encouraging, my best buddy! I'll fix a date with you on Skype because I wanna tell you something. Take care! I wanna see you back in Malaysia!

qinyi said...

ooohhh... sounds like you have something exciting to share with me! :) looking forward to it!
don't worry abt london. a friend's friend has offered to put me up. yay! no more sleeping on the streets. hehe ;)

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Peilin, your sticky buns look glorious! Thanks also forbsharing rein hart's book. I am going to check it out at the library soon...

edith said...

THe last time I made cinnamon buns it looks just so ugly. Seeing yours I am motivated to make another round. :)

Jess @ Bakericious said...

Pei Lin, your sticky bun looks fantastic! Looking at all the steps, lazy person like me will back off :P.

JudyLeong said...

Pei-Lin, I feel so hungry already after reading your sticky-buns recipe. Must try. What about me (your 4-sum) dropping over at your place one Sunday and we do some of your fav recipes together, eh?

lena said...

hi pei lin, nope havent heard of sticky buns, are they really sticky as they sound? thanks for introducing this book to us, can i ask do most of the recipes comes with pictures? also are you saying that the dough can be kept in the fridge for max up to 4 days?

Food For Tots said...

These buns are my favourite. They are very addictive too. Your buns look so good!! I got to make some one day to solve my craving. ;)

ICook4Fun said...

Great looking sticky buns Pei-Lin. Is so cold here so and it take so long to proof so I stop making buns for the time being. Western buns do turn dry and hard often. I will usually zap it up in the microwave for 20 seconds before eating it.

Pei-Lin said...

Sorry about the late replies. Been very busy, as usual. Thank you for the kind words and for visiting! Have a fab week ahead!

@Qin Yi: K. Noted! Glad that things are turning well on your side. I'll shoot you an email about that and about our date on Skype (LOL!) once things have become clearer. Talk to you soon!

@Shirley: His books on breads are very good! Highly recommended! Lemme know if you find them useful. So far, I only own two of his books: "Artisan Breads Every Day" and "The Bread Baker's Apprentice."

@Edith: Don't be discouraged! I can never get tired of cinnamon rolls and sticky buns! Do let us know how your latest attempt turns out! Must be good!

@Jess L.: No lar ... I see your cakes I also back off ... It's the detail that drives me insane. Haha! I'm baking less and less cake!!?? LOL! So, I respect you for that.

@Aunt Judy, a.k.a. Sei-Sum: Haha! LOL! Saturdays work better, since I'm always busy on Sundays to fix my lunchbox for the following workweek. LOL! Sure! That's for sure! Thank you for being so, so supportive, Sei-Sum! Next time, bring you my food to try lar ... Sri Petaling isn't too bad lar, from Ampang. LOL!

Pei-Lin said...

Sorry about the late replies. Been very busy, as usual. Thank you for the kind words and for visiting! Have a fab week ahead!

@Lena: Sticky because of the upside-down-caramel-and-pecan topping; your hands will get sticky because of that. Many of the recipes carry pictures. Reinhart says that the dough can be kept in the fridge for up to four days. In my own history of baking bread, I'd tried overnight fermentation on bread dough for up 56 hours or so, and that was on an Asian bread dough, not Mat Saleh bread dough. Please refer to http://dodol-mochi.blogspot.com/2010/04/tangzhong-rotiboy-plus-troubleshooting.html for my observation on overnight fermentation. Most importantly, wrap the dough up real well, don't leave extra space for it to expand rapidly in the fridge as that may lead to overproofing of the dough; hence, the sourish, boozy smell.

@Lai Kwan: Hehe ... Thank you!! Hope you can find sometime to try them. =)

@Gert: Haha! Perfectly understandable. PA and MN are on just about one same latitude. Yea, Western breads do dry up and turn harder faster. On the following days after baking, I, too, nuke my gwai-lou bread briefly before eating. That should do the trick.

Blessed Homemaker said...

I've not baked bread for a long time! So tempted to bake one now after seeing your post.

Pei-Lin said...

Hey, Blessed Homemaker! Sorry for this late of a reply. Been busy, as usual. Well, if you've got the time, go make some! ;)

maameemoomoo - a ½ food blog said...

Your buns (pardon the pun) are gorgeous! I love sticky buns to bits.. i can eat like, erm.. 4-5 at 1 go and i kid u not. Serious.

U can NEVER go wrong with Peter R! I love all his books :)

Quay Po Cooks said...

Pei-Lin, I am sure Stitch will love these buns. They look yummilicious! Can't wait for him to taste your American Chocalate chips cookies! Thanks so much for the cookies.

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) said...

These delicious buns worth getting dirty and sticky for!!! Gorgeous!

Jo said...

The sticky buns look so darn good, reminds me of cinnamon buns but a whole lot more stickier! :P

Sasa said...

Where to start!? Beautiful pictures and those rolls look amazing - I made cinnamon rolls once and to be honest, I wasn't impressed, they were kind of flat tasting...Might try yours, I've heard great things about that recipe book, I think Chocolate and Zucchini did a baguette recipe from it a while back.

Pei-Lin said...

Dear All,

Thank you for the kind words! I shall get back to you later once I've taken sufficient rest. I'm exhausted now due to job commitment.

Have a good weekend!


Pei-Lin said...

Folks, thank you so much for the encouraging words! Uber sorry for the late replies ... I just have been too busy ...

@Sasa: Really? I thought cinnamon rolls are packed with spicy flavors that some folks just can't stand eating them as these people aren't fans of spices in general. The book is a good one: well-written, detailed, organized, with stellar photography. I popped by your blog and am gonna follow yours from now on. Keep it up! I shall keep an eye on your cinnamon rolls or sticky buns! =)

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