Sunday, July 24, 2011

Caramel & Nut Sticky Buns

Sometimes food has the ability to render a specific memory and with one bite, it has transported you back to a certain time and place. Almond drink brings my brother and me back to childhood summers in Cape Coral, where we sipped the icy beverage poolside with pruned fingers. When I eat galetti, I am reminded of being a 16 year-old tourist in Malta, resting in a hot, dusty parking area near Hagar Qim, where I first tried the delightful cracker out of the trunk of a cousin's car. This is what many people love about food -- the specific memories attached and associated with it.

So I was very excited when I decided to make sticky buns for the cookbook: it is a favorite among Nanna's treats. They are by far better than a simple cinnamon roll. You see, the bun itself is soft and enveloped in a delectable cinnamon-sugar rub, like most cinnamon rolls. But the bottom of the bun is moist from a sticky caramel sauce and is studded with the nut of your choice, adding a nice crunch here and there. Eaten slightly warm in the morning, it is heaven on a plate.

So when I decided to tackle sticky buns I was sure I could easily come up with a story because Nanna was always making them. I figured writing about a memory would be the easy part, whereas executing the dish would be more troublesome. However, I was mistaken. After sorting through the recipe fragments Nanna had left in various cookbooks (the dough recipe in one cookbook, the sticky bun part in another) I had a good idea of how to make the sticky buns. And to use my brother's words, they came out "spot on." No recipe tweaking needed here. Because of this, I was confident that a new blog post would quickly come into being. Yet weeks passed. The blog post remained in its nebulous state with only the recipe and a picture... I didn't have a story. I couldn't think of something specific to attach to this recipe. I just had many seemingly mundane memories running together. All I could really associate with these sticky buns was Nanna herself. And that's when it hit me.

I don't need a specific memory or an amusing story or anecdote.

The story is Nanna herself, whether she was wanting to stuff a foil-wrapped package of sticky buns into the already-packed cooler, making my dad groan at the thought of having to unpack and then repack the trunk, or her heating up some sticky buns for us to have before going to church in the morning. Sticky buns are just one of those foods that remind me how Nanna chose to show her love for us -- through her cooking. And that's what this family cookbook is all about... sharing Nanna's love of cooking.

So from our family to yours, I hope you make and enjoy the sticky buns. They're a pretty easy way to show your love to your family and friends. Plus, I'm pretty sure you will love them too. They are just so good!

Caramel & Nut Sticky Buns

For the dough: 3 1/4 cups flour, unsifted
1 package of dry active yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of flour with dry yeast, salt, and sugar. Heat milk and butter to 120-130 degrees F. Add warm milk mixture to flour mixture with egg. Using a mixer, beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Then, by hand, stir in the remaining 2 1/4 cups of flour to form a stiff dough. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/4 hours.

For the sticky caramel sauce:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 light corn syrup
1/2 cup chopped nuts, lightly toasted - [we used almonds this time, but typically use walnuts]

In a small mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, the softened butter, and corn syrup. Blend well. Reserve nuts for assembly.

For the filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 tablespoons of butter, softened

In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon; blend well. Reserve butter for assembly.

To assemble:
Generously grease a 13 x 9-inch pan. Drop sticky caramel sauce mixture by spoonfuls into the greased pan. Spread evenly and sprinkle with nuts.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into an 18 x 15-inch rectangle. Spread with reserved butter. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar filling evenly over the dough.

Starting on the 18-inch side, roll up the dough lightly, gently pressing the edges to seal.

Cut the roll into 18 slices [ours made 16]. Place slices cut-side down on top of the prepared mixture in the pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Bake in preheated 375 degree F oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Buns will be golden brown on top. If desired, brush buns with melted butter for a glossy shine. (We never do though.)


  1. Sad to have missed out on this sticky goodness! :)

  2. Spot on, indeed! :) Lovely photos, too! Thanks, Kristin! :)

  3. looks really delicious! and might I say that you are a really good writer, your post brought back memories of my grandmother's cooking...miss u.