Archives for January 2013

Recipe: Flour’s Sticky Sticky Buns

You might already know this about me, but I like instant gratification. Especially when it comes to baked goods. That’s why cookies are one of my favorite things to bake. The batter tends to come together fairly quickly and a dozen are in and out of the oven in 15 minutes or less. That aligns perfectly with my attention span and seemingly endless desire for dessert.

You know what’s a real test of patience?

Waiting NINE HOURS for sticky buns. Most of this is inactive prep time, since the dough needs to proof twice before baking, so you won’t be slaving over the oven the entire time.

Toasting pecans

Toasting pecans

But, still. It’s a two day project.

Fortunately, at the end of this process you won’t have just any old sticky buns. These will be the famous Sticky Sticky Buns from Boston’s Flour Bakery.

Remember that every time you open the refrigerator during those first six hours of proofing time, and that pale ball of brioche dough taunts you with the knowledge that you’ll have to wait until sometime the following day to get your fix.

Brioche dough after proofing for six hours

Brioche dough after proofing for six hours

(However, the protracted prep time does make it a perfect project for a lazy, three day weekend, since it also allows for two hour naps during the process if you so desire. And, I did).

All rolled up

All rolled up

Ready for the oven after two more hours of proofing

Ready for the oven after two more hours of proofing

Friends, they are totally worth the wait. They are tender and chewy in all of the right places (particularly, in the center) and dripping in warm, caramel “goo” (yes, that’s the technical name for it) and toasted pecans.

Finally.

Finally.

Next time, I’ll be a little more liberal with the pecans and I’ll make some extra goo to drizzle over them before serving. Then, they’ll be exactly like what I remember from the shop. God bless Joanne Chang for making this recipe publicly available for the times when I just can’t make the trip to Boston and I really NEED a sticky bun.

This was the first recipe that I tried from the Flour cookbook and I’m looking forward to others. One of the things that I like best about this book is that are recipes are very detailed, with great descriptions of how the mixtures will look, feel and even sound as they make their way around the mixing bowl at various stages in the process. So, even if you are still working on your baking skills, you’ll feel a little bit more confident about taking on the more challenging recipes.

Flour’s Sticky Sticky Buns

From: Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe

by Joanne Chang

What you will need:

For the brioche dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 packages (3 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast or 1-ounce fresh cake yeast
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 3/8 cups (2 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 10 to 12 pieces.

For the goo:

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:

  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped

What to do:

For the brioche dough:

Using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, and 5 of the eggs. Beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until all the ingredients are combined. Stop the mixer, as needed, to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Once the dough has come together, beat on low speed for another 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will be very stiff and seem quite dry.

With the mixer on low speed, add the butter, 1 piece at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough. Continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. It is important for all the butter to be thoroughly mixed into the dough. If necessary, stop the mixer occasionally and break up the dough with your hands to help mix in the butter.

Once the butter is completely incorporated, turn up the speed to medium and beat until the dough becomes sticky, soft, and somewhat shiny, another 15 minutes. It will take some time to come together. It will look shaggy and questionable at the start and then eventually it will turn smooth and silky. Turn the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute. You should hear the dough make a slap-slap-slap sound as it hits the sides of the bowl. Test the dough by pulling at it; it should stretch a bit and have a little give. If it seems wet and loose and more like a batter than a dough, add a few tablespoons of flour and mix until it comes together. If it breaks off into pieces when you pull at it, continue to mix on medium speed for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until it develops more strength and stretches when you grab it. It is ready when you can gather it all together and pick it up in 1 piece.

Put the dough in a large bowl or plastic container and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the dough. Let the dough proof (that is, grow and develop flavor) in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to overnight At this point you can freeze the dough in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

For the goo:

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, to combine (it may look separated, that’s ok). Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Strain to remove any undissolved lumps of brown sugar. Let cool for about 30 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature. You should have about 3 cups. (The mixture can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

Putting the buns together:

Divide the dough in half. Use half for this recipe and reserve the other half for another use.

On a floured work surface, roll out the brioche into rectangle about 12 by 16 inches and 1/4-inch thick. It will have the consistency of cold, damp Play-Doh and should be fairly easy to roll. Position the rectangle so a short side is facing you.

In a small bowl, make the filling. Stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and half of the pecans. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Starting from the short side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. Try to roll tightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Trim off about 1/4- inch from each end of the roll to make them even.

Use a bench scraper or a chef’s knife to cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2-inches wide. (At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, thaw them, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, then proceed as directed.)

Pour the goo into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, covering the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the surface. Arrange the buns, evenly spaced, in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm spot to proof until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching-almost tripled in size, about 2 hours.

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 350 degrees F.

Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter, and spoon any extra goo and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top.

The buns are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, and then warmed in a 325 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes before serving.

The Friday Five: Beauty Obsessions

Friends, can we talk about something other than food for a minute?

Thanks.

Okay. Let’s talk beauty products.

I’ve always been a I’m a pretty low maintenance kind of gal when it comes to my beauty routine. Over the years, I’ve stuck with a small handful of products that I know will not cause my sensitive skin to freak out. Plus, I feel like I never know what colors complement my skin tone, so I mostly stick to the same five products that the Bare Minerals consultant recommended to me when I started using that line of make-up eight years ago.

Although it only takes me about five minutes to fix my face in the morning, I was starting to feel like my routine and my make-up collection needed a refresh for the new year. Luckily, a few generous family members provided me with Sephora gift cards for Christmas that made a mini makeover and shopping spree possible. I discovered a few new products that I henceforth will never be able to live without:

Clarisonic

Clairsonic Mia 2: In spite of all of the positive reviews for this brush, I had avoided trying it because I was afraid that it would aggravate my skin. My aunt gave it to me for Christmas and now I’m sorry that I didn’t try it sooner! Over the last two weeks, I’ve noticed that my skin is less red and the dry patches that I tend to see this time of year have vanished. My skin feels cleaner than it does when I just use a washcloth or my hands, even though I just use my regular old cleanser.

Smashbox

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer: I always thought that primer was a waste of time and money. But, after one week, I’m a convert. This definitely helps my make-up stay in place and look fresh throughout the entire day. This product is light enough that you can’t even feel the extra layer on your skin between moisturizer and foundation.

dior

Dior Nude Skin-Glowing Makeup: I’ll continue to use my Bare Minerals Foundation every day because this is too pricey to buy every month. But, I’ll be using this as my special occasion/when I need to look good in photos make-up because it makes my skin look totally flawless.

Grace lipstickLipGlace_PinkDiamond

Hour Glass Femme Rouge Creme Lipstick in Grace and Laura Mercier Lip Glace in Pink Diamond: I’m listing these two together because the combination finally nails the perfect nude lip color I’ve been searching for my whole life. It’s a great everyday lip color, but also looks great paired with bold eye makeup for nighttime.

 photo-1

Laura Mercier Baked Smokey Eye Shadow Palette: I’m already a fan of most of the Laura Mercier line, including blushes, bronzers and mascaras. This eyeshadow collection has an awesome variety, from matte to shimmery shades, and lasts all day without creasing. I think this particular set was a holiday product, but all of the shades included are sold separately or included in other kits in the line.

So, now I have a few extra steps in my routine in the morning and I’m going to have to increase my make-up budget over the next year. But, I was reminded how much fun experimenting with makeup can be.

What are your beauty must-haves?

The Friday Five: On Resolutions and Sweet Treats

At some point in grade school, I had a teacher who made us write down our new year’s resolutions and share them with the class. I went to Catholic school, so it was probably just another way to make us feel guilty about our bad habits, but making resolutions is a practice that I have kept up with ever since.

When I was younger, I would always resolve to stop biting my nails. It was a record if I could make it to January 4th (Getting acrylic nails for Senior Prom in high school and maintaining them for nearly a decade after that was the only thing that broke that habit. Those things are impossible to bite off). As I got older, I frequently attempted banish curse words from my vocabulary when January 1 rolled around. That proved pretty much impossible since cursing is the only thing that makes me feel better when people act like idiots.

In light of these dismal failures, I’ve started to frame my new year’s resolutions with the goal of developing new, productive habits. This seems less daunting–and more fun–than trying to get rid of the bad ones. Five years ago, instead of saying that I wanted to lose a certain amount of weight, I just focused on the idea of wanting to be in better shape, which started me on the path to working out on a regular basis. Two years ago, this blog grew out of my commitment to develop and stick with a new hobby.

This year, one of my goals is to continue to work on my baking skills. It might sound lame, but baking has become a major stress reliever for me. I’m the kind of person who sometimes has trouble turning her mind off. But, somehow its easier to do when I’m spooning flour into measuring cups, creaming butter and sugar together or scooping out cookie dough. Over the past couple of years, I’ve become pretty good at making cookies, cupcakes and brownies but I would really like to step out of my comfort zone and try a few new recipes.

To that end, here are a few things that I’m looking forward to trying out in 2013:

Macarons_001

 

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Macarons: So pretty, yet so tricky to make. I received the Bouchon Bakery book for Christmas and a few of the bloggers that I follow have written that the technique used in Thomas Keller’s recipe has solved their macaron phobia.

sticky buns

Flour’s Sticky Buns: One of my favorite treats when I visit Boston. I also asked for the Flour Bakery book for Christmas, specifically so I could make them (Completed, January 21).

rich-chocolate-layer-cake-xl-12182012

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Layer Cake: From scratch, since the only layer cakes I’ve ever made have involved boxed mixes and canned frosting.

cheesecake

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Cheesecake: Just because I’ve never made one of these either and they are one of my favorite desserts.

pasta fresh

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Homemade pasta: So, this falls into the savory category, but I’ll still count it in this list because it involves making a dough. Pasta making is a basic skill for us Italians, so I better start practicing.

ttss_BittersweetChocolateTruffles_01_h

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Truffles: I had hoped to have time over to holidays to make some to give as gifts. Oh well, maybe next year!

What’s on your new year’s resolution list this year–food related or otherwise?

Restaurant Review: Buddakan

Happy New Year, friends! I hope that you enjoyed time with family and friends over the holidays and that amazing things are on the horizon for you in 2013.

Chester and I typically stay home and cook a nice dinner on New Year’s Eve. This suits me just fine, as I get to lounge around in yoga pants most of the day and am generally asleep by about ten minutes after midnight. But, after a holiday season filled with lots of baking, cooking and entertaining, neither one of us really wanted to spend any more time in the kitchen for awhile. So, we opted to get dressed up for a fancy dinner out at Buddakan instead.

I resolve to learn how to do my own eyeliner this year so I don't always have to have it done at Sephora when I'm going out.

I resolve to learn how to do my own eyeliner this year so I don’t always have to have it done at Sephora when I’m going out.

Buddakan was one of the first restaurants in Stephen Starr’s empire (he has since opened locations in New York and Atlantic City). and I think it’s still one of his best. The atmosphere is a little louder, trendier and darker than I typically prefer, but I always enjoy the food, so I can make an exception.

The menu features an extensive assortment of traditional dim sum dishes, noodles and rice, beef, fish and poultry. Everything is designed to be shared, and the portions are plentiful. So, while it’s a pricey night out, it’s definitely worthy of a special occasion and you won’t leave feeling hungry.

We chose three appetizers to start off our meal. The Peking duck buns, topped with crunchy scallions and pickled cucumbers, were our favorites. Although the duck had been shredded to fit the slider sized buns, it was cooked in a rich hoisin sauce and retained some of the crispy skin that is characteristic of a good Peking duck. Next up was the Kobe beef satay. I’m not sure that it was real Kobe, but it was perfectly prepared nonetheless–tender, with a nice, peppery flavor. My favorite part of that dish was actually the accompanying asparagus, potatoes and shitake mushrooms that had been battered and fried to a crisp. We wrapped up our first course with the pork dumplings, served in a spicy chili-soy broth. This was our least favorite of our three dishes, as the wrappers were a bit too chewy and for there could have been a bit more broth inside each one.

I rarely order beef when I’m out, but the Szechuan braised beef short ribs are one of my favorite entrees anywhere in the city. The beef is coated in a sweet and spicy tamarind barbecue sauce and comes apart easily with a fork. Each of the three pieces of beef was topped with crispy, salted taro (it reminds me of the addictive shoestring fries at one of Starr’s other restaurants, Continental), for an interesting mix of textures and flavors.

Chester chose the surf and turf special, which featured a lobster tail and Waygu beef. The lobster was a bit tough, so we assumed that it was probably frozen rather than fresh. This was disappointing in light of the price of the dish and didn’t make a lot sense since there were enough lobster based dishes on the menu that fresh lobsters would not have gone to waste. With the exception of a couple of tough pieces, the beef fared much better and was as tender and flavorful as the satay we enjoyed as an appetizer.  It was accompanied by mashed potatoes, which included just enough wasabi to jazz them up, but not so much that my sinuses felt like they were on fire.

Sadly, after overindulging on the first two courses, I had to opt out of dessert. But, from previous visits, I can tell you that you can’t go wrong with the Chocolate Bento Box. Basically, they concoct a pagoda out of chocolate and fill it with white chocolate cheesecake and chocolate pot de creme. The whole thing is topped with chocolate almonds, cashew bars, chocolate green tea macaroons and coffee truffles. The menu says it’s meant for two people, but I’m pretty sure that it could feed a small village.

After dinner, we decided it was way too cold for us to head to Penn’s Landing for midnight fireworks, so we opted to watch the Times Square ball drop on television instead. It was a successful start to the year, all around: I got to wear a pretty dress, eat amazing food, and spend time with my favorite person and I still got to sit around in my pajamas and fall asleep soon after my celebratory glass of champagne.