Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sourdough Sticky Buns

The kids and I were watching an old episode of a food network show about sticky buns. I was drooling the whole time. All the kids were fascinated and wanted to know if we could make sticky buns someday. Well, all the kids except for the 2-year-old. He just thought that "sticky buns" was a really silly word, and giggled and repeated it every time someone on the show said it.

I had my sourdough starter all active and bubbly, having just used it that morning to make pancakes. I figured that I would treat the family to a batch of delicious sourdough sticky buns.

I used my new favorite recipe for sourdough bread, because it makes bread that is very soft and not too sour. I combined a couple recipes for the sticky, gooey glaze, and came up with these fantastic sticky buns. Best served warm, so the glaze is caramel-soft.

I didn't make these buns super duper sticky. The caramel topping can be doubled if you want the kind of sticky buns with oozing caramel that drips down your fingers. But any mess the kids made while eating these is a mess I would have to clean up! So I stuck with a smaller amount of topping, one that would leave a minimal amount of sticky on the fingers, face, table, floor, and clothing.

Sourdough Sticky Buns
1/2 batch Velvety-Soft Sourdough Bread dough
3 tbsp. softened butter
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cinnamon
Caramel Topping:
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 tsp. honey
4 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans are traditional, I used almonds)

Prepare bread dough (mix sponge, rise, add flour to make dough, rise twice). I start the sponge early in the evening the previous day, then mix it into dough and set it to rise right before I go to bed. When I get up I punch it down and let it rise again, then punch it down again and it's ready to shape.

Roll out dough into large rectangle. Smear the 3 tbsp. softened butter over the rectangle of dough. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the butter. Roll, starting with long side. Cut into 12 segments. Cover while you make the topping.

In a bowl, combine brown sugar, honey, 4 tbsp. melted butter, and vanilla. Spread into greased 9x13 pan, then top with chopped nuts. Arrange buns on top of caramel topping and nuts. Cover and let rise until double.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake buns 20-22 minutes. Let sit in pan for about a minute. Invert onto another pan, or serving platter. Let the caramel drip over the buns a bit before removing the baking pan. Scrape any leftover topping out of the pan and spread over top of sticky buns.

I set aside a couple of these to give my husband when he gets home from work. It's taking all of my self-control and all of my love for my husband not to go in and eat them right now. I. Must. Be. Strong...

Linking to:
"Think Tank Thursday" 
Link Party Palooza

Velvety-Soft Sourdough Bread

I have been quietly going through a bit of a sourdough bread saga. When I first started my sourdough, my bread turned out pretty good every time. I always used the same simple recipe, and while it wasn't perfect it was good enough. But it eventually stopped working. I'm not sure what went wrong, but every time I tried making sourdough bread, the loaves would turn out flat and hard. I had one loaf that was supposed to be round and rustic but it ended up looking exactly like a flying saucer. And it tasted about as appealing.

So I've been trying a variety of new recipes, hoping to find one that I can count on, and hoping to improve my skills and knowledge of sourdough at the same time. I found a pretty good recipe for soft sourdough bread that I made a couple times. It worked well and gave me consistent results. Through this recipe I learned that when making bread, you have to make sure the starter is active and bubbly. Some recipes can get away with flat starter that hasn't been fed for a few days. Bread is not one of them - it needs to have been fed within 12-24 hours in order for the yeast to be active enough to make the bread rise.

I recommend the above recipe, and would continue to use it, had I not found one that works for me even better! I recently bought a book called Alaska Sourdough by Ruth Allman. It's full of stories and recipes, all hand written by the author, and is just the sort of homey, down-to-earth book that I love.

I tried the basic sourdough bread recipe and was floored by how well the dough rose. I haven't had my sourdough rise that well since I started keeping a sourdough starter. Then when we sliced into it, I was even more amazed at the softness of the bread. I was seriously running my fingers over the slice of bread, because I like soft things and this bread felt just like velvet.

I did have to cut the recipe in half. I only cook 2 or maybe 3 loaves at a time, because that's how much we can eat before it starts going stale and yucky. I also had to adjust the baking time and temperature. The recipe called for baking the bread for 10 minutes at 500 degrees, then turning it down to 400 for 45 minutes. I took the bread out when there were still 27 minutes left, because it was turning too dark on the outside. The next time I made this bread, I tried 400 for 30 minutes and it baked perfectly.

Velvety-Soft Sourdough Bread
2 cups active (recently fed, bubbly) sourdough starter
1 cup warm potato water (water from boiling potatoes, or just add 1 tbsp. potato flakes to 1 cup water)
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cooking oil
5 cups flour, approximately
1/2 tsp. salt

Make soft sponge by mixing the sourdough starter, sugar, water, and oil. Add half the flour (2 1/2 cups). Set in warm place to double in bulk.

Add salt and remaining flour to make a dough that is easy to handle, smooth, and elastic. Place in greased bowl. Cover. Let rise in warm place until double in bulk.

Knead down dough. Let rise to double bulk once again.

Form into 2 loaves. Can use loaf pan or make free form loaves. Let rise about half an hour. Slash top of loaf. It's got to be a nice deep slash, or the bread will split down the side. I might or might not know that from several instances of personal experience...

Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.

Linking to:
"Think Tank Thursday"
Link Party Palooza