It's time to come out of the closet and reveal that I have joined the illustrious ranks of Daring Bakers founded by Lisa and Ivonne - an ever-growing group of food bloggers who set themselves a challenge in the baking department once a month and all blog about their experiences with the chosen recipe on the same day. Well, the day has come.
It wasn't easy for me, I have to admit, as this goes completely against how I normally function: I tend to see recipes, mull them about in my mind for a little while and then set about re-creating them, with more or less variation. Sometimes, the end product will be very close to the original, in most cases, it'll differ quite a lot. There are very few recipes that I follow by the book, but that's exactly what the DB challenge is all about: you get a recipe, you make it. End of story. Very little room to stray from the set path.
Luckily, the recipe Marce chose for September is something I like a lot: cinnamon buns. Well, they're most commonly called Chelsea buns around here and I guess every nation as a similar version that they call by a different name: a simple yeast dough rolled out and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar (in Austria we often use nuts and raisins as well), rolled up, then cut into individual buns which you either bake on a sheet or neatly arranged in a baking mould. Since I had posted a similar recipe for apple & cinnamon Chelsea buns not too long ago, I decided to go for option B in the DB challenge: sticky buns. I'd never even heard of those before, but they were certain to please as I am a s***** for anything involving something even remotely ressembling caramel.
Sticky buns are made in the same way as cinnamon buns, but they are arranged in a mould that has been spread with a sugar & butter mixture which will turn into a gooey and sticky mess in the baking process... out of the oven, the buns are flipped onto a plate with all that gorgeous caramel running down the sides of it and me burning my finger for sure, as I can't resist tasting it straight away. Oh yes! Just the ticket! Making the most of the only bit of leeway given, I altered the recipe just slightly, going for fresh yeast instead of dried and playing around with the toppings: sprinkling the rolls with chopped dried apricots and pistachios and using cardamom instead of the cinnamon. Which I liked a lot. It would seem that Helen and I were on one wavelength this month as she also went for the cardamom and pistachio thing, but it was cranberries for her, not apricots - rather clever, I thought, as the red berries stick out much more, whereas my apricots somehow get lost (visually) in all that caramel... something to remember for next time.
I had a great time making these buns (and an even better time eating them) - despite some initial hick-ups. Baking with yeast, of course, is a rather lengthy process what with all the proving and rising and resting. Not unusual for me, I left it rather late and only had a small window one morning to prepare the dough. And what would you know, I always have some butter in the freezer as my idea of a nightmare is to be sitting in front of some freshly baked bread and not have any butter to spread it with - but sure enough, the moment I need to prepare some dough in a rush, the only butter I can find is salted! I still used it for the sticky glaze, with all that sugar, you only got a hint of salt, a bit like in caramels with fleur de sel. Meanwhile, my husband was sent on a mission to find some butter nearby ("Whatever you buy, just don't buy Lurpak!") and, without knowing it, returns with some more salted butter! I also had no golden syrup and didn't think my home-made cough syrup's onion and thyme flavour would go so well with the recipe... so I used agave syrup instead - all the better since I have been meaning to find a way to use it for ever and a day.
The biggest stumbling stone was the recipe itself: being a firm believer in the metric system, I just never work with cup measures - something I'll have to get used to with the DB challenges, I guess! This one even listed volume AND weight (imperial system), but I don't really trust it, having seen too many where the metric version wasn't really tested properly. The day I need to complete my challenge, though, my scales stop working half-way through the recipe (note to self: buy a truck-load of 2032 batteries so this won't happen again, ever!), so I had to start all over again, this time resorting to cups and sort of winging it. (To be able to give my readers a metric version, I have weighed all ingredients in retrospect). So, with the dough in the oven to rest, I go out and set about my normal routines, thinking that it won't do the dough any harm to rest a bit longer than the requested two hours. Wrong. Well, sort of. The dough didn't mind, but my oven (which I tend to use for proving) did, not finding it remotely funny that all that sticky, yeasty mass slowly crawled out of its container and went for a leisurely walkabout over the racks and oven door and... well, pretty much everywhere!
Desperate not to start from scratch again, I rescued what I could and, in between fixing dinner for the boys and getting ready to go out, prepped my buns ready to go into the oven the following morning. (This was the first time I had ever rolled a dough on an oiled baking mat with an oiled rolling pin - most recipes tell you to use flour to prevent sticking. Well apart from not really working that well, the flour can also compromise the flavour and consistency of the dough quite a lot, so I am not a fan... this new method using plain oil is the way to go!)
Once shaped into buns and neatly arranged on the glaze and toppings, those buns were really well behaved - and they turned out a real treat... the right amount of sticky, not over or underdone on the bottom, just plain moreish! A recipe to fall in love with, especially since my husband is not a great fan of caramel, my daughter's not too keen on the dried apricots and I had most of the pan all to myself ;-)