Meet your kneads with sweet, sticky treats
By Courtney Taylor
Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger
|Sticky buns are a treat, but they require a bit of messing around in the kitchen.
Gannett News Service
Baking (especially breakfast sweet treats with names like monkey bread and sticky buns) should be fun. And making a mess in the kitchen is fun. It's the cleaning up we dread.
The most important thing is attitude. You must be willing to get your hands into the dough. You must be willing to make a mess.
Start with the essential equipment: a big bowl, a sturdy wooden spoon, measuring cups and spoons, baking sheets. That's it. A big electric mixer with a dough hook is nice, but it's easier to clean a wooden spoon.
Ingredients for traditional sweet breads are simple. You can use plain old all-purpose flour, regular granulated sugar, real eggs, real butter (no substitutes: This is not diet food), fresh nuts and spices. Every now and then, a recipe will call for something like sour cream, buttermilk or brown sugar. The most important ingredient is the yeast. You can use any kind you like, but the easiest is granulated, quick-rise, instant yeast. It's pretty much guaranteed to be alive (unless you've been saving it your cabinet for five years), so you can skip the proofing stage and just mix it directly into the dough, cutting down on the time it takes the dough to rise.
Once you've decided what you'll make, read the recipe all the way through. Sit down and read it again. Make sure you have all the ingredients, equipment and time you will need to make the bread. Too often, cooks embark on a recipe only to find that they need something they don't have or a night of slow rising in the fridge.
Next, preheat the oven. It pays to know your oven. Even the best can have peculiarities like hot spots. An oven thermometer helps you know for certain what the temperature is.
Fill a large bowl in the sink with soapy water for quicker clean-up. Tie on the apron.
Assemble and measure all the ingredients and equipment before you begin.
Even if you buy the instant yeast, most recipes call for the step of mixing the yeast in lukewarm liquid (about body temperature, but not more than 110 degrees) with a bit of sugar, and letting it sit for a few minutes until the yeast foams. Then you add the fat, more flour (not all of it), eggs (if called for) and make a gooey, sticky dough. The rest of the flour is stirred, then kneaded, in.
Speaking of kneading, have no fear. Simply flour your surface and hands liberally and place the ball on the floured surface. With the heel of your hand, press three-fourths of the dough down away from you, stretching it out. Then fold the stretched portion back over the rest, turn it about a quarter and repeat for at least 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic, at body temperature and you have worked out all of your frustrations.
Poke the dough with your finger. If the indentation stays, knead the dough some more; if the dough resumes its shape, it's ready to let rise.
Letting the dough rise is the easy part. Butter a bowl, flop the dough in, cover with a warm, damp towel and go clean up the kitchen.
Try these recipes:
- 2 tablespoons yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup water (approximately 105 degrees)
- 1 cup milk
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 7 cups flour
- 3 eggs, beaten
- For the syrup
- 3 cups brown sugar
- 3/4 cup butter
- 6 tablespoons Karo syrup
- For the topping
- Brown sugar
Dissolve yeast and one tablespoon sugar in warm water.
Scald milk, then add butter, sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm. Add two cups flour. Add yeast and eggs. Stir in the remainder of the flour and knead lightly. Let rise until double. While dough is rising, boil all syrup ingredients for two minutes. Divide syrup into six (eight-inch) square pans (or use three 9-by-13-inch pans). When dough is doubled, punch down and divide into two parts.
Roll each part (one at a time) into a 12-by-18 inch rectangle on a well-floured board or table. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll up tightly, beginning at the wide side. Cut into one-inch slices, and lay slices on top of the syrup in the pans. Repeat with all dough. Garnish finished rolls with a light dusting of brown sugar and cinnamon.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
Cinnamon Pull-aparts (Monkey Bread)
For the bread dough:
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Scant 1 tablespoon (1 package) dry active yeast
- 4 cups bread or all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For dipping and rolling:
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon
Butter and flour your cake, tube or bread pan(s) do not use springform pans as the butter will leak out onto your oven floor.
To make the dough: Warm the milk and sugar to about 105 degrees just slightly warmer than body temperature. Place in your mixer bowl and whisk in the yeast. Let the mixture stand until the yeast is activated and creamy (about 10 minutes).
Add two cups flour and the salt and beat with the paddle until you have a smooth batter. Add the eggs and blend well. Add the remaining flour and knead when the dough gets too thick for your paddle, switch to your dough hook. Knead for two minutes.
Then slowly add the melted and cooled butter to the dough while it is kneading. The dough will gradually absorb the butter, though at times it may look oily and even broken. Continue kneading until the dough becomes soft and smooth, about four to five minutes on medium speed.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl (use melted butter or a flavorless vegetable oil) that will hold twice the volume of the bread. Lightly oil the surface of the dough, cover the bowl with plastic and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours (depending on the warmth of the room).
While the dough is rising, blend the cinnamon and sugar in a bowl.
When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a surface lightly dusted with flour.
To cut the balls of dough, gently punch the dough down and shape it into a rectangle. Using a knife, divide the rectangle lengthwise into four strips of dough. Stretch each strip to lengthen and thin it, then cut it into pieces the size you desire 15 to 20 pieces per strip. Roll each piece into a ball using lightly floured hands.
Have your melted butter (placed in a small bowl) and cinnamon-sugar mixture ready. Dip each ball of dough in the butter to coat thoroughly, then roll it in the sugar mixture and place it in your prepared pan.
Continue until all the balls have been coated and the pans have been filled. (Just lightly coat the balls of dough with the cinnamon-sugar mixture too much and the buns will be hard.) If you are using odd-sized pans, be sure the dough balls do not fill the pan more than halfway, since there needs to be plenty of room for rising.
Cover the pan(s) with plastic and set aside (or place in the refrigerator overnight) to rise until almost doubled (the dough should be at or near the top of the pan).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 45 minutes (if you're not sure whether it's done, pull a piece off the top and taste-test it). Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then turn out the pans and allow the bread to cool on a rack or serving plate.
This is best served warm. Makes one to two loaves, depending on size of pan(s) used.