Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Think bite-sized sticky buns without the time-consuming yeast dough. Rich, tender, cakey, with a bit of caramely brown sugar goop. These little cheaters are made with a quick stirred-together cream biscuit concoction. Too simple for words.

Chewier, Gooier, Crispier, Crunchier Note: Everyone, it seems, expects something a little different from a sticky bun. So while these buttery little bites are really quite nice, just to be clear, they are not the puffy, yeasty rolls of your childhood that, incidentally, took hours to make, roll, rise, and bake. These are more like scones in a sense, with their denser, chewier substantialness, their shy sweetness, their dough that comes together in mere minutes. So if you’re particularly fond of caramely loveliness, consider doubling the filling. Like your sticky buns exceptionally moist? Err on the low end of the baking time. Partial to pecans? Chop some and add them to the filling. And so forth and so on. You get the idea.

Equipment 1 miniature muffin pan with 24 cups or 2 miniature muffin pans with 12 cups each

Sticky Pecan Bites Recipe

24 pecan halves
1 cup (4.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus additional for sprinkling
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) packed brown or muscovado sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft, plus more for the muffin cups

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Lightly butter the muffin cups unless they are nonstick.

2. Place a pecan half in each muffin cup, top side down. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork. Make a well in the center. Pour the cream into the well. Use a rubber spatula to fold and stir the flour mixture and cream together just until the dry ingredients are completely moistened and a soft dough is formed. The dough should not look perfectly smooth. Let the dough rest for 2 to 3 minutes to firm.

3. Meanwhile, mix the sugar with the cinnamon.

4. On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough to a rectangle about 12 by 7 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Use a small offset spatula or your fingertips to spread the dough with the soft butter, then sprinkle with a pinch of salt and the brown sugar, leaving a 1/8 to 1/4 inch border. Press the seam to seal. Starting at one short end, roll the dough tightly. Gently stretch the dough to lengthen the roll slightly to about 12 inches in length. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

5. Cut the dough roll crosswise into 24 equal pieces. (It’s easiest to do this by cutting the dough in half, then cutting each half in half, then cutting each portion into 6 pieces. This is easier to do than it sounds.) Place each piece of dough in a muffin cup, cut side up.

6. Bake the sticky buns for 12 to 15 minutes, until browned. Rotate the pan(s) from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. (The longer you leave them in the oven, the crisper the edges but the drier the dough.) Immediately turn the buns out onto a sheet of parchment on a heatproof surface. (And we do mean immediately, otherwise the buns may stick to the pan.) Serve warm out of the oven.

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