Sunday, March 17, 2013

Maple Walnut Sticky Buns

It's that time of year; warm days and cold nights in March mean the sap is running in the Sugar Maple Trees that dot our forests and streets in New Hampshire and surrounding states.  I grew up on a small farm in rural New Hampshire that produced as much as 350 gallons of this golden elixir.  I always become nostalgic during sugar season.  My dad and godfather ran a large operation mostly using child labor (us) and Yankee ingenuity.  We had a sugar house in the back yard behind the barn (no large animals after the cow fell in the well - another story) and many evenings in March were spent out in that steamy warm building.  My dad loves the first draw of syrup - the fancy grade with the lightest flavor and color.  This syrup is best on pancakes, waffles or drizzled over ice-cream.  If you are cooking with syrup you will want to find a dark, flavorful syrup or Grade B.  We keep a quart of both in the fridge. 

This recipe is based on one given to me by my dad.  He is one of the best bakers I know and an inspiration to all those around him - he loves sharing the bounty of his talents with others.  The dough is sweet and tender and the maple sticky caramel is delicious with the walnuts and golden raisins.

Makes approximately 20 buns
For the dough, combine and scald:

1 ½ cups milk
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon sea salt

Set aside to cool (approximately 20 minutes until the liquid is between 95 and 105 degrees F)
Pour cooled liquid into the bowl of a standing mixer.

With mixer running on lowest setting add:

1 teaspoon almond extract
3 large eggs
1 ¾ teaspoons yeast (this is slightly less than one package)

Gradually add (see next paragraph):

 6 cups of King Arthur All Purpose Flour

Use the  paddle attachment for the first 4 cups and when smoot switch to the dough hook.  Then gradually add the remaining 2 cups until dough starts climbing the hook and is stiff enough to handle.  If the dough seems too sticky you may need to add up to an additional ½ cup of flour.

Knead the dough approximately 2 – 3 minutes.  Remove the dough hook from the dough cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm area (75 to 80 degrees is ideal) until dough is double in size.  This will take approximately 1 ½ hours.
While the dough is rising make the caramel liquid as follows:
2/3 cup butter

Whisk into the butter and set aside:
¾ cup pure maple syrup – Grade B is preferable as it has more flavor
1/4 cup brown sugar

Have ready:
2/3 cup golden raisins
1 cup walnuts – halved or chopped in large pieces

Prepare two 8” oven proof skillets.  Spray with non-stick spray and put ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons of the maple syrup butter mixture in the bottom of each skillet.  Spread ½ cup of the walnuts onto the bottom of each pan and set aside.

Finish the dough:

Place the dough on a large floured surface.  Knead for a minute or so and form into an oblong roll.  Allow the dough to rest for about five minutes.  Roll the dough out into a long rectangle.  This will be approximately 12” X 30” and a generous ¼” thick.

Brush a generous amount of the remaining butter/maple syrup mixture over the entire surface of the rolled out dough.  Sprinkle the golden raisins evenly over the dough.  If you decide to add cinnamon sprinkle lightly on the dough (you can cut it with a tablespoon of sugar to make it easier to sprinkle onto the dough).  Roll the dough up lengthwise to make a long – (approximately 30” long) log.  Cut the rolls into generous 1 inch slices and arrange onto the prepared skillets.  Depending on the size of your roll you will have approximately 10 rolls per skillet.

Cover the skillets with a clean towel and set in a warm place to rise until the rolls approximately double in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake in preheated oven for approximately 30 – 40 minutes until dark golden brown.  Turn upside down on a plate to serve.  You can also add a quick maple glaze by combining:

2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 - 3/4 cup confectionery sugar

Drizzle glaze over the top of the sticky buns.  Serve warm.


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