Orange-Cinnamon Honey Sticky Buns and The Newlywed Kitchen
In 8th grade, my middle school French class took a trip to Paris. Back then I wasn’t interested in food the way I am now, so I didn’t take advantage of the streetside crepes and Fouchon bakery. Instead I remember how the cobblestone streets felt through the thin soles of my sneakers. The Eiffel Tower electric with lights. The fear I felt in the damp, windless corridors of the skull-lined Catacombs. And the grey parchment paper sky, wisps of clouds and the promise of rain.
Even as the trip unfolded, I knew I was making memories I wouldn’t want to forget. Every evening we’d return to our rickety two-star hotel, with bars on the windows and a spiral staircase that went up and up and up. I’d collapse onto the bed, shoes still laced. Then my friend K- and I would pull out our journals. Neither of us enjoyed updating them, but we both wanted to remember every moment of this adventure. The magic was in the details.
On our last night, we thought it would be fun to exchange journals and see what the other person had written. After all, we’d done all the same things – wouldn’t it be cool to see what each person had taken from the experience?
I giggled when I read K-’s entries – they were as practical and logical as she was. She’d dutifully recorded all the sights we’d seen and places we’d visited. She listed out every meal, every souvenir (including how much she paid) and the method we traveled. When I handed her journal back, I saw bafflement on her face.
“You wrote about such weird stuff,” she admitted. “How is this going to help you remember anything important?”
Suddenly self conscious, I flipped through the pages. No, I hadn’t listed all the monuments and souvenirs, but the information was in there if you read through it all… I’d written about my failed attempts at conversation with a cheerful woman on the subway (I later found out I’d been talking about fishbones and stars, to her amusement.) The French perception of America I’d observed, from strange fashion posters to chit chat in the park. And most importantly, every emotion, whether good or bad, I’d experienced on our trip.
I simply wrote about what I always notice – the people and the emotional connection around me. It felt more like Paris to me than any arch or shopping complex. To me, that’s what’s important – that’s what I want to remember. To me, everything is personal.
Like always, food is no exception. When I visit a farmer’s market, I am as interested in the growers themselves as I am in the produce. I always like to strike up conversation with the artisan bread bakers and chocolatiers I meet – doesn’t learning about their hard work and passion make their food taste even better?
Writing these blog posts often feels a lot like writing in a personal journal. And while food is a thread that weaves through everything, I find that I’m often not writing about baked goods at all. It’s about my mother’s smile when the ciabatta sounds hollow inside, and my father holding his fork just so, right before I snap the photo. It’s about the serenity of sprinkling dough with cinnamon sugar, the way everything has quietly become clear. Food is personal, and there’s no separating it from the rest of your life.
The recipe for these Orange-Cinnamon Sticky Buns came from Lorna Yee’s The Newlywed Kitchen. Lorna’s a friend, a fellow blogger, and a Seattle Magazine food writer. I usually don’t accept free products to blog about, but when Lorna asked me to review a copy, I couldn’t resist. I knew I was glad to have accepted when the book arrived at my door, glossy and making me hungry already.
What I really liked about this book, besides the recipes and vivid photography, was how personal it felt. Every few recipes, the book interviewed famous foodies, describing the story of how they fell in love. Where she met him, what he cooked for her, the role that food plays in their marriage. Besides being incredibly sweet and chock-full of cooking tips, every story made the distant chef feel a little more approachable and the recipe a little more familiar.
Isn’t that the ultimate purpose of food, to tell a story and bring us closer?
The story behind these sticky buns is simple. I remember the fragrance of orange oil left on the zester, and the painted texture of melted butter brushed on dough. My mother coming home and gasping, “Oh, what did you make?” and timing the buns to come out of the oven just as Dad was home. I remember telling him about the sticky glaze: “Walnuts, orange juice, honey, brown sugar, cream, and butter… It’s good stuff.” And his response: a hearty laugh that pushed up his cheeks, and “No, it isn’t!” as he took another bite.
I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything essential.
[PS: As we near the 4th of July, I thought I'd remind you guys of the flag cake I made last year! You might have seen this cake floating around the internet or even watched me make it on tv (you don't even know how nervous I was filming that. You don't even know.) This one's the original!]
Oh, I guess I could also talk about the buns themselves. It’s embarrassing how quickly we devoured the whole pan, but can you blame us? The dough itself is wonderful. When I was rolling it out, I was struck by how soft it was, like baby skin. I could see the flecks of orange zest, and the whole sheet of bread was incredibly fragrant. After a layer of butter and thick sprinkling of cinnamon sugar, the dough is rolled and sliced into buns.
The glaze is so sinful but so good. All those bad-for-you ingredients come together in a thick, sticky sauce – nutty and buttery and deep. It’s poured into the pan and the buns are snuggled right on top. Then you pop the pan into the oven the next morning and wake up to a honey and citrus spiced kitchen. You couldn’t ask for more.
Orange-Cinnamon Honey Sticky Buns
From The Newlywed Kitchen
Makes 14 sticky buns
7 tablespoons butter, room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing the bowl
1/4 cup warm water (105ºF to 115ºF)
3 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar, divided
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 egg yolk
2 heaping tablespoons freshly grated orange zest (about 1 medium orange)
1 cup whole milk or buttermilk, room temperature
4 1/4 cups flour, divided
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (about 1/2 medium orange)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
To make the dough: Lightly grease a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes.)
Add the remaining sugar, the salt, the remaining butter, egg, egg yolk, orange zest, milk, and 3 cups of the flour. Mix on low speed until combined. Switch to dough hook and continue mixing on low speed, slowly adding the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough looks silky smooth and a bit tacky, but not too sticky. If the dough is too wet, add another tablespoon or two of flour. Continue mixing for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the mixer off, and shape the dough into a ball.
Put the dough in the greased bowl, turning it so that it is completely covered in butter. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the dough, patting it down lightly around the edge of the bowl so that the dough is not exposed to too much air. Let the dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles in volume (about 2 hours.) After the dough has risen, punch it down, discard the plastic wrap, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle measuring 18 by 9 inches.
To make the filling: brush the dough with the melted butter and sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll up the dough from one long end, so it forms a cigar-shaped, cinnamon-spiral log. Arrange the log so it rests seam side down, then slice it into 14 equal pieces. [I made 12.]
To make the glaze: Combine all the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and heat, stirring, just until melted. Pour the glaze into a 13 ¾ by 9 ¾ inch baking pan. [I used a 13 by 9 inch pan and it worked out great.] Arrange the sticky buns in the pan (there should be a little bit of room for them to rise.) Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Remove the plastic wrap from the pan and bake the sticky buns for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown. [I used a glass pan, and I had to bake for about 40 minutes. If your pan is glass I recommend increasing the temperature to 375, or simply baking longer.] Let the buns cool for 5-10 minutes before turning them out onto a large baking sheet. Let them cool for another 10 minutes before serving. [I ate the buns right away. I didn't turn them out, just lifted out pieces with a spatula and used a spoon to pour over the glaze. So good!]
To revive a day-old bun, just pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds.
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