As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve got somethin’ of a crush on Ina Garten. I saw her make these “easy sticky buns,” the easy part being the use of puff pastry rather than yeasted dough. (My mom actually used to make a big pull apart sticky bun thing in a bundt pan using frozen dinner rolls, but we’ll leave that for another day.) So when Friday night ended in an impromptu sleepover, what better to serve up first thing Saturday than sticky buns? (Not those ones, geeze, my kid was up for crying out loud.)
I generally have puff pastry and phyllo on hand since pretty much every recipe only calls for half a package and they live in the freezer. Except this one. Fortunately for my hips, it was easily halved. I pulled it out of the freezer to thaw on the counter, as well as a stick of butter to come to room temp. And wouldn’t you know, the time it takes to feed a toddler oatmeal, then clean it off of the ceiling fan is the exact amount of time it takes to thaw out frozen pastry? I combined six tablespoons of the butter with brown sugar, and then spread a tablespoon into six cups of a muffin tin, along with a few chopped walnuts I had toasted. (The Contessa specifies pecans, but I had walnuts in the freezer. She also doesn’t say to toast them, but its not exactly hard to throw them in a dry pan and toss it around for a couple of minutes.) I unfolded the pastry, brushed with melted butter, and sprinkled with more brown sugar and cinnamon. At this point you’re supposed to add raisins, but I really don’t like them. Instead, I made more work for myself. I peeled and chopped up a small Fuji apple, sauteed it for a minute or two in some butter, and used that instead. Rolled it, sliced it, put it in the pan, and then the oven.
You know, it really was pretty easy. When I was watching her do it on the show, I remember thinking that it really looked somewhat time consuming and a lot of effort. In reality, after thawing time and everything, active prep wasn’t more than 15 minutes, and that’s with the extra work I made for myself. So I supposed what I’m trying to say is that I guess I’m not as lazy as I thought I was. (Well, for the moment, anyway.)
After they came out of the oven, I waited the requisite five minutes (no more, she warns) before flipping them over and out of the pan. And while the buns came out quite easily, the caramelly-nutty topping did not. I tried to scoop it out with a spoon, but it was glued pretty well to the pan. If I do these again, I might not even wait the five minutes.
Verdict? The first one was pretty good, so I had another one just to be sure. My second one had more crispy outside than soft and gooey inside, so I had a third just to be sure which part I preferred. I threw the remaining two away. I like fitting into my jeans. (Yes, you did the math right, I had three and he had one.) He said that they were really good, he just wasn’t that hungry. I thought they were pretty good, but could have been better. I think a sprinkling of salt over everything would have brought out the flavors a lot–they were a little sweet and heavy from the butter. I liked my apple substitution, but I wish I would have used more. All and all, while they were good, I really prefer a yeasted dough for this. I also prefer my mother’s pull apart version, and things are a lot stickier and goo-ier that way. The contrast between the crispy outisde and soft center is nice, but because they’re so small, there’s more of the former than of the latter. I prefer my sticky buns to be just that: sticky. So while really good, they weren’t great, though this could just be due to my personal preferences. And if I’m eating something this calorie laden, it’d be nice if it was really, truly worth it. (Ha, who do I think I’m kidding?)
I believe I’ll give my mother a call for her recipe. It’s not like I have to be in a bathing suit anytime soon…