Despite outward appearances, when it comes to eating I am definitely a creature of habit. For as long as I can remember there have been key staples in my daily repertoire that I simply can't live without. Every day I have least one cup of hot tea with a splash of milk in the morning, a banana or apple at lunch, a square of chocolate in the afternoon and a glass of milk with dinner. These are all small but significant parts of my diet, little bits of each day that I look forward to because, even though they aren't particularly gourmet, the routine makes me feel good. It is worth noting, however, that perhaps the most significant eating habit of mine is my daily ritual of oatmeal in the morning.
My obsession with this hot cereal started at a very early age when my parents would prepare me a piping hot bowl of Maypo for breakfast. In fact, it is now town legend that when I was little I loved Maypo so much that I ate it, exclusively, for breakfast and dinner for one entire year. (In my own defense I will point out that this was during my terrible twos phase, when apparently the most terrible thing about me was my eating habits.) Nowadays I have graduated from Maypo and prepare myself slow cooking oats, splashed with milk and a pinch of turbinado sugar. This has been my go-to breakfast since high school and I still look forward to it every morning. However, upon occasion, even I can be forced out of my daily oatmeal ritual. This usually happens when we are entertaining for brunch, or I am woken up obscenely early by the diaper-wearing resident of our household. It is these times, when the day is already off to a different than usual start, that I decide it is time to switch it up a little.
When I change gears with breakfast food I let my mood dictate what I decide to make. There are some weekends when I want a big lunch-like meal to start off the day so I whip up hearty egg sandwiches. These are always hit with both my husband and daughter, who finds much amusement in eating her sandwich layer by layer, from top to bottom. There are other weekends when I decide to make one of my baked egg dishes, our favorite of which is vegetable pie. Egg casseroles are always a great breakfast meal, the assembly is easy and they are excellent when entertaining for a crowd. Then there are weekends when I feel up to a big challenge and decide to tackle something completely out of the ordinary. This is what happened to me last Sunday when I decided that it was the perfect time for me to try making homemade sticky buns.
I began my baking quest by scouring the internet for recipes, immediately dismissing all of those that called for yeasty doughs that needed to rise overnight. I wanted to work with a recipe that was efficient and doable from start to finish, on a weekend morning with my toddler underfoot. After a lengthy internet search I read that Barefoot Contessa had recently showcased a sticky bun recipe on the the Food Network. I went straight to my cookbook cabinet and was thrilled to discover the recipe I had been searching for. From the looks of it, my friend Ina (who I don't actually know, but I just feel like she is my friend because we definitely speak the same language) had faced the challenge of making homemade sticky buns and had some great solutions. First, I read through her recipe and made some adaptations to suit our tastes, most notably substituting craisins for raisins and decreasing the amount of butter. Then I set to work.
The assembly of the buns required so little concentration that although my daughter was practicing her steel drumming on my all-clad pots right next to me, it didn't bother me one bit. Once the pastry dough was unfolded on my counter top all I had to do was brush on the butter, evenly scatter the ingredients and roll the whole thing back up, simple as that. Then, after a quick thirty minutes in the oven, I had piping hot fresh buns. Upon first bite it was clear that the buns were different than those made with a yeast dough, they were kind of like a cross between a palmier and a sticky bun. The buttery layers of pastry were wonderfully flaky and delicate, wrapped tightly around a sticky sweet center filled with craisins and chopped nuts. The butter and sugar sticky topping was decadently sweet, dripping all over our pajamas and gumming up our fingers. Naturally, given the amazingly sweet taste, my daughter loved them, calling them "bunnies" instead of buns. With the two votes of approval from the household I wrote down my version of the recipe and added it to my weekend recipe file. Though part of me missed my oatmeal, these buns could definitely become a habit.
Naptime's Sticky Bunnies with Craisins - adapted from Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics
6 T. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 c. light brown sugar, loosely packed
1/2 c. pecan halves, coarsely chopped
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted
For the filling:
1 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 c. light brown sugar, loosely packed
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. craisins (dried cranberries)
Yields 6 buns, recipe can be doubled for more
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 6 cup muffin pan with Pam and set aside. In an electric mixer combine the 6 T. of butter and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of this mixture into six muffin cups. Distribute pecans evenly among muffin cups, scattering them on top of the butter and sugar.
2. Thaw puff pastry and spread it out on a lightly floured surface. Make sure that the folds go left to right, so it is vertical, not horizontal. Brush the sheet with melted butter. Sprinkle the sheet with brown sugar, cinnamon and craisins.
3. Roll the pastry up start from left to right. Make sure it is very snug, like a jelly roll.
4. Trim the roll into six equal pieces and place each piece in a muffin cup.
5. Bake for 30 minutes, make sure the pastry is dark golden before removing it from the oven.
6. Cool for 7-9 minutes, then invert the buns out of the muffin cups. Make sure the pecans are sticking to the top.
8. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces.
Naptime Recipe Props: There is nothing not to like about this recipe, they are a sweet treat for your family and friends. They really are as easy as they look!
Naptime Stopwatch: The whole recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare. It should be noted that it is important to let the puff pastry thaw to room temperature before unfolding it. Don't let it thaw for too long though, or else it gets tough to work with.
Naptime Reviews: The sticky "bunnies" were a huge hit with the entire age range in our household. However, unfortunately we have noted that they are not totally diet friendly, therefore they must be regulated to a once a month treat.