Somewhat Virtuous Sticky Sweetness

I love butter. I love buttery brioche. I love buttery brioche dough rolled up with brown sugar, spices and even more butter. I love to smell it baking in the oven, the brioche buns nestled together to better soak up any sticky, caramel-like secretions.

I also love zipping my pants and maintaining a reasonably sized muffin top.
So, this morning, I gave up my brioche fantasy for a while in favor of an experiment: a skinny rebirth of sorts for my Sticky Buns with Maple Icing. I made my buns with low-fat buttermilk roll dough instead of brioche (sniff) and, I have to tell you, the results weren’t too shabby. Of course, somehow I managed to soften nearly a half-cup of butter with which to smear the dough before adding the sugar and spices, but come on, it could have been far worse.
I baked 8 buns the traditional way, crammed together in a pan (see above), and another 10 I baked as stand-alones in a muffin tin (as seen in the opening photo and below).

If you’re willing to pass up layers of soft, ultra-rich (insanely fattening) dough in favor of a low-fat bun with all the other trappings of goo and sweetness, try this recipe.
Sticky Buns with Maple Icing
(recipe yields about 18 sticky buns)

1 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup warm water
2 cups buttermilk (I never seem to have buttermilk in the house when I need it; often I substitute regular milk with a shot of vinegar: in this case, 2 tablespoons vinegar to nearly 2 cups skim milk)
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 – 5 cups all-purpose flour
1/ 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
gooey insides
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter (salted is fine)
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
maple icing
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3-4 tablespoons pure Vermont maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons skim milk

Combine yeast with water and sugar. Leave to rest and do its thing for about 5 minutes (bubbles will rise to surface).

Mix buttermilk with vegetable oil and salt over low heat until warm. Add this mixture to large bowl.

Sift together all-purpose flour and baking soda. Set aside.

Add yeast mixture to buttermilk mixture. Stir.

Add 2 1/2 – 3 cups of flour mixture, beating on medium-high speed to combine. (You’ll want to switch to a dough hook eventually if you’re using a stand mixer.)

Add additional flour in batches until dough starts to form and pull away from sides of bowl.

Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and cover with bowl. Let it rest about 15 minutes.

Uncover and knead with dough hook for about 5 minutes if using stand mixer, up to 10 minutes if kneading by hand, until dough is satiny and springy.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 round cake tins or pie pans (or go the muffin tin route I discussed above).

Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Roll each into a rectangle.

Smear 1/4 cup softened butter all over each rectangle, then generously shower with brown sugar and spices.

Starting from the long side, roll up the dough rectangles jelly-roll style to form 2 logs. Slice each log into 9 buns.

I was a bit overzealous with my butter softening technique and ended up with vast pools of the stuff. Not bad. Just messy.

Place 9 buns into each pan. It’s OK if they don’t fit snugly; they will grow.

Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

While the buns bake, mix confectioners’ sugar with maple syrup and skim milk to make icing.

Generously ice buns as soon as you remove them from the oven.

Eat them, being sure to scoop up the goo in the bottom of the pan.

Crazy for Cardamom

Voluptuous cardamom-y goodness.

Once upon a time, in a world far less perfect than the one I currently inhabit, I baked this bread only around the holidays. I’ve changed my ways. There’s no wrong time for cardamom bread. I made three loaves last week, and we (all two of us) have demolished them. 
Cardamom bread is a good idea anytime: as a snack with or without butter; for breakfast as is or made into French toast; in the middle of the night, hunkered over a loaf in the dark. And remember, coffee loves cardamom bread. And cardamom bread loves coffee.
It’s a simple braided bread. Ingredients are below. I’ll be back later to add my method.
Cardamom Bread (1 loaf)
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 large egg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur’s)
3-4 teaspoons ground cardamom (this is a matter of personal preference; if you have whole cardamom pods, use 4 or 5 pods — remove seeds from pods and crush with a rolling pin)
2 teaspoons yeast
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
a sprinkling of granulated sugar
It is now later.

(Truth time: I used instant dry yeast for this recipe. I had never used it before, so bear with me, but somehow the stuff ended up in our cart at a nearby wholesale warehouse establishment that will remain nameless. “Somehow” meaning that in my free-food-sample-induced craze while roaming the aisles, I blindly threw the jumbo pack into our otherwise well-thought-out mix of goods. And as it looks like instant dry yeast will be in my pantry for months, if not years, into the future, here’s to using it with a smile on my face.)
Combine butter cubes with milk and microwave for a minute (if no microwave, melt butter into milk in a saucepan over low heat). 
Add milk/butter combo to bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment along with 1 egg, sugar, salt, cardamom and 1 cup flour. Mix until combined.
In separate bowl, mix instant dry yeast with remaining 2 cups flour (for 30 seconds, according to the Fleischmann’s package).
With mixer running, gradually scoop flour/yeast mixture into other ingredients to combine.
Switch to the dough hook and knead on low for about 4-5 minutes (or knead by hand —much more rewarding).
Place dough in a greased bowl (a deep one) and cover with plastic. Leave to rise at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour. (My house averages about 55 degrees, so I cheated and left my dough to rise in a warm oven.)

Divide dough into 3 parts and roll into ropes. Place on a baking sheet, cover with a cloth and let rest for about 10 minutes.
Braid the dough, then let rise (covered) for another 45 minutes.
Whisk 1 egg with 1 tablespoon milk to make glaze; brush over braid. Sprinkle sugar over top. (You will have leftover glaze; go glaze something else.)
Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or so. (Tap the bread with your finger; it is done when it sounds hollow.) 
Let cool completely on wire rack before slicing. 

(Gluttonous on occasion, never meaning any real harm, I sometimes convince myself that the bread is cool enough to have a go with me and my knife a wee bit prematurely. Nothing bad happens. We all enjoy ourselves.)