While we don’t get the snow-covered winters that most people picture when they think “Canadian winter”, on Vancouver Island we do get an awful lot of rain. It’s cold, wet, grey, and DARK from November through to March or April (and then we usually get a repeat in June, or June-uary as we like to call it). I know that complaining about the weather is hardly what you came to read about on a food blog, but my point is that last weekend I got caught in one of those depressing downward spirals of adult worries pertaining to jobs and money, and the dark, depressing winter day outside wasn’t making it any better. So I did what I had to: I made butter tarts with maple syrup and pecans, because almost nothing makes me feel better than baking something does (except maybe for eating whatever I’ve just baked).
Here they are… the caramel pecan sticky buns that started my obsession with making bread the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day way. They are so good that I am sure they will also start your obsession.
This is one way to use up a portion of this challah dough. Roll it out, spread it with cinnamon-sugar-butter and sprinkle it with pecans, sit it on a bed of brown sugar-butter-pecan goodness, let it rest, let it bake, and then you will be in caramel pecan sticky bun heaven.
I’m telling you, these are GOOD, and although they require some waiting time, they don’t require a lot of physical effort. They don’t even have to be particularly pretty or neat looking to still taste out-of-this-world amazing. There is a TON of butter and sugar in this recipe, so if you’re looking for something diet-friendly, you might want to pass on this one… but I wouldn’t recommend it ;).
The pecans are calling your name. Make these sticky buns. You know you want to…
Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns
In a medium bowl, cream together:
6 tbsp unsalted butter, soft
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of a 9″ round cake pan. Sprinkle it with:
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans (you can leave them whole if you prefer)
In a small bowl, cream together:
4 tbsp unsalted butter, soft
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
In a 375˚F oven, toast:
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Toasting the pecans keeps them from getting soggy inside the rolls. They should take about 20-25 minutes – watch them carefully and stir several times. Set aside to cool.
Place a 1 1/2-ish lb portion of chilled challah dough on a lightly floured surface. Using your hands and a rolling pin, roll and stretch it into an 18″ x 9″ rectangle. Keep the dough lightly floured to prevent it from sticking, but try not to over-flour it.
Spread the rectangle of dough evenly with the filling, then sprinkle it with the toasted pecans. From one of the long edges, roll up the dough securely to enclose the filling.
With a sharp serrated knife, cut the roll into 8 pieces. Arrange them over the caramel-pecan topping mixture in the baking pan. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for about 1 hour.
After an hour, the buns should have expanded quite a bit. With a few minutes left in the rest period, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Remove the plastic wrap, place the pan on a cookie sheet to protect against bubbling-over caramel (I didn’t do this and my oven was a mess of melted butter and molten caramel!), and bake at 350˚F for about 40 minutes, until golden brown and cooked all the way to the center of the pan.
Place the pan on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes, until the bubbling caramel subsides. While still hot, run a knife around the edge of the pan to release the buns and invert them onto a plate (if you wait for them to cool they will stick to the pan). Scrape out any caramel and pecans left behind.
On Monday I watched a show on the Food Network that featured amazing-looking banana pecan pancakes, and I was immediately inspired to recreate the recipe. I had a feeling that Shrove Tuesday – aka Pancake Tuesday – was coming up soon, and a quick Google search revealed that it was actually the next day. Well! What a coincidence!
On Tuesday morning as I stumbled into the shower, I mumbled incoherently at Nate that it was Shrove Tuesday and I would be making pancakes for dinner. His response was a confused, “What? Why pancakes?”
Not being Christian or religious myself, I realized that I had only the vaguest inkling of the link between Shrove Tuesday and pancakes (I just knew it had something to do with Lent), and certainly not enough of an understanding to explain it, so I just yelled, “Shrove Tuesday. Pancakes. Lent!” from behind the shower curtain, leaving Nate still mostly unsure about why we were having pancakes for dinner.
But I didn’t care about why, I was more concerned with what, as in what kind of pancakes to make? Banana pecan, of course! I spent most of Tuesday composing flavours in my head and figuring out what to serve along with the pancakes. I eventually settled on a fruit salad of Gala apples, oranges, red grapes, and a handful of frozen blueberries, and I would add the zest from the orange to the pancake batter to make them orange pecan banana. We were out of maple syrup, but I remembered seeing a homemade syrup recipe on Dinner with Julie, so I decided to make that as well.
Have you ever had Lesley Stowe’s Rosemary Raisin Pecan Raincoast Crisps? Would you agree that they are among the best things you have ever tasted?
I came across a recipe for these amazing crackers at Dinner with Julie a few months ago, and made a mental note to try them out. I am currently doing a 30-day no-refined-sugar challenge with a friend of mine, and I wanted to experiment with using alternative sweeteners in baking. Seeing as the recipe for these crisps calls for only a small amount (1/4 cup) of brown sugar, I thought it would be a good place to start experimenting, and it would also give me a delicious snack to nibble on so that I wouldn’t miss refined-sugary treats so much!
There are lots of tips on the web for substituting liquid sweeteners in place of dry sugar in baking, but the resource I used was this one. You need to add more or less sweetener depending on how sweet it is compared to regular sugar, and also to reduce the liquid in the recipe to adjust for the added moisture. Following this advice, I used 1/3 cup of brown rice syrup plus about 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in place of the brown sugar, and decreased the amount of buttermilk by a smidgeon (probably about 2 tablespoons). I also substituted 1 cup of whole wheat flour for 1 cup of all purpose.
These crackers are sort of like biscotti, in that you bake them once (in a loaf pan), then slice them thin and bake again until crisp. When the loaves were baking, they smelled incredible – just like the originals. I was a bit worried about the colour, as they seemed very light, but I just put a batch through their second baking, and they look, smell, and taste exactly like the real thing!
Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crisps (no refined sugar!)
Original recipe from Dinner with Julie can be found here.
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 scant cups buttermilk
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 tbsp. blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seed, ground
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Grease two 8×4 inch loaf pans or spray with cooking spray.
In a large bowl stir together flours, baking soda, and salt. In a smaller bowl whisk together buttermilk, brown rice syrup, molasses, and honey. Stir into the flour mixture using only a few strokes (it should still be lumpy like muffin batter). Add the remaining ingredients and stir until just blended.
Pour into the prepared pans and bake for 35 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the pans and cool completely.
When the loaves and completely cool, slice as thin as possible and place the slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet (I used parchment paper, just in case!). The original recipe suggests freezing the loaves to make slicing easier, which is what I did, and I would recommend it. It also means you can bake one loaf at a time, and leave one loaf frozen for later! To slice, I used a freshly-sharpened straight-edge knife, rather than a serrated knife.
Bake the slices in a 300˚ F oven for about 15 minutes, flip, and bake another 10 minutes, until crisp and dark brown (be careful not to burn them – it’s a fine line!). Cool on a rack. Warning: these are addictive – good thing you have another loaf in the freezer for later, hey?
Makes about 8 dozen crisps.