Yeah I know, you’re shocked. Look, I’ve never been much of a baker. Baking is so different from other types of cooking; the first is very exacting and results in lots of sweet things while the others result in dinner. I have no objections to baking on health grounds, you understand (I think that’s very clear from the content of this site) but I just don’t have a sweet tooth in the same way I am greedy for, say, a wodge of freshly churned butter, glistening with sea salt crystals, spread over crusty white bread. A friend once said to me, ‘Helen, you don’t have a sweet tooth, you have a fat tooth.’ Cheers, pal.
Savoury baking, I do. See my billboard-famous chicken pie or my cavolo nero and white cheese börek (I could eat that forever) but sweet stuff? Well, I’ve mastered the basics but FFS do not ask me to knock up a batch of canelés or macarons anytime soon because you are barking up the wrong croquembouche.
Anyway, I was required to make something with nuts for my third recipe in partnership with Vitamix, the wonder blender that busts its blades through just about anything (previous recipes were chipotle and coffee rubbed short ribs and sorrel fettuccine with brown shrimp sauce) and I’m proud of these, actually.
I’m proud of them because firstly, they worked and secondly, I managed to conquer something I’ve never been too good at, which is making caramel. For years my mum kept a saucepan that I’d destroyed while trying to make the salted stuff, shiny remains welded to the bottom, an unwelcome varnish. Well, ha! In your face, sugar. I am your master now.
These are as good as they look, by the way. Make sure you’re not left alone with more than two.
Sticky Pecan Buns Recipe
For the dough
450g strong white flour
50g golden caster sugar
125g unsalted butter
7g dried yeast
120ml milk (lukewarm)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
For the filling
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
100g light muscovado sugar
150g pecan nuts
60g unsalted butter, melted
For the topping
80g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
100g light muscovado sugar
45g butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
60ml double cream
1 pinch of salt
You will also need
Vitamix Pro750 fitted with 2.0l low profile container
2 x 12 hole muffin tins
To make the dough, add the flour, salt, sugar and butter to a Vitamix container and select Variable 5. Pulse the ingredients to a rubble consistency, using the tamper to mix equally. Add the yeast and eggs and turn the Vitamix to Variable 1.
Press start, remove the plug and slowly pour in the warm milk. Pour in a slash at a time until the dough begins to come together – you may not need all the milk.
Tip the dough out onto a floured surface, using a spatula to scrape it all out. The dough is quite a soft and sticky so flour your hands well. Knead the dough for 10–15 minutes until soft and springy. Remove to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
To make the topping, heat the sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly. The sugar will clump and eventually melt into pools of brown liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn it.
Once completely melted, add the butter (it will bubble furiously, so take care). Stir the butter in until completely melted. Very slowly drizzle in the cream (this will also splutter!). Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute (it will rise up), remove from the heat and add salt. Set aside to cool.
To make the filling, add the nuts, sugar and cinnamon to the Vitamix container, select Variable 5 and pulse until you have a fine crumb consistency.
Knock back the dough and divide it into pieces, rolling them out into 3 rectangles approx. 20x30cm in size. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle over the nut mixture. Roll each up from one of the long ends and cut each into 8 pieces.
Divide the pecans for the topping between the holes of two 12 hole muffin tins. Divide the caramel between them, then add the buns. Cover lightly with cling film and set aside for half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
Bake the buns for 30 minutes until golden brown. Turn out while still warm onto a wire rack and allow to cool before eating.