Monday, January 21, 2013

Dinner Train: The Phantom Tollbooth Synonym Buns (Pumpkin Cinnamon Sticky Buns)

Pumpkin Cinnamon Sticky Buns
aka Phantom Tollbooth Synonym Buns

Pumpkin Cinnamon Sticky Buns or Synonym Buns?
I've been thinking about making the synonym buns in Phantom Tollbooth come to life since I read the sentence, while sitting outside on the grass with a cup of coffee, back in the fall when everything is pumpkin flavored and smells of fall.  If you haven't been paying attention, I live in Boston, where there is a fairly well-known bakery I've a little embarrassingly somehow never visited, named Flour, which is known for having the best sticky buns this side of the sun (aka, in the universe, since the Mars rover has, as yet, failed to discover traces of stick bun in the soil).   Since it has taken nearly 5 months to make this happen, I've had plenty of time to find out if there are riffs on Joanne Chang's original Flour recipe, specifically in the pumpkin area.  And there are, especially the one from With Fork and Knife!  Smitten Kitchen also had a great recipe, but it was more in the cinnamon buns family, and I wanted to make them as sinfully syn-y as possible.  Hence, I married the two recipes, added some bourbon, and now need to go for a five mile run so I don't feel guilty when I eat four more...
Pumpkin Cinnamon Sticky Buns
aka Synonym Buns

Some notes: 
I used a combo of bread and cake flour because I was very low on all-purpose flour, which was a moot point when my first two yeast packets were duds.  Smitten Kitchen recommends that you test it by adding it to your warmed milk, waiting a few minutes, and checking to see if its a bit foamy.  Frankly, my first two packets did nothing.  I had to go back out to the grocery store to get a whole new batch, which then proceeded to basically do almost the same thing, except be a little more putty colored.  I proceeded, and it was fine.  Basically, just make sure you get fresh yeast to be on the safe side.  Because this is a book club for grown ups, I thought we could handle a little bourbon in the topping.  I have doubled the portion in the recipe below, as I used one Tbsp, and there was not even a hint of it in the complete batch.  I recommend serving this with a strong cup of coffee, some yogurt or eggs, and some good friends!  Or, say, on a great adventure to Dictionopolis in your toy car. 

Adapted from both Smitten Kitchen and With Fork and Knife
Makes approximately 16 buns
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup warmed whole milk
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (aka one .25 oz packet)
3 1/2 cups flour (all purpose, or bread)
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg at room temperature

1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 cup crushed walnuts

6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 stick of cinnamon
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp heavy cream
2 Tbsp bourbon
a pinch of salt
1/3 cup crushed walnuts


1. Let's start with the dough!  Melt your butter over medium-low on a burner, waiting until it turns a nice chestnut brown.  Let it cool to a liquid, but it is okay if it is warm enough to keep it in a liquid state.
2.  Meanwhile, slightly warm your milk so it is warm, not hot.  You're not making a latte here!  Add the packet of yeast, stir to incorporate and let sit for 5-7 minutes, at which time it should be theoretically a little frothy.  If it is the same color, and there is limited to no action going on (ie, hasn't even turned a very light shade of putty), pour it out and try again with a newer packet of yeast.
3.  In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugars, and spices, and add in the butter, milk, pumpkin, and egg.  Combine with either a dough hook in a stand mixer, or get in there with your hands, getting the mix as combined as you can and into one ball.  Place it in a separated bowl that has been oiled, cover, and let rest in a warm, draft free place for at least an hour, until it has doubled in size.  Knead very briefly, recover, and refrigerate overnight or for at least six hours.  It will grow even more!

After 1 hour

10ish hours later!
4.  Remove the dough from the oven to get to a comfortable room temperature as you begin to prepare the topping and filling.
5.  Let's start your topping.  In a saucepan over medium-low, melt your butter with a cinnamon stick.  When it reaches a liquid state, whisk in brown sugar until combined (you may need to take out the stick and then put it back in).  When combined, whisk in honey, cream, bourbon, and salt until combined, and let rest.  Reserve the nuts for later.
6.  In yet another bowl let's do some filling mixture, combine all topping ingredients except for nuts.  Done.
7.  When you are done with all this, your dough should probably have reached a decent temperature, andsothen it is time to roll it out.  Sprinkle your rolling surface liberally with flour, grab a rolling pin, and work out your aggression on the dough.  It should be about a quarter of an inch think, and somewhat rectangular in shape for ease in rolling.

8.  Schmear your filling all over that piece, and then sprinkle your crushed nuts liberally across the surface.  Please don't judge me for that sentence.

9.  Let me see your tootsie roll!  Get a firm, but gentle roll going, pressing lightly at the end to quasi-seal it.  Then, gently slice your roll into approximately 16 similarly sized pieces.
Rolling the buns

Slice with a firm, but gentle hand
They won't all be perfectly sized, but at least they'll taste the same!
10.  Butter the sides of your baking vessel, remembering there needs to be space for the rolls to continue to rise - as in, you may need more than one pan (I used two circular cake pans).  Now you can pour your slightly cooled but still liquid topping in, and sprinkle with the remaining crushed walnuts.  Place your buns in the pan, leaving enough room for them to expand.  Let rest for at least 45 minutes.  Patience is hard, I know.  Sometime in there, preheat your oven to 350.  

Preparing the topping in the baking pans
Make sure to leave room between the buns when you place them in the pan - they will grow!
Resting for 45 minutes on the pre-heating stove
I told you they'd grow!
11.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until buns are firm to the touch.  Let cool for approximately five minutes, and serve hot.  If you have a dish that fits, I'd recommend just turning the pan upside down to let the liquid topping drip down.
Pumpkin Cinnamon Sticky Buns
aka Synomyn Buns
12.  Serve with good friends, strong coffee, maybe some protein, but mostly, with fellow adult nerds who enjoy children's books...methinks this one will also be a big hit with children of the real live variety as well (who probably don't need that coffee as much as you will if they have it).

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