Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pecan Sticky Buns

I was feeling a bit nostalgic yesterday, and I thought it would be a good idea to read through all of my yearbooks from junior high and high school. It's been five years since I graduated, so it seemed like an appropriate time for that metaphorical walk down memory lane.

But it didn't take long for the nostalgia to fade and disturbance to take its place.

It took me six years to manage a decent yearbook picture. I know that's kind of a cliché, but seriously? In seventh grade, I wore a puffy vest and had my hair in an invisible ponytail.

By eighth grade, my fashion sense showed signs of improvement, but the glare from my glasses didn't do me any favors.

The next year, I was smart enough to wear contacts. Which, unfortunately, did nothing to help the fact that I had recently made the worst hair decision of my life. Yes... a perm. Need I go on?

I will concede that my senior picture turned out pretty well, but I'm thinking after six tries I was bound to get it right by accident, if for no other reason.

And the pictures are actually the least of my concerns. Most disturbing of all were the things people wrote to me.

In seventh grade, no less than five (yes, FIVE) people commented about the crush I had on one of my classmates. And mentioned him by name, no less. What?! It seems to me that what you write in someone's yearbook kind of sums up your relationship and/or how you think and feel about that person. This means that five (yes, FIVE) people defined me as the girl who had a crush on that guy. Excellent.

Seventh grade aside, the pervading theme throughout the comments in the rest of my yearbooks turned out to be how smart everyone thought I was. Which, I know, is a nice thing for everyone to say. But the way people wrote about me made me feel like I was some kind of abnormal phenomenon. Just because I could find a few derivatives and form grammatically correct sentences? I mean, it's not like I was coming up with stuff like this.

One person even offered me money if I graduated from college with a 4.0. (Which, if I'm so smart, seems like kind of a risky offer on his part, amirite?). Fortunately for him, I got a C in Math 126 during my first quarter at UW. Because I totally would have cashed in on that.

I also noticed, as I was browsing, that a few people wrote almost exactly the same thing every year. And not just the usual "I'm so glad we had math together! Thanks for helping me with my homework! Have a great summer! Call me!!!" (Of course, they didn't actually want me to call them).

No, the people I'm referring to wrote about the same specific memory in every yearbook comment. "I'm so glad we had math together this year! Remember when we sat next to each other in science three years ago? That was so fun! Have a great summer!" Or some variation thereof.

I take this to mean that either I didn't make a single lasting impression on any of these people since their one memory of me occurred, or that that semester in science meant a lot more to them than it did to me.

Which leads me to the sincerity continuum I discovered as I was reading all the things people wrote. And I think the easiest most entertaining way to illustrate that continuum would be with actual examples:

(least sincere)

call me

have a nice summer

you kick ass!

hey! it's been a fun year! thanks for being cool!

i hope your summer is awesome! have fun in the sun! maybe i will see you at olive garden again!

i'm sorry that we didn't get any classes together! maybe we will next year! i hope you have a swell summer!

thanks for helping me with math. see you in algebra 2.

spanish was fun. i really liked having you in class to help us do our work. have a great summer.

what's up! thanks for all the rides to my car on random days. you rock! have fun this summer!

good god you are so smart you are going to be like the president or something. and you are super nice. have fun.

(most sincere)

Yes, there were comments that were more heartfelt (and less entertaining) than those ones. But at least 75% of the things people wrote fall somewhere on this scale. Needless to say, I don't think I'm going to be feeling nostalgic again anytime soon.

As usual, none of this has anything to do with what I baked this week. Since it's officially September, I decided to get started on the list of fall recipes I've been anxiously waiting to try since last fall. First up: pecan sticky buns. Which turned out to be time-consuming, challenging, and very sticky... but completely worth it!

If you plan ahead for them to take at least 5 hours from start to finish, if you make sure you aren't out of eggs and that you have the right kind of yeast, if you're not impatient and you let the dough rise for as long as it's supposed to, and if you have a cake pan with tall enough sides to prevent the filling from bubbling over onto the bottom of your oven... then I'm sure everything will go smoothly for you.

Even if it doesn't, your whole house is going to smell amazing (cinnamon + caramel + maple + honey) for hours after you're done baking. And did I mention? These are worth the trouble.

Pecan Sticky Buns
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yield: 8 sticky buns

For the dough:

6 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 & 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 & 3/4 cups lukewarm water
4 eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup melted butter

For the filling:

2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

For the topping:

3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/3 cup + 3 tablespoons brown sugar
2/3 cup pecan halves


1. Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer in the order written. Mix at medium-low speed with the dough hook attachment until the dough comes together. Transfer the dough to a very large bowl (at least 6 quarts) coated with nonstick spray.

2. Cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for two hours. Then, refrigerate the dough for at least one hour to make it easier to work with.

3. While the dough is chilling, make the filling and topping. For the filling, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. For the topping, combine the melted butter and syrup and pour it into a lightly greased 9-inch cake pan with at least 2-inch sides. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter and syrup, and scatter the nuts over the sugar.

4. When you're ready to assemble the sticky buns, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Spray your hands with nonstick spray and pull out 1/3 of the dough (22 ounces). Return the rest of the dough to the refrigerator to use another time.

5. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and roll it into a rectangle approximately 15 inches by 10 inches. Sprinkle the filling over the dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch margin around the edges. Gently press the filling into the dough. Starting with one of the long edges, roll the dough into a log. Cut the log into eight pieces and arrange them in the prepared cake pan. Gently press the buns down so they're touching each other.

6. Cover the pan and allow the buns to rise for about an hour, or until they're noticeably puffy. Preheat the oven to 350°F. After the buns have risen, uncover the pan, and bake the buns for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown.

7. Remove the pan from the oven and invert it onto a plate. Lift off the pan, and scrape any remaining topping over the top of the buns. Serve immediately.


  1. You are hilarious, I have to say, I remember those comments people leave in yearbooks, same old same old, except for the few friends who were actually close to you and just cicled an embarassing pic or something, lol, and they dont write anything cause they know they'll see you soon, unlike the "call me, keep in touch" peeps. Here's a little something more personal, it always encourages me when I read it, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mothers womb. i praise you because i am fearfully and wonderfully made;your works are wonderful. i know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14 God made you wonderful Allix, and i know that full well!

  2. How do you even dare to look back....perhaps when I was younger like you I would have dared...but no more.

    Those sticky buns look like similar to those I had as a child.