Spice Up Your Sweet Tooth with Maple Sticky Buns

Just in time for a flurry of fall baking is Samantha Seneviratne’s The New Sugar and Spice, a culinary journey through your spice cabinet like you've never experienced before.

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Maple Sticky Buns

The first telltale chill of the onset of autumn is swirling around in the air, and it’s time to think ahead to the joys of fall baking. Just in time for the cooler weather is Samantha Seneviratne’s The New Sugar and Spice. This book takes you on a tour of your spice cabinet like you’ve never experienced before, teasing out bold new flavors in the classic baked goods you already know and love, like the cinnamon-infused Maple Sticky Buns pictured above (recipe after the jump for you to try at home).

We asked Seneviratne to detail for us her top do’s and don’t’s for weaving new and exciting spices into baking recipes:

  • Do taste everything! Even if you don't think you like a certain spice, give it a new look every now and then. You never know how a new preparation may change your perspective.
  • Don't let your spices languish in the pantry for too long. Make sure they're fresh before you use them.
  • Do grate nutmeg fresh. It's much tastier than the preground spice. I like freshly ground cardamom best, too.
  • Don't use imitation vanilla. Your cakes will thank you.
  • Do use a spice grinder with a removable basin. Washing the basin in between uses keeps flavors fresh and clean.
  • Don't forget the salt! It's one of the most-important spices in baking.

Decadent dishes jump off the page at you, teasing your palate in the best possible way. Pistachio and Chocolate Butter Cake boasts the heady aromas of fresh cardamom, Blackberry-Peach Hand Pies are fragrant with nutmeg and sweet-tart with fruit, and vanilla and citrus dance to life together in a vibrant new way in the Marmalade Cakes. But The New Sugar and Spice is more than just a collection of baking recipes. The book takes you through the history and significance of the origins of spices, traipsing down the Cinnamon Road and revealing the allure of whole peppercorns in the Middle Ages. Seneviratne weaves for readers the tales of how the pursuit of spices quite literally shaped the world, taking you on a delicious voyage across continents and seas through her recipes. It was a journey of discovery for her, too, as she developed recipes and discovered new preferences in her own palate. “The recipes that included anise and fennel were new favorites for me,” she told FN Dish. “I'm not a big licorice fan and always avoided those two spices in my baking. But then, after working on the recipes for the book, I realized that I do in fact like anise and fennel — especially with dried fruits and caramel.”

When it comes to fall baking, Seneviratne loves the classics for spicing up her baked goods. “Cinnamon, ginger and cloves will never be out of style when it comes to the holidays,” she said. “But I think saffron and cardamom are my new favorites. Scandinavian holiday sweets really inspire me, so I'll be baking with those two this fall. Saffron and chocolate are fantastic together!” As for the flavors she reaches for most often, you’ll find her mixing cardamom and chocolate time and time again. “It's a little bit unexpected and wholly delicious,” she told FN Dish. “I also have a newfound love for [the combination of] lavender and berries. It's floral in a wonderful way.”

Preheat your oven and grab your own copy of The New Sugar and Spice here.

Maple Sticky Buns
Makes 8 buns

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing the bowl

2/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) bread flour, plus more for the work surface, if necessary

3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces (1/2 cup) pecans, coarsely chopped
2 ounces (1/2 cup) walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) raisins
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

There is a sticky-bun debate raging in our house: sticky buns for breakfast or sticky buns for dessert? To me, a traditional sticky bun, with its pumped-up stature and gobs of caramel, seems out of place on the breakfast table. I’m not saying I wouldn’t enjoy one first thing in the morning, but I’d likely have to spend the rest of the day lying down. My husband, on the other hand, is a breakfast partisan. For this recipe, I set out to create something we could both eat for breakfast. Something decadent but not gut-busting, classic but fresh. The tender, yeasty bread is adorned with a cap of crunchy nuts, sweet caramel, and a swirl of cinnamon so fragrant you may be able to forego coffee. A little maple syrup adds complex sweetness that belongs at the morning meal.

Lightly grease a large bowl and set aside.

To prepare the dough, in a small pot, bring the milk just to a boil over medium heat. Watch closely to ensure that the milk doesn’t boil over. Remove from the heat and add the butter to the pot to melt. Add the mixture to a small bowl and let it cool to 105 degrees F to 110 degrees F. (It should be warm to the touch but not too hot.) Add the egg and stir to combine.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add the warm milk mixture and mix just until combined.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes. Or, tip the dough onto a work surface and knead by hand for about 12 minutes. You shouldn’t need to add flour. Form the dough into a ball, put it in the prepared bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Leave it in a warm, draft-free spot until it has doubled in size. This could take 30 minutes or 2 hours depending on the temperature. Keep an eye on the dough rather than the clock.

Meanwhile, make the topping. Butter a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches a full boil and looks foamy with large bubbles. (It should register 212 degrees F on a candy thermometer.) Pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Sprinkle pecans, walnuts and raisins evenly over the top. Set aside.

To prepare the filling, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

When the dough has doubled, tip it out onto a very lightly floured work surface. Knead it once or twice to expel the air and then roll it into a 10-inch square. Spread the 3 tablespoons butter evenly over the surface and sprinkle with the reserved filling. Tightly roll up the dough and pinch the top seam closed. With a serrated knife, cut the roll crosswise into 8 equal pieces. Set them in the pan with the topping, spirals facing upward. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let them rest until the dough has almost doubled again, about 1 hour. They should look pillowy, and all of the rolls will be touching.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Uncover the rolls and bake until deep golden brown and puffed, 25 to 30 minutes. (Set a piece of aluminum foil on the rack beneath the buns to catch any caramel that may drip out.) Give the center roll a wiggle — if it’s set in place, the buns are ready to come out. If the middle of that center roll feels soft, give them another few minutes. Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes then carefully cut around the edge with a paring knife and invert the rolls onto a serving plate. Let cool slightly before eating, if possible. These are best the day they’re made, served warm and gooey.

Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days. To reheat them, wrap them in foil and pop them in a low oven until warm.

Reprinted with permission from The New Sugar and Spice, by Samantha Seneviratne, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2015 by Erin Kunkel.

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