Put Yeast to Work for Cranberry Ginger Sticky Buns

These easy-to-assemble yeasted buns, studded with cranberries and ginger, will fill your home with an irresistible aroma during baking.

I used to be afraid of yeasted recipes. When I was kid, I was desperate to bake with yeast. I wanted to enjoy the pillow-soft texture that you can get only from warm-from-the-oven, freshly baked, homemade treats. But I could never make my breads rise.

There were a few likely explanations. First of all, since yeasted baking projects were an infrequent occurrence in our house, chances were that the yeast was anywhere from 1 to 21 years old. Secondly, our drafty house could be quite chilly during those long New England winters. I could barely rise out of my own warm bed every morning. How could I expect my doughs to budge? And I probably overcompensated for the temperature with boiling-hot milk, no doubt killing my yeast before things even got rolling.

Thankfully, as an adult, I’ve learned how to keep my yeast happy. I always store it in the freezer. (That keeps it fresh longer.) And if there is any doubt, I proof it before adding it to the dough.

This recipe doesn’t call for proofing the yeast, but it’s easy to do. Simply dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and let it stand for 5 minutes. If the yeast gets nice and foamy, add it to the flour mixture and proceed with the recipe as written. If it doesn’t, start over with new yeast.

And, if your house is chilly and your dough refuses to rise, you can wake up sleepy yeast in the oven. Set a baking pan of boiling water in the bottom of the oven. Add the baking pan of shaped rolls to the top rack. Keep the oven off and the door closed, and the warm steam will help the buns rise. Keep in mind that enriched doughs, which have extra butter, eggs and dairy, will rise more slowly than other doughs.

These buns are best served warm. To reheat them, wrap them in foil and warm in a low oven for 20 minutes.

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Samantha Seneviratne is a New York-based writer, recipe developer and food stylist. She is the author of The New Sugar and Spice (Ten Speed Press), a baking cookbook combining family stories and food history with recipes that reimagine dessert as a more balanced mix of sugar and spice. She blogs about dessert at Love, Cake.

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