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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Caramel Buns

These are fantastic. They are better than anything I have ever had or have ever made. They are not too sweet, even with the caramel on top. The fillings taste wonderful - the rum-soaked raisins really adds to the taste.

I keep thinking we are making cinnamon rolls or cinnamon buns because of the photo on page 473. I've made cinnamon rolls several times and that photo reminds me of it (sans the mason jar in the middle). But no, we're making caramel buns, which is basically sticky buns, or a fancy cinnamon rolls is how I think of it. We first make a brioche a day ahead. Anything that uses brioche is fancy, especially Rose's brioche. It's airy and soft and has a very nice taste. I've made the version in Bread Bible several times in a loaf pan.

I never like sticky buns. They are also super sweet and hurts my teeth. But I love these so much. So now I can say: I only like RLB's sticky buns.

My version of this is not really Caramel Buns but Hard Candy Buns, as my caramel has essentially turn into toffee. Yummy toffee but toffee nonetheless. My first caramel attempt was burned. I was too impatient of waiting for my 1/2 recipe of caramel mixture (water, sugar, corn syrup) to turn amber so while it was boiling I did other things in the kitchen. By the time I realize it was amber it was really dark amber starting to burn so I started over. Attempt #2, I was still impatient but decided to knit next to the stove. This trick works (I feel like I'm ECL's son who needs to be distracted by other objects like cereal, except mine is yarn and pointy needles). Less distracted now, I didn't time my heavy cream correctly - how is one supposed to keep 1 tablespoon of heavy cream in boil-mode at the exact moment the sugar mixture turn dark amber? By the time I got around to it my caramel is already 380-400'F. Added cream, then butter and it was continuing to cook since it was so hot, by the time I poured it onto the measuring cup it was pretty thick. And by the time it cooled it was toffee. Not soft sticky caramel anymore, though it is hard to tell from the picture. I had to nuke the toffee a couple of times (17 seconds total) just to make it pour-able onto the buns for the photo shot. The rest of the caramel toffee went to trash as they have become rock-hard.

I need to get better at caramel making. It annoys me that this is the second recipe we made that uses caramel and I botched it both times. I made 1/2 recipe of the buns and caramel and will be making another 1/2 recipe this week to practice. Also, I promised the owner of my local yarn store that I will bring caramel buns and since 2 of these has hard toffee on top they are not worthy to be given away (I don't want to send folks to the dentist). Wish me luck on my redo... :)

The only modifications I made to recipe is I use the full amount of pecans and cinnamon. I like strong cinnamon flavor so I always up the amount. No high altitude baking adjustment this time. The dough was a tad dry but it might be because I forgot to cover the pan in foil after removing the mason jar.

Step by step photos - Brioche:

The day before baking, make the brioche. Flour, yeast, water, and 1/2 egg.


Add the flour mixture then let it ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

After 2 hours.

Add the egg then mix on low speed until all the flour is moistened.

Moist and sticky!

Like the book said: mass around the dough hook.

Place in a quart pot that's been coated with non stick cooking spray.

After 2 hours of rising in a warmed environment. The dough then went into the fridge for an overnight rest.

Step by step photos - Buns:

Soak raisins in hot water and dark rum for 1 hour.

Toast the pecans and add brown sugar, white sugar, and cinnamon. I used the full amount of pecans and cinnamon.

Place the dough on a floured surface.

Rolled out to a rectangle. This is about 7 inches wide by 14 inches long. Brushed with egg all over. Now 

Sprinkle with sugar pecan mixture and marinated raisins.


I used a serrated knife to slice these as all my dental floss collection has a minty flavor to it.

After 3 hours rising.

They baked for 8 minutes with the mason jar filled with boiling water. Then an additional 10 minutes after the jar was removed. I completely spaced out and forgot to cover them with foil after removing the mason jar.

How do you like my caramel art?

My "reward" - though challenging to eat with the toffee on top, was gone in seconds.

Alpha Bakers is a group of bakers who are baking through The Baking Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum's latest cookbook. Come check out the rest of the group at Rose's Alpha Bakers.

Click here for a full listing of all the recipes we are baking.


  1. Jenn, haha about needing distractions like my son! At least I don't have to worry about you getting into the wrong cupboards or playing with the cat food! I've often thought about knitting by the stove while waiting for stuff, too. Great idea to double the cinnamon and pecans; my husband and I were thinking we want more cinnamon next time and more pecans wouldn't hurt either.

    1. Jen, I would be distracted playing with the cat too! It was pretty fun knitting by the stove - keeps me warm for sure haha. The pecans in the filling seems so little so that's why I up it.

  2. Jenn, I felt the same way, the filling needed to be double! They seem to get lost in the brioche. Tom and I agree next time, more filling. I love your perfect round bun ring, and how in the name of god does everyone get a perfect rectangle when rolling out the dough? Mine never, ever come out perfectly the size intended.. its always wacky looking. ( I need to stop being a perfectionist ) a tip on the caramel making.. I actually put an alert on my phone, for every 5 min, to remind me that I have "sugar cooking" on top of the stove. this method has saved tons of burned caramel in the past. :) Your pictures are crazy good, as always.

  3. Jen, I like how you always manage to make half recipe! Your dough looks so cute and tiny in that bowl proofing. I was worried they will be too sweet, but they tasted just nice! My new favorite buns.

  4. I don't know if i said it already but i absolutely love your table, did you dye it?

    aside of that great post!!

    1. It's actually a painted wooden board, :). Big enough to give the impression of a table. I also want to ask what your background on your pics is? Is it a slate board?

  5. Jen, if I knitted (or embroidered, which is my needleart of choice) next to the stove I would have made barbecued charcoal out of the caramel!! Your caramel looks so good, it might even be worth a trip to the dentist! See my blog about the "discussion" my husband and I had about the frantic moment when it turned the right color... you did a fantastic job, nonetheless!

    1. Needlepoint probably needs more concentration than knitting. They are so small! Barbeque caramel sounds interesting, hehehe....

  6. Perfection! You caramel drizzle is driving me bonkerz!! I was cooking dinner while making the caramel sauce so that kept me busy while the sugar syrup bubbled away.

    Patricia @ ButterYum

  7. Gorgeous photograph! It is so hard to wait for the amber stage. Harder than waiting for the pooling stage in lemon curd. This caramel was so worth the wait!

  8. Gorgeous photograph! It is so hard to wait for the amber stage. Harder than waiting for the pooling stage in lemon curd. This caramel was so worth the wait!


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