For Chocolate Lovers only
 


Chocolate Saucy Buns

Tips: These are like sticky buns, but they’re chocolate, and the “sticky” part isn’t quite as thick as the usual brown sugar-butter mixtures that accompany such recipes. The buns are a bit unusual in that, while they come from a yeast bread recipe, the addition of baking powder cuts out one of the two rising periods. Both buns and sauce are made with Dutch process cocoa powder; I haven’t tried either with nonalkalized cocoa powder, so I don’t know how well that would work here. I know sticky buns are usually served for breakfast or brunch, but I’d think these would do better for brunch or an after-dinner dessert.

An electric stand mixer is useful for making the buns, but you can always make dough by hand if you prefer. Get your yeast dated as far ahead as possible. There are many kinds of yeast available these days; I use regular active dry yeast, nothing that’s rapid-rising or instant-blending. No matter how far ahead your yeast is dated, it’s a good idea to “proof” it before you use it (see the recipe for instructions). If it has to happen, it’s much better to find out that your yeast is inactive before you expend all the time and effort to make these buns! It is important to use water that is neither too hot nor too cold, as the first can kill the yeast and the second can make it sluggish. I use a chocolate/candy thermometer to measure the temperature of my water.

These are best served immediately, while warm from the oven, but they may be kept for up to two days, tightly wrapped, at room temperature (try not to let the wrapping touch the buns; heavy-duty aluminum foil is my wrapping of choice). To reheat, separate the buns from one another. Line a baking pan about 2 inches deep with aluminum foil and lightly grease the foil. Place each bun on the greased foil and top with a bit of sauce; cover pan tightly with foil. Place pan in preheated 350 degree F oven and heat 10 to 15 minutes. I have not tried to freeze these.

Yield: 8 to 12 servings

Ingredients:

    Topping:
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. instant coffee granules
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup water
    Buns:
  • About 3-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tsp. granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk granules (use dry)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F), divided
  • 1 pkg. (1/4 ounce or 7 grams) active dry yeast
  • 1 egg, graded “large”, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature (butter must be soft)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Optional: Few gratings of orange zest (no more than 1/4 of an orange)
  • Optional: About 3/4 cup pecan pieces

Method:

Grease a 13 by 9 by 2 inch pan; set aside.

Make the Topping first, as it must not be hot when the buns are put into it. In a 1 to 1-1/2 quart heavy-bottomed, nonreactive pot, combine all ingredients except water. With a large spoon, blend well, pressing out as many lumps as possible with back of spoon. Add one-third of water and blend to make a smooth paste. Scrape down bottom and sides of pot with rubber spatula. Add remaining water and blend in.

Place over medium-high heat; stir almost constantly until mixture comes to a rolling boil. If any undissolved lumps of cocoa float to the top, crush them against the sides of the pot with back of spoon. Remove from heat; let cool until warm. A “skin” may appear on top of mixture, but that’s not a problem.

When topping is warm, stir any “skin” back into it (don’t worry if it’s not smooth). Topping will be very thin. Pour into greased 13 by 9 pan and set aside.

For Buns: In large bowl of electric stand mixer, combine 2 cups flour (reserve remainder), 1/2 cup sugar (reserve remainder), cocoa powder, nonfat dry milk granules, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In 1-cup liquid measure, combine 1/3 cup warm water (reserve remainder), reserved 1 tsp. sugar, and yeast. Beat well with stainless steel fork to combine and set aside in a warm spot for a few minutes (this is called proofing the yeast). After 5 to 10 minutes, yeast mixture should be increased in volume with a foamy “head” on top; this shows your yeast is active. If this does not happen, try again with identical quantities of warm water and sugar and a fresh packet of yeast.

When your yeast mixture has been proofed, pour it into the dry ingredients. Add remaining 2/3 cup warm water, egg, softened butter, vanilla, and optional orange zest. Using a paddle beater (if available), beat mixture at low speed until dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape down bowl and beater(s) with a rubber spatula. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed.

Gradually add more flour, about 1-1/2 cups, to make a dough that barely cleans the sides of the bowl (it’s always better to add too little flour than it is to add too much). Turn dough out onto lightly floured pastry or other board and knead for 4 to 5 minutes, sprinkling more flour onto board as necessary to keep dough from sticking. After kneading, the dough should be smooth and elastic. Lightly sprinkle the board with flour once more, place the dough on it, then cover the dough with the upside-down mixer bowl. Let rest 10 minutes. During this time, check to make certain that the topping in the pan is at room temperature or just above it.

After a 10 minute rest, lightly flour a large, sharp, serrated knife (re-flour knife blade as necessary as you go along) and divide dough in half. Work with one half at a time, keeping remaining half under plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out. Divide each half into 12 equal pieces (if you like precision, you can weigh out 24 equal pieces with a scale, but it’s not necessary and I never do it). One at a time, roll each piece into a mostly smooth ball, pinching together any cracks in the dough surface as necessary (you don’t have to be too much of a perfectionist here). Place each bun into cooled topping in prepared pan, leaving space on all sides of each ball of dough. Buns will not fill pan entirely.

Lay a dish towel over the top of the pan and place in a warm spot for one hour. Fifteen to twenty minutes before that hour is up, adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Just before baking, remove towel from pan; buns will not have changed much in size. If using pecan pieces, sprinkle between buns, directly into topping.

Bake 20 to 22 minutes in preheated oven, turning once back-to-front about halfway through baking time. During baking, buns will rise and bake together. Topping will become thicker and bubbly, especially at edges of pan. While buns bake, gather two thick pot holders you won’t feel sad about staining (at least temporarily) and a heatproof serving dish at least 14 by 10 inches with shallow sides.

Remove buns from oven. Let pan cool on rack about 30 seconds, then quickly and gently loosen buns from edges of pan. Now, work carefully! Buns and topping are hot! Place serving dish upside down over baking pan, then, wearing pot holders and holding the two together, carefully invert. Allow 13 by 9 pan to remain upside down on buns for about a minute, then remove carefully. Let buns cool for just a few minutes before serving.

To serve, use a broad-bladed spatula or fork to separate/pick up buns, and a spoon to scoop up a bit of the topping and a few pecans (if used) for each. Serve 2 to 3 buns per person. Store, tightly wrapped, for up to two days at room temperature; reheat before serving (see recipe introduction).

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