Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lemon Sticky Buns : High Hopes

I really wanted to love these. Really, I did. I had bookmarked the recipe for months, sending it around to everyone and planning to make them three times before I actually decided to go ahead and bake them already.

There are two things I really enjoy: lemon desserts and sticky buns. When I first read about a recipe mixing both, my eyes stayed glued to the pictures of oozing lemony filling and a soft, pillowy dough. I went on other blogs to see if anyone else had tried them out, and only read rave reviews. I got excited, like when you smell Cinnabon at the airport. Then again, when I do, I get excited for a second before remembering how awful they are for you. A few days ago, my sister and I settled for the Chips Ahoy McFlurry instead--not much better for you, I guess. But it sure tasted very nice!

Back to these lemon sticky buns. I had some sort of perfect idea of what the filling would taste like: tangy yet creamy, nice and zesty. In one word, perfect. Imagine a great lemon marmalade and that would be it. Oh, I had high hopes for these sticky buns. I imagined them becoming a staple in my brunch repertoire, even though I obviously don't have one. Lemon sticky buns were even set to appear on a French website, so I could share it in all its lemony glory with the world.

My tumble into disappointment started with the dough. Maman tasted it pre-lemon filling, and mentioned it had a strong taste of flour. Not these sticky buns, I thought. These are perfection in a baked good.

The next morning, I baked. They sure looked good. I was so excited I paced around the kitchen (over here, I can actually pace and not step from one for to the other for lack of space). They came out of the oven at the recommended temperature. They were ready to be served.

It turned out my lemon sticky buns weren't good. The dough was tough, tasted of flour, and the lemon filling had seemingly been absorbed by the dough--it was nowhere to be found. I was disappointed, and I'm sure even the squirrels and rabbits who feasted on them in the backyard didn't enjoy them as much as they do the stale bread they usually get.

A dry sticky bun is a sad sticky bun.

Any ideas on how this may have gone wrong? I compared the dough with my go-to sticky bun recipe, and this lemon one has a whopping extra cup of flour. I'll take that as a possible suspect, and think about adding less lemon juice next time so my filling isn't as runny. Will there be a next time? There better be. I want lemon sticky buns to be what I hoped they would be: amazing.

Anatomy of a sad sticky bun.

Lemon Sticky Buns
adapted from The Kitchn

makes 12 large rolls

Lemon Roll Dough
1 envelope (0.25 ounces, or 2 1/2 teaspoons) yeast

3/4 cup milk, warmed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 TS vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 TS salt
1/2 TS nutmeg
2 lemons, zested
2 eggs

Sticky Lemon Filling
1 cup sugar
1/4 TS freshly-ground nutmeg
1/2 TS powdered ginger
2 lemons, zested and juiced (use less if the lemons are very juicy)

1 TB unsalted butter, very soft

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
In the bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a couple minutes. With the mixer paddle, stir in the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable. Spray the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled - about an hour.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the lemon zest with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles wet, soft sand. Stir in the juice of 1 lemon. (Reserve the juice of the second lemon for the glaze.)

Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking dish with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10x15 inches. Spread evenly with the softened butter, then pour and spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls, and place them, cut side up, in the prepared baking dish.

Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise for an hour.)

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into a center roll reads 190°F. 
While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. Whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and blend until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.
When the rolls are done, smear them with the cream cheese glaze. Serve while warm.
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claudia said...

never give up! I am sure you can perfect that recipe yourself and the lemon sticky buns of your dreams will be right there in front of you!

Paris Pastry said...

How disappointing! My last batch of cinnamon buns were a failure as well :( Urgh!

Btw, I wish they would sell Chips Ahoy McFlurries over here! Love Chips Ahoy!

ArchaeologyAnna said...

So sad that they failed for you. They are still pretty to look at! I love how the cinnabun smell grabs you at the airport. The only time I made homemade cinnamon buns I got distracted and they burned in the oven. Better luck next time!

K8teebug said...

That is alot of flour for a little yeast. There also seems to be alot of sugar in that dough for a yeasted dough. But, that may have to do w/ balancing out the lemon flavoring.

Ingrid said...

Well, darn! In those first photos they sure looked good....hope you get this recipe figured out because now I want, no NEED lemon sticky buns!

Mary said...

I wish I could help. It's no fun when time is spent preparing something you think will be delicious and then it disappoints. The buns are beautiful to look at. Why not try your tried and true base recipe for sticky buns but swap the filling with the lemon you are trying to perfect. I've found most of the sweet buns on the net to be very dry and have started to use a brioche dough in their stead. I hope you are having a great day. The birthday wishes were appreciated. Blessings...Mary

grace said...

i must insist that you continue to tweak this recipe until perfection is obtained. that's all there is to that. hey--it can be the first entry in your brunch repertoire!

Barbara said...

I have to say, Lucie, they LOOK fantastic. I got all excited when I saw the post title and then the photo! How disappointing to read your post. It does seem about 1 cup of flour too much, but certainly the dough would have been too stiff?
I love lemon as much as you do...keep trying!

Suzanne said...

what?! NOOOOO! These can't be bad b/c they sound SO good!
Did you post the recipe with the extra flour?