Happy Thanksgiving, my Canadian friends! As it turns out, you win at holidays this weekend, because in America, we’re celebrating a real jerkface; federal holiday and all. I’ve been thinking a lot about our collective Thanksgivings, thanks to this helpful comparison slideshow, and I think you really do it right. American Thanksgiving is, after all, dangerously close to Christmas and Hanukkah, causing us to overeat, overspend, and generally overdo the entire holiday season. It flies right past us in a whirl of dishes, decorations, and dramatic weight gain; it’s a wonder we don’t all walk around with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder once everything has come to a close. Or maybe we do: I think we call it “January.”
I vote to move American Thanksgiving to this weekend. Currently it’s cloudy and chilly here, and my leaves are just starting to don their pretty autumnal outfits, and I could use a few more weeks between holidays. This would give me lots of time to plan menus, parties, gifts, everything. Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Plus, bonus: it’s my birthday today, which means Canadian/Revised American Thanksgiving – much like the aforementioned jerkface Columbus Day – would always fall within a few days of my annual
depression sorrow wondering where all the time has gone special day.
To start the ball rolling on this, I made you breakfast. I’ve made a Canadian breakfast before, and it seems to bode well (she did graduate, people), so I’m hoping that eventually this snowballs into a holiday change for the States. It’s an easy one – a sticky bun – and make all sorts of versions of this, depending on the season.
Cranberries and walnuts seemed befitting the holiday, so that’s what I did: I know most of you are in your kitchens feverishly executing your gigantic (and no doubt wonderful) meals, and some of you have guests in town for the weekend. If this is the case, or if you need a little pick-me-up breakfast the day of, here you are: pick up some puff pastry, dried cranberries, and a few extra walnuts at the store, and I bet you have everything else in your pantry. These take no time and almost no effort, and they come out looking like Williams Sonoma sent them to you in an extremely overpriced box.
With these, it’s all about the prep work, which is minimal: get everything together ahead of time, so once your puff pastry thaws, you can just grab and go. After you’ve assembled everything, it’s a simple step by step:
First, spoon the butter into the muffin tin; easy. Throw some nuts over top of that butter: I like to do one intact walnut half on each one, and then I fill in with the smaller pieces.
Brush some butter on the pastry sheet…
Throw the brown sugar filling over the top, then sprinkle the cranberries on top of that. Now, slice the roll into 6 sections…
And prop them up vertically on the butter topping and walnuts. Yes, they WILL look like a disaster waiting to happen. They will not be a disaster, I promise.
Because they will do this: the dumb little slices sink right down into the butter and walnuts when everything starts to melt, and they come out perfectly. Let them sit post-bake for a few minutes…
And out they go, right onto your parchment lined baking sheet or platter. Whoops: that whole sideways bun thing? It always happens. Not to worry: the caramel holds it all together. No bun left behind.
Another great thing about these is that they self-preserve: the abundant caramel wraps itself around each little bun and encased it in what is basically a hard candy shell. If you can’t eat them all in one sitting, just leave them out on a plate and warm them a bit prior to eating the leftovers; they keep themselves fresh. It’s almost like they know you have better things to do, and they just want to help out.
So, Canadians, listen: I adore you. For whatever reason, there are lots of you who read my stuff, and may I say that if all of Canada is as lovely and wonderful as you are, that your country is a magical place that I can’t wait to visit. Happy Thanksgiving, my fair Canadians: have a great weekend. I want to hear/read/see all about it next week, if you wouldn’t mind.
Adapted from a recipe I made on this very space around 2 years ago for a fresh blueberry + pecan sticky bun, which is equally delicious, if slightly messier. That recipe was adapted from an Ina Garten sticky bun, I believe.
Cranberry Walnut Sticky Buns
| makes 12 muffin-sized buns |
for the topping:
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
- 3/4 cup walnut halves
for the rolls:
- 1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
- 1 cup dried cranberries, divided
*your cinnamon isn’t the only one out there. Take the time to sniff and taste a few different cinnamon varieties in one place, and you’ll realize that each type carries an entirely different scent, flavor, and heat. I like my Vietnamese cinnamon for this, and it’s one of the strongest out there. Feel free to use your favorite, but the bit of extra kick is nice in these.
Versatility Alert: you can do whatever you want with these. Don’t like walnuts? Cool: substitute pecans, or just leave then nut-free. Cranberries not your thing? Also fine: any dried fruit works super well in these, or you can experiment with smaller berries like raspberry or blueberries (although they are messier and don’t hold as tightly together.) Leave the fruit out all together if you wish, to make them a simple brown sugar/cinnamon bun. We should talk about the differences in cinnamon sometime, I agree.
Make the filling:
Preheat oven to 400˚F.
In the bowl of a food processor, add the 1 1/2 sticks butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Run the motor until everything is smooth and incorporated.
Get out a standard size muffin tin. Place around 1 tablespoon of the butter mixture in each cup. Evenly divide the walnuts over the top, using them to press the butter mixture down a bit and spread it. Set aside.
Make the rolls:
First things first: divide your 1/2 cup brown sugar between 2 bowls, 1/4 cup in each. Do the same with your cinnamon (1 1/2 teaspoons per bowl.) Whisk together with a fork, breaking up any big sugar chunks as you go, until everything is evenly incorporated. Set aside.
Lay one sheet of the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface, fold lines running vertically (place the other sheet in the refrigerator for safekeeping.) Use your fingers to smooth the fold lines so that everything is sturdy, then use a pastry brush to brush the melted butter over top of the entire pastry sheet.
Sprinkle one bowl of the brown sugar mixture over the pastry sheet, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Press it down lightly with your fingers. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cranberries over the top. Starting from the bottom, roll up the pastry sheet, tucking it tightly in as you go, until you have a big fat worm of a cinnamon bun. Press it down slightly with your hands to seal the edge. Using a sharp, thin-bladed knife, Cut the roll into 6 even slices (I slice it once down the middle, then go from there, two more slices on each side), holding it steady with your hand as you work.
Place the rolls, pretty side up (only the ends will have a “less pretty” side) in each of the cups as pictured above, lightly pressing them down into the butter mixture. Repeat with the second pastry sheet.
Bake in the middle rack of your oven for 20-22 minutes, checking after around the 18 minute mark. These are easy, but you’re dealing with caramel and metal here, which means they can go burnt in a matter of minutes. Since you can’t see the magic happening, the best way to tell that they’re done is that the upper part (which you can see) is just lightly golden; you’ll also see the caramel bubbling up around it with some force. Take them out right away and transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes, no longer. Unless you never want to see your buns again.
While you’re waiting: get out either a flat platter or a rimless baking sheet (I find the latter to be the easiest to work with.) Tear off a sheet of parchment to cover, then place that parchment over the hot buns. Place the baking sheet over the parchment, and using the oven mitts (STILL HOT) you had out from before, get a good grip on both the muffin tin and the baking sheet.
Do the professional flip motion we have talked about before, flipping your sticky buns securely out of their muffin tin and onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Set it on the counter, give the muffin tin a few good whacks with a spatula or something (STILL FLAMING HOT) and then slowly lift the muffin tin off of the sticky buns. You may see one or two fly out belatedly; just right them and they should be fine. Serve immediately.
Also, clean that muffin tin immediately, because that’s caramel, and you don’t want to be getting out your chisel on a holiday, you know what I mean? At least throw it in the sink under some hot water.