I made these candied orange toasted pecan sticky buns over a week ago; the photos processed, resized and ready to go, but I couldn’t write the post to go with it. There’s been a lot going on in my life, so with all the drawn blanks, I let it sit until I could write something that wasn’t boring or viscous. I finally decided to write about my first ‘true’ love. We all have one of those, right? It’s loaded with corn and cheese, but a great memory. Don’t worry, I will get to these fabulous, gooey “bad boy” sticky buns.
When I was in high school, I had a thing for bad boys. Not necessarily boys who did bad things, but boys who probably weren’t going to become doctors or lawyers or even attend college, for that matter. Not dumb, just tough, hard-working, strong boys with a dash of danger; the type that scared your parents just a little bit god forbid you marry one. Bad boys like a young Matt Dillon, or Jared Leto as Jordan Catalano on My So-Called Life.
You get the gist.
I grew up in a pretty affluent town where most of the residents had loads of money, old and new, as did the residents of the other town that used our high school. They didn’t have a high school because it was even more affluent than our town, and they probably didn’t want some ol’ high school decreasing the palatial estate property values.
Most of the guys were clean-cut and super-duper spoiled. Even the ones who looked like bad boys, were wealthier than the clean-cut guys, and the Phish/Deadhead stoners were even wealthier than the rich guys who looked like bad boys. I’m not saying there weren’t some great guys in the bunch, because there were, but I just wasn’t feeling it on a crushy, puppy love level.
I guess there were just too many of them, and after a while any attraction(s) I had phased out as I grew up. It was the same old, same old..stepford boys who were gifted brand new porsches and corvettes the minute they got their learner’s permit – NOT their driver’s license, learner’s permit! Some celeb’s kids were dropped off in limos aka really vulgar displays of wealth.
I was the opposite of a gold digger. The tough, brooding, blue-collar cuties with natural grit and sexy, deep voices, made me weak in the knees. The type of guy who would always defend your honor and not hide under a table when a fight broke out at a party (Yes, one of the rich boys I knew did just that). Ladies, have we all not had at least one moment like THIS, in some way, shape or form?
Turn this upside down……..
Well, I finally found my ultimate bad boy, or rather, he found me. It was the summer of my 15th (almost 16th) year of life, at the Jersey Shore, before the show of the same name completely bastardized it and turned it into something that it was the polar opposite of when I was a teen.
A little digression first.
Back then, the Jersey Shore was all about the beach, the boardwalk, parties, and rock/pop music; not the tanning salons (they’ve got the beach as their front or backyard, for chrissake) and discos you see on TV. There were no Snookis in my Seaside, and in fact, the only time I saw guidos and guidettes was on Sundays when they would drive down in troves and swarm the beach and boardwalk like fruit flies to a rotting apple; a mass of muscles, suntan oil, and strong cologne. Lasers of sun reflected off their gold chains, blinding us as they sauntered down the boardwalk in tight tank tops, showing off their six-packs and bulging biceps..making all kinds of lewd remarks and gestures to women. Eating an ice cream cone was grounds for:
“Oh man, I wish I wazzat ice cream cone…come mere, baby, tawk ta me!”
It was only one or two days a week, and everyone has a right to enjoy the shore, plus they were fun to have around. We met some awesome ‘guidos’ who were a blast to hang out with! However, since the TV show started airing, Seaside Heights is now a sticky fly trap for them!
Digression over, so let’s get back to the main topic.
I finally met my ‘dream guy’.
…….and you get this
It was an uncharacteristically chilly evening for August, so I was wearing an over-sized jean jacket over a thin, lacy white mini skirt and top (I looked “like a doily”, to quote Ethan Hawke in Reality Bites), my arms crossed tight, wrapping the too long sleeves around myself like a straitjacket. My best friend and I were on the Casino Pier watching, with shock and awe, some hunky guy climb to the top of a pirate ship ride to fix it (blue-collar boys didn’t have the luxury of free summer vacations like we did; they had to work to play, which just added to their sexy factor; responsible, unspoiled, and real!). She was scoping him out big time, hoping he would notice her once he was finished. Suddenly, she nudged me hard in the ribs and said loudly so I could hear her over the music, right into the deepest part of my ear canal, which made me jump;
“That really hot guy that works on the bumper cars is trying to get your attention! OMG, Lisa..LOOK!”
I had seen this guy a few nights before and nearly melted into a puddle of goo, but there were too many girls standing around trying to get his attention, and frankly, I was way too young, insecure and shy to even consider joining the fray of adoration.
I turned my head to look, thinking she was probably messing with me because there was no way a guy that hot would want my attention, NO WAY. Lo and behold, he was trying to get my attention via rubbing his arms and mouthing “Are you cold?”. I turned around to make sure this wasn’t directed at someone else because I still could not believe, on any realm, that this was meant for me. When I saw no one, I turned to him, shyly nodding yes. He flashed me a huge smile, then shouted out..
“Come over here, it’s warmer!”
I don’t even remember how I got there because I couldn’t feel my feet, much less my legs, but by some miracle, I was suddenly standing before him. Ironically, Walking on the Moon by the Police was the song that was playing on the classic rock station he had blasting for the ride. I was most certainly walking on the moon, not to mention over it; I’d never felt this in my entire, albeit brief, life. Sure, I’d dated and had crushes, but no one had ever lifted my body and soul off the earth like this in less than a minute. The colorful lights of the rides and attractions turned into a kaleidoscope of blur, but his beautiful face, shiny, thick, light brown hair, barely brushing his collar, and piercing blue, blue eyes, were perfectly, and the only thing, in focus. Third degree hot guy tunnel vision.
Then he spoke, his voice deep, tough and sexy; exactly how I liked ’em.
“Feeling warmer? What’s your name?” He asked with a small, sexy smile. He had the nicest lips I’d ever seen on a guy.
All residual ‘goo’ in the pan must be spooned over each sticky bun!
I’m pretty sure I said “Lisa”, but my friend repeated it, so it probably wasn’t very audible.
After the usual “Where are you from? Where are you staying? How long are you here for?”questions, he asked me how old I was. I gained some sense of clarity (landed on earth) for a moment, and asked him the same before I gave him my answer.
“18” He responded, almost too quickly.
When you’re a teenager. a 3-year, or well, 2 1/2 year age difference is akin to a 50-year-old man dating a 20-year-old woman, intellectually, at least. A 15-year-old would be a ‘kid’ to him. I was jail bait.
“I’m..I’m…17” I responded, LYING.
I hated myself, but I never wanted someone so much in my life. He was my ultimate day (and night) dream fantasy boy, right down to his voice. He was the guy I would fantasize about when I was an 11-year old chubby girl with glasses, sitting at home reading on a Saturday night, while all of my friends, who never had an awkward stage, were at middle school make-out parties.
He asked me if I wanted to do something when he got off work. “YES YES YES!” I screamed inwardly, but kept it as cool as I could bear. I was seventeen, after all.
“Sure.” I replied breezily, as if I was so accustomed to being asked out by super hot guys.
As luck would have it, the hunky guy my friend was checking out, the one who bravely climbed the what seemed to be thousand foot tall ride as fast as a monkey up a tree, was also 18, and his friend, so he would be there too. It was all too perfect.
As life keeps teaching us, nothing is ever too perfect. Since we were 15, we had a curfew, and that curfew was midnight, and not a minute after. However, a loophole! Since it was a weekday, my mother was the only disciplinarian at the beach house because my father only came down on weekends due to work. She was easy to sneak out on; we’d been doing it since we’d arrived a few days before.
He asked us to meet them by the carousel around midnight. We decided to go home early so my mother would fall asleep, content that we were home safe, giving us plenty of time to sneak out and be there at 12:00 am on the dot. Fortunately, everything went as planned, and soon we were scurrying up the ramp to the boardwalk to begin our trek to really hot, older guys who like us!
I was still floating from the initial meeting; literally walking on the moon, not feeling my feet as we hurried down the boardwalk lest we were a minute late. I had never felt so alive in all of my 15 plus years of life. The salty air was blowing my hair every which way, and the sound of crashing waves in the dark night was hauntingly beautiful music. Soon, the smell of popcorn and cotton candy started to intensify with each step, each step closer to where the ‘perfect’ guy was waiting for me. As the lights grew brighter and the music louder, I looked up. There he was, his face breaking out in a huge smile, the best smile I’d ever seen on a guy. His smile was just like Jon Bon Jovi’s, I thought, in my 15-year old dreamy state.
“Hi, I’m glad you showed.”, he said in that tough, sexy Matt Dillonesque voice that somehow didn’t completely jibe with his amazing face (sorta like Matt Dillon), but that’s exactly how I’d always imagined my fantasy ‘bad boy’. Like the moment I first laid eyes on him, too scared to stand among such pretty, older girls vying for his attention, I found myself melting into a puddle of goo.
Where are my legs? I can’t feel them! Oh, there they are; they just turned into rods of JELL-O.
We couldn’t stop looking at each other as my friend and hunky monkey man chatted away; shy, fleeting glances from my end; more direct, confident glances from his.
This is where I stop because speaking of ‘bad boys’, I’ve got some sticky buns that need some attention. If you want to read the rest of this story, send me an email via my contact form or at email@example.com and I’ll tell you where you can find it. Don’t worry, it’s free; I just wanted to take it down because it really had no place on a food blog.
So what happens if you take a brioche recipe by Nancy Silverton, and sticky bun inspiration from Joanne Chang of the Flour Bakery, and add orange and chocolate? You get these sticky buns.
I call them my ‘If Nancy Silverton and Joanne Chang’s sticky buns had a baby with orange and chocolate, STICKY BUNS’.
I love Nancy Silverton’s brioche recipe, and I love Joanne Chang’s sticky buns. The goo is amazing in Joanne’s recipe, but a little too sweet for me, so I took the amount of sugar down a bit, added orange zest, orange supremes, and substituted freshly squeezed orange juice for the water. The chocolate filling is mine. Why not add chocolate to a sticky bun filling? This is what makes them bad boys, in relation to this ‘bad boy’ theme I’ve got going here. One thing I did, via Nancy Silverton’s sticky bun recipe, was add chopped, toasted pecans to the filling.
Since I use 1 cup of chopped and whole pecans in each pan of the goo, the pecans in the filling were nutty overkill. I omitted them from the filling in my second roll of sticky buns, and as you can see in the cross-section photo above, pure brown sugar, chocolatey, orange goodness.
The best part about these sticky buns, outside of the chocolate? The orange supremes caramelize so perfectly, they’re like soft orange candy. I don’t like pieces of orange in desserts, and purposely added the orange supremes so I wouldn’t devour them, but lo and behold; orange candy. Devoured.
Candied Orange Toasted Pecan Sticky Buns
Gooey Topping adapted from Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery.
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1½ cups grated milk or dark chocolate
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks), unsalted butter
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- ⅓ cup honey
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 to 2 teaspoons orange zest
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Supremes from 4 navel oranges, divided - How to supreme an orange
- 2 cups toasted whole pecans, half of them chopped, divided (1 cup for each pan)
- Divide brioche dough in half; keep one half covered and chilled while working with the other. On a floured work surface, roll dough into a 11 inch wide, 13 inch long, and ¼ inch thick rectangle. Dot surface evenly with half the softened butter and fold dough in thirds. Turn it so the closed fold is on the left and roll out again, without rolling over the edges. Fold dough in thirds again, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 30 minutes. Repeat rolling, folding, and chilling with second piece of dough and remaining butter. (This is what I love about Nancy's brioche for sticky buns, the additional butter with turns)
- For the filling; Rub orange zest into granulated and brown sugars until fragrant, then stir in cinnamon; set aside. Grate chocolate into a bowl and place in the fridge, covered, until ready to use.
- Remove first piece of dough from refrigerator and roll into an 11 inch wide, 13 inch long, and ¼ inch thick rectangle. Paint surface with beaten egg. Leaving top quarter of dough bare, sprinkle half of the cinnamon, orange sugars over the dough, spreading it lightly with your fingers. Top with half of the grated chocolate and spread with fingers to distribute evenly. Use a rolling-pin to lightly press the filling into the dough. Starting from the short side, roll into a log and pinch the seam to seal. Repeat with the remaining half of brioche dough, orange cinnamon sugar filling and grated chocolate.
- Wrap both logs in plastic wrap and place in the freezer while you make the gooey topping.
- Make the gooey topping. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, to combine until uniform. If it separates, that's okay, just keep stirring until it comes together somewhat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, orange juice, orange zest and salt. Strain to remove any undissolved lumps of brown sugar. Let cool to room temperature.
- Lightly butter two 9-inch cake pans and divide the gooey topping evenly between them. Top each pan of gooey topping with half the orange supremes, and 1 cup toasted whole and chopped pecans.
- Remove the logs from freezer and trim ends if ragged. Slice each log into seven 1½-inch slices with a serrated knife. Lay each slice flat, flatten slightly, and round the sides. Place rounded buns in a circle with the last one bun in the center; in each pan, cut side down. The seams of buns should face the outside of pan.
- Repeat with second log. Let rest, covered, for 2 hours, until slices touch and double or almost double in size. Arrange oven racks so one rack is in the middle and the other just below, and preheat to 350°F. Put pans on the middle rack and put a foil-lined jelly-roll pan on the rack below to catch any drips.
- Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown, switching the pans half way through.. Invert immediately onto a flat serving dish that's big enough to catch any extra gooey topping that drips down the sides.
- Use any extra goo on the bottom of pan or plate you turned buns over on, to drizzle over individual buns.
Finally, did you know that sticky buns originated in Germany and and are known as ‘Schnecken’? They were brought to Pennsylvania via German Settlers in the 18th century. Germany is one of many countries I’d love to visit in Europe, so I’m submitting these sticky buns to Bread Baking Day #46, in which the theme is baking a bread from a place we’d love to visit, hosted by Noor of Ya Salam Cooking.