Sticky Buns ... And Then a Health Kick!

Last week, one of my sisters (the one I call The Eyes) called me out. I had been complaining about gaining five pounds, and she said, "Well! Maybe the problem is all the opera cake, white chocolate peanut butter cookies, beer, oatmeal cookies..."

Okay! I get it! I'm in need of a health kick.

But before I reform my eating habits for a few weeks and say goodbye to my gooey, sticky, delectable lifestyle, I wanted to have one last fix. Sticky buns.

Sticky Buns
Yields 12 buns.
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
2/3 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
5 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
7.9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups), divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Cooking spray (butter-flavored preferred)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons milk (any kind)
1/2 cup soaked and drained raisins
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Dissolve granulated sugar and yeast in 2/3 cup warm water in a small bowl; let mixture stand 5 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons melted butter.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 6.75 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) flour, salt, and nutmeg in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add yeast mixture to flour mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 4 minutes); add enough of the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent the dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, syrup, and milk in a small saucepan; bring mixture to a boil. Remove pan from heat; stir in raisins. Sprinkle walnuts evenly into a 13x9–inch baking pan coated with cooking spray; spoon raisin and syrup mixture evenly over nuts in bottom of pan. In a separate bowl, combine 1/4 cup brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

Punch dough down and roll it into a 12x10–inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Brush remaining 2 tablespoons butter over dough. Sprinkle dough with cinnamon mixture. Cut dough into 12 1-inch wide strips.

Roll up each strip and place into pan, leaving a little room between the buns, which will rise and spread before baking. Smoosh them down gently if they are imperfect and unbalanced looking. Cover pan loosely with plastic wrap or with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, at least 30 minutes minutes or until doubled in size. I recommend leaving them on or near the oven while it preheats.

Preheat oven to 375F at least 10 minutes before putting buns in oven.

Bake at 375F on middle rack for 12-15 minutes or until buns are lightly browned. Cool buns slightly in pan, but while still warm, use a metal spatula to transfer them to wax paper. (Waiting too long might make the syrup harden and stick to the pan too much, making it difficult to remove the buns.) Serve warm.