Squash Sticky Buns | Food Comforts
I live in Brookline, Massachusetts, which puts me about 3 miles from the site of this week’s Boston Marathon bombing. We were nowhere near the finish line at the time, having opted to head to Sturbridge Village for the day. But it’s impossible to live in or near the city right now without feeling rattled. And heartbroken for the senseless loss. And also awed by the instinctive selflessness of people. I think everyone with a heart is bouncing between emotions like this.
One thing that helps: community. All our dinners since Monday have been communal, hosting friends and family or being hosted. The instinct to gather is powerful. It makes us feel at least a little bit safe. If not safe, then loved.
Cooking also helps. It’s tactile and methodical, it stops your eyeballs and thoughts from spinning. This recipe for squash-scented sticky buns, which appeared in the “Best Cook in Town” column of the March/April issue of Yankee, is the model of that category of soul-calming fare we call comfort food. It requires a bit of time, but isn’t the least bit difficult to make. And slow, soothing projects are what I’m craving.
Caroline Craig’s Squash Sticky Buns Recipe
Total Time: 3 hours
Hands-on Time: 1 hour
Yield: 9-12 buns
Note: If you don’t happen to have any leftover winter squash on hand, you can make this recipe with canned squash or pumpkin. Because canned squash has more moisture, you’ll need more flour, closer to the 4 cups listed below. But the buns still turned out beautifully in our tests.
For the dough:
1/2 cup mashed, cooked winter squash, such as butternut, acorn, or kabocha (or substitute canned squash or pumpkin; see “Note,” above)
1 cup hot tap water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1-1/4 teaspoons plus 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast, divided
1-1/4 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
2—4 cups all-purpose flour (see “Note,” above), divided, plus extra for work surface
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, or 4 tablespoons) salted butter, plus extra for baking dish
1 tablespoon corn syrup
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
First, make the dough; Put squash and hot water into the bowl of a standing mixer or the jar of a blender, and beat (or whirl) until smooth. If you’re using a blender, transfer mixture to a large bowl; otherwise, leave it in your mixer’s bowl. Add sugar and 1-1/2 teaspoons yeast; then stir and let mixture sit 10 minutes (this will activate the yeast). Add salt, melted butter, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon yeast. Whisk until blended.
Beat in 2 cups flour. Keep adding flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until dough becomes workable without being too sticky to touch; the amount you’ll need will depend on the type of squash (and flour) you use. Don’t worry–you’ll be able to feel it when the dough ceases to be too sticky. If you’re mixing by hand, turn dough out onto a well-floured surface to work in the additional flour. If you’re using a standing mixer, switch to the dough-hook attachment.
Continue kneading until dough springs back to the touch and feels very smooth, 5 to 10 minutes. Then coat dough with oil, return it to the bowl, cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot until doubled in size, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
Now make the filling: In a small bowl, stir together melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.
About 15 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° and set the oven rack to the middle position. Bake until tops are nicely browned and syrup is bubbling, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm.