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Joanne Chang, owner and head pastry chef of Flour Bakery + Café, is the subject of the article “Sweet Science,” in this magazine’s March-April 2008 issue. After learning of her triumph on the Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay, magazine staffer Mark Felton decided to try her acclaimed sticky bun recipe (below).

Now you can attempt pastry perfection at home. Just remember this helpful hint from Chang: “Pastries are very meticulous and detail-oriented. Baking powder is chemistry. And once you finish baking…, you can’t add a tablespoon more of this or that.”

Sticky Bun Recipe — courtesy of Joanne Chang

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • brioche dough (recipe follows)
  • Goo (recipe follows)

Yield: 6 large buns
Prep time: dough (30 minutes), Goo (20 minutes), bun making (20 minutes)*
Inactive prep time: about 9 hours
Cook time: about 45 minutes

*Harvard Magazine test kitchen

On a floured work surface, roll out the brioche dough into a rectangle that is approximately 1/4 inch thick. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans and sprinkle evenly on the brioche. Roll up the brioche jelly roll-style and slice the roll into buns about 1 inch thick. Spread the Goo (below) on the bottom of a roasting pan and place buns, evenly spaced, in the pan. Cover and allow to rise for 2 to 3 hours in a warm place.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place buns in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes (check after 30). Let cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a serving platter. Serve with café au lait.

Brioche Dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups high-gluten flour
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz. yeast
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 5 eggs
  • 11 oz. butter, softened

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients, except the butter, and beat on low with dough hook for 10 minutes. Add the softened butter and knead for another 20 minutes until dough slaps on the side of a bowl. Place in a container and cover well. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours. Shape, cover, and let rise for several hours on a warm radiator or on top of an oven at 200 degrees.

Goo:

  • 1/2 lb. butter
  • 15 oz. brown sugar
  • 5 oz. honey
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup water

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt together the butter and brown sugar. Remove from heat, let cool, and whisk in the honey, cream, and water. Set aside.