Triple-Chocolate Sticky Buns
To take sticky buns over the top, we added three types of chocolate: bittersweet and milk chocolate in the filling and cocoa powder in the sticky caramel topping. To ensure that the buns were ultratender, we used a Japanese bread-making technique called tangzhong that called for microwaving a portion of the dough’s flour and milk, turning it into agel-like paste, before adding it to the rest of the dough ingredients. The gel locked in more moisture than simply adding more liquid would, so the dough was soft without becoming overly sticky and difficult to work with, and it produced moist buns. For an easy filling with complex flavor, we microwaved butter and bittersweet chocolate to form a ganache that, once it had cooled, we spread over the rolled-out dough. We then sprinkled on milk chocolate chips: Rolled up in the dough, they delivered just the right amount of sweetness plus delightfully creamy pockets of chocolate(we ditched the cinnamon, a traditional ingredient in sticky buns, because it confused the chocolate flavor). For the easiest-ever caramel, we simply stirred together the ingredients—melted butter and brown sugar (for more depth), corn syrup to keep it soft and pliable, and cocoa powder for another dose of chocolate. Poured into a metal baking pan, it cooked into caramel in the oven as the buns baked—no candy thermometer needed.
- ⅔ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup (1¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup whole milk
- 1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
- 3 ¼ cups (16¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and softened
- ¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ cup dark corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup (6 ounces) milk chocolate chips
These buns take about 4 hours to make. One packet of rapid-rise or instant yeast contains 2¼ teaspoons of yeast. Be sure to use a metal, not glass or ceramic, baking pan. The tackiness of the dough aids in flattening and stretching it in step 7, so resist the urge to use a lot of dusting flour. Rolling the dough cylinder too tightly in step 8 will result in misshapen rolls. Buns baked according to the make-ahead instructions will be shorter than buns baked after the second proofing.
1. FOR THE FLOUR PASTE: Whisk milk and flour in small bowl until no lumps remain. Microwave, whisking every 25 seconds, until mixture thickens to stiff paste, 50 to 75 seconds. Whisk until smooth.
2. FOR THE DOUGH: In bowl of stand mixer, whisk flour paste and milk until smooth. Add egg and yolk and whisk until incorporated. Add flour and yeast. Fit mixer with dough hook and mix on low speed until mass of dough forms and all flour is moistened, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off mixer, cover bowl with dish towel or plastic wrap, and let dough stand for 15 minutes.
3. Add sugar and salt to dough. Knead on medium-low speed for 5 minutes. Add butter and continue to knead until incorporated, scraping down dough hook and bowl as needed (dough will be sticky), about 5 minutes longer.
4. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead briefly to form ball. Transfer, seam side down, to greased large bowl, cover tightly with plastic, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
5. FOR THE TOPPING: Meanwhile, whisk all ingredients in bowl until combined. Spray 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with vegetable oil spray. Pour topping into prepared pan and use rubber spatula to spread to edges of pan; set aside.
6. FOR THE FILLING: About 30 minutes before dough is done rising, microwave bittersweet chocolate and butter in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted and combined, about 2 minutes. Refrigerate until matte and firm, 30 to 40 minutes.
7. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and lightly flour top of dough. Roll and stretch dough to form 18 by 15-inch rectangle with long side parallel to counter’s edge. Stir bittersweet chocolate mixture with rubber spatula until smooth and spreadable (mixture should have similar texture to frosting). Using offset spatula, spread mixture over entire surface of dough, leaving 1-inch border along top edge. Sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips.
8. Beginning with long edge nearest you, loosely roll dough away from you into even log, pushing in ends to create even thickness. Pinch seam to seal. Roll log seam side down and slice into 12 equal portions. Place buns, cut side down, in prepared pan in 3 rows of four, lightly reshaping buns into circles as needed. Cover tightly with plastic and let rise until buns are puffy and touching one another, about 1 hour.
9. Adjust oven racks to lowest and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Place rimmed baking sheet on lower rack to catch any drips. Discard plastic and bake buns on upper rack until golden brown on top, about 20 minutes. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and continue to bake until center buns register at least 200 degrees, about 15 minutes longer.
10. Carefully remove foil from pan (steam may escape) and immediately run paring knife around edge of pan. Place large platter or second rimmed baking sheet over pan and carefully invert pan and sheet. Remove pan and let buns cool for 15 minutes. Serve.
11. TO MAKE AHEAD Follow recipe through step 8, then refrigerate buns for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, let buns sit on counter for 30 minutes before proceeding with step
12. Increase uncovered baking time by 10 minutes.