This bread consists of clusters of sticky buns layered in an angel food pan and baked. Each person gets to tear off a bun with cinnamon sugar, rum raisins, and toasted pecans clinging to it. The bread’s name is believed to have come from the haphazard way in which the balls of dough are piled into the pan. And, in fact, the more irregular the size of the buns, the more fun to eat.
- 2 cups plus 6 ½ tablespoons/12 ounces/341 grams unbleached all purpose flour (use only Gold Medal, King Arthur, or Pillsbury)
- Scant 1 ¾ cup/14.3 ounces/405 grams water, at room temperature (70° to 90°F)
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon/1.5 ounces/45 grams honey
- ¾ teaspoon/2.4 grams instant yeast
- 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons/11 ounces/311 grams unbleached all purpose flour (use only Gold Medal, King Arthur, or Pillsbury)
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons/about 2 ounces/60 grams dry milk, preferably nonfat
- ¾ tablespoon/2.4 grams instant yeast
- 9 tablespoons/4.5 ounces/128 grams unsalted butter, softened
- 2 ½ teaspoons/16.5 grams salt
- 1 cup/5 ounces/144 grams raisins
- ¼ liquid cup dark rum
- ½ liquid cup boiling water
- 1 ½ cups/6 ounces/168 grams pecans, toasted and coarsely broken
- 16 tablespoons/8 ounces/227 grams unsalted butter
- 1 cup (firmly packed)/7.6 ounces/217 grams light brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons/0.3 ounces/8.6 grams cinnamon
- A heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook attachment
- A 10-inch (12-cup) two-piece angel food pan, lightly sprayed with nonstick vegetable coating
- A baking stone OR baking sheet
Oven Temperature: 350°F
1. Make the sponge. In the mixer bowl, preferably with the whisk attachment (#4 if using a KitchenAid), beat together the flour, water, honey, and yeast until very smooth, to incorporate air, about 3 minutes. The sponge will be the consistency of a thick batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and set it aside, covered with plastic wrap.
2. Combine the ingredients for the flour mixture and add to the sponge. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, dry milk, and yeast. Sprinkle this on top of the sponge and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Allow it to ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature. (During this time, the sponge will bubble through the flour mixture in places; this is fine.)
3. Mix the dough. Add the butter and mix with the dough hook on low speed (#2 KitchenAid) until the flour is moistened. Then mix on medium speed (#4 Kitchen Aid) for 3 minutes. Allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle on the salt and knead the dough on medium speed (#4 KitchenAid) for 10 minutes. It should be smooth, shiny, and slightly sticky to the touch. (It will weigh about 45.2 ounces/1282 grams.)
4. Let the dough rise. Place the dough in a 4-quart dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Push down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75° to 80°F) until doubled about 1½ hours.
Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press or roll it gently into a rectangle. (The exact size is not important.) It will be full of air and resilient; try to maintain as much of the air bubbles as possible by not pressing too hard. Fold the dough into a tight package or give it 2 business letter turns and set it back in the container. Oil the surface again, cover, and mark where double the height of the dough would now be. Allow it to double, about 1 hour.
5. Make the filling. Place the raisins in a small heatproof bowl. Add the rum and boiling water, cover, and let stand for at least 1 hour. When ready to roll the dough, drain the raisins, reserving the liquid for the glaze.
In a medium microwaveable bowl (or saucepan), melt the butter with the brown sugar and cinnamon, stirring once or twice (or constantly if over direct heat). Set aside to cool until just warm.
6. Shape the dough and let it rise. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and divide it in half. Return one half to the greased bowl, cover, and set it aside. Pinch off small pieces of the remaining dough, flouring your fingers lightly if necessary, and roll them on the lightly floured counter into 1-inch balls (0.5 ounce/14 grams each). It is fine and even desirable for them to vary slightly in size. Cover the shaped balls with oiled plastic wrap while rolling the rest of the dough.
Dip the balls one at a time in the butter/sugar mixture and set them in the prepared pan, placing them slightly apart, as they will expand during rising. After forming the first layer, scatter in some of the pecans and raisins. (Use all of the raisins before finishing with the final layer, as they tend to overbrown when on top.) Stir the butter/sugar mixture often to keep it from separating. When all the balls from the first batch of dough are arranged, cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate it while you roll the second batch of dough into balls.
Continue making layers with the balls as before, reheating the butter/sugar mixture if necessary to keep it liquid. The layers of balls will be uneven, as the balls will vary in size, but when completed they will fill the pan three-quarters full. Drizzle any remaining butter/sugar mixture on top. Cover the pan with a large container, or loosely with oiled plastic wrap, and allow the rolls to rise until they reach the top of the pan, 50 to 60 minutes.
7. Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F 45 minutes before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it.
8. Bake the bread. Set the pan on the hot baking stone. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until the bread is golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 190°F). After the first 50 minutes, place a sheet of foil on top to prevent overbrowning.
9. Glaze and unmold the bread. While the rolls are baking, boil the raisin liquid down to about 2 tablespoons, or until syrupy (use a 2-cup microwaveproof measure or a small saucepan).
Remove the bread from the oven and set the pan on a rack. Brush the raisin syrup evenly over the top. Allow the bread to cool on the rack for 10 minutes. Unmold by setting the pan on top of a canister that is smaller than the side portion of the pan and pushing the sides down firmly and evenly. Then invert it onto a rack and reinvert it onto a serving plate. Serve immediately, or while still warm (it will stay warm for about an hour). Encourage people to use their fingers to break off the warm buns. (The bread resembles an attractive Roman ruin as it is consumed.)
Ultimate full flavor variation:
For the best flavor development, in Step 2, allow the sponge to ferment for 1 hour at room temperature, then refrigerate it for 8 to 24 hours.