Though their initial encounter was brief, he thought of her often: big brown eyes, short wavy hair, long legs and a generous smile. She appeared to him mostly at night when the cold Belgium air chilled his blood and bones, the foxhole barely sheltering his nineteen-year-old untouched, gangly body.
Big breath in, small, quiet breath out and a million stars shimmering overhead. And it was in that small, silent breath out, a tiny crystal cloud formed, floating its way to the heavens. He watched the cloud disintegrate, tiny atoms floating further and further away from him. This is not the end of me. No this tiny life-saving foxhole in the dense Ardennes forest would not be his final resting place. The universe would graciously offer more: the beautiful brunette would take his hand, two sons and, eventually, a handful of grandchildren would make his heart full.
This boy didn’t know his good luck as he prayed for his life, to a god he wasn’t entirely sure existed.
Many months later, when the leaves glowed crimson and gold he would step off a train, in a small town with no one waiting to great him and thumb a ride home. Changed.
Decades later, with the first snowfall of the season, memories of the war would resurface. Perhaps a tear fell when he thought of Belgium and, now, the simple yet perfect life he created for himself.
In the spring, when the first tulip buds emerged from the soil, he would take his grandchildren to a nearby golf-course with a small pond and a few, uninhibited, white-haired ducks. There, under the spring sun and cerulean sky, they fed the ducks day-old sticky buns.
Granola Sticky Buns
makes 10 large buns
granola recipe adapted from Cookie and Kate
sticky bun recipe adapted from David Lebovitz
Ingredients for granola:
4 cups old-fashion oats
3/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground ginger
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup of dried sour cherries, chopped if large
Preheat your oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Grab a large bowl and combine oats, coconut, wheat germ, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Stir thoroughly.
Pour in the olive oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Mix until all of the oat mixture is coated. Pour granola onto prepared baking sheet and spread it in an even layer. Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Remove the granola and allow it to cool completely. It will crisp up as it cools. Once cool, add the dried cherries. Store in an air-tight container, at room temperature, for a couple of weeks. Enjoy!
Ingredients for sticky bun dough:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
2/3 cup milk (any kind)
3 tablespoons sugar
1+3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 large egg
2 + 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Ingredients for honey caramel:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup of prepared granola
Ingredients for filling:
1/4 dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-spice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons of coconut oil, at room temperature
First make the dough. Using a small saucepan, over low heat, warm the butter, milk and sugar until the butter has melted. Pour into the bowl of your stand mixer and allow to sit until just warm to the touch. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk mixture and stir gently. Let sit in a warm place until it starts to bubble, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add egg, flour and salt. Knead the dough with paddle or dough hook attachment at medium speed until the dough is smooth and stretchy, about 5 minutes. Remove the dough and knead with your hands until it is a smooth ball. Place back in the bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise in a warm spot until it has doubled in size, about 1 to 11/2 hours. *The time can vary. It may take more or less time, use your best judgment.*
Next, make the honey caramel. Lightly butter a 9-inch round cake pan or 8-inch square pan. Using a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, melt the butter, brown sugar, honey and salt and continue to cook until the mixture comes to a boil. When it starts to foam and the bubbles start to get larger, remove from the heat or when the temperature reads 212F.
Pour the honey caramel into your prepared pan and sprinkle a cup of granola over the caramel. Set aside.
Now, make the filling. Mix the brown sugar, all-spice and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
Once the dough has risen, knead the dough a couple of times on a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a ten inch square. Spread the coconut oil over the dough and sprinkle the filling mixture evenly over the dough. Roll the dough as tightly as possible. Grab a serrated knife and cut the dough into 10 slices. Place on top of the caramel, cut side up. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour or so.
When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place pan of sticky buns on baking sheet. Bake until the center roll is golden brown and no longer feels soft, about 25-30 minutes.
Remove rolls from oven and cool for about 5 minutes. Run a knife around the outside and then tip the buns onto a serving platter, dish or wire rack. Serve warm and enjoy!
*Sticky buns are best served warm the day they are baked, but they still taste good the next day. If you have leftovers, keep them well-wrapped at room temperature. You can re-warm them wrapped in foil at 200F until heated through.*
5 Scrumptious Sticky Bun Links
Looking for a whole wheat version of sticky buns? Bon Appetempt has the recipe for whole wheat brown sugar sticky buns that looks divine!
If you love bananas, head to Heather Christo for her caramelized banana sticky buns. I want to eat one or five of them right now.
Impress you friends and family with this creative riff on sticky buns.
Gooey. Turtle. Brownie. Sticky. Buns. Yes they exist. Head to Willow Bird Baking for the recipe.
How about sticking with the classic? Deb at Smitten Kitchen has a pecan sticky bun recipe that will not disappoint!