Dark vs Light Sticky Buns

Last night Jeff and I taught a class based on Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day at Cooks of Crocus Hill. It was a tremendously fun evening, made all the more so by the curiosity of the people who came out to watch us bake a frenzy of breads. There were a number of great questions and one in particular that stumped me. I was baking the sticky pecan caramel rolls from the book. Because there were so many people in the class I had to bake them in two batches. One in a light cake pan, the other in a dark one. Other than the color of the pans the process and baking times were identical, in fact they sat side by side in the oven. When the time came to invert the sticky buns onto the serving platter we were shocked to see that they were entirely different colors. One was a very pale (I’d say insipid) caramel and the other was rich and deeply colored. I knew that it was because of the color of the pans, but when pressed by this curious crowd as to exactly WHY this happens I couldn’t answer. So I did a little investigating and this is what I found out…

The reason the dark pan produces a darker, more thoroughly baked sticky bun is because it radiates more heat. It is like stepping on the pavement that has been baking in the sun. Darker things absorb more heat and therefore radiate more heat and cause things to bake faster. What I hadn’t known before is this also works when you use a dark filling, like chocolate. So a chocolate danish braid will bake faster than one with almond cream or something light in color. Crazy, true and fascinating!

Thank you to the class at Cooks last night for teaching me something new! Happy baking and enjoy the book!

4 thoughts to “Dark vs Light Sticky Buns”

  1. Thanks Zoe (& Jeff) for a great class at Cooks and for following up with this answer!

    I made the caramel rolls for my husband this weekend. They were a hit!

    I’m looking forward to trying some of the other recipes we received (while waiting for the book to be reprinted) and have a question. I have a large bag of instant yeast that I bought in preparation to make another no-knead recipe given to me by a friend. Can I use this instant yeast in the AB5 recipes?

    Thanks again for a great class and for making bread baking so accessible!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    I’m so glad you tried the sticky buns and they were a hit. Really what can go wrong with brioche slathered in caramel?

    By all means use your instant yeast! It will work just fine, in fact we found no difference at all. It just doesn’t seem to matter!!!

    Thanks, Zoë

  3. Oh we can’t thank you enough for bringing crusty european bread back into our homes! My sister’s husband (from Switzerland) and my husband (from Poland) continually give us hugs & kisses of delight when they see us baking your bread. Thank you for posting your mastery recipe, it enticed us both to buy the book. And we’ve been baking away. I literally dream of baking your new bread recipes!
    Question: 1. about the light vs. dark cake pan for cinnamon rolls. Do I understand correctly, when purchasing should I buy a dark pan? Normally I choose the Wilton light pans to prevent over-baking. What is your recommendation for cinnamon rolls?
    2. Is it best to slash my bread before baking? I noticed on the post of the Whole Wheat Bread with the Tomato Soup at the cabin, the photo looked like it was slashed before the resting time. My bread seems to deflate (visually and audibly) when I slash right before baking. Although I do tend to wait the 90 minutes before baking. Maybe that is too long.
    We love both your blogs. Thank you for the mouth watering and tempting photos.
    From Happy Wives of European Husbands.

  4. Hi Kristi,

    If you have pans that you like then by all means give them a try. For the sticky buns we did find that the darker pans helped to bake the buns and give the caramel its rich flavor and color. If you bake in a light pan then just make sure that you wait until the buns look nice and golden brown on top and are set in the middle. You should tap them with your hand to make sure they are set firm.

    It is best to slash the bread just as it is going into the oven or it will lose its shape as it is rising. If your dough is too soft and deflates as you are trying to slash then there is a chance that it is over proofed slightly. Having said that our dough is very wet and can be difficult to slash if you don’t coat it with flour first and use a sharp serrated knife.

    I’m so glad you enjoy the websites and the book! I’m thrilled that your husbands love the bread you are baking!

    Enjoy! Zoë

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