Sweets for my sweet Sticky Bun Popcorn

By Life Pastry - September 28, 2020


Sticky Bun Popcorn

Makes 16 to 18 cups

About six years after Flour opened, we were featured on a popular Food Network show called Throwdown! with Bobby Flay in which Chef Bobby challenged me and Flour in a competition to see who could make the better sticky buns. (I’m proud to say we won!) Our sticky buns are made with buttery, soft brioche dough and baked in a butter-cream–brown sugar–honey concoction that we call Goo. I’m convinced you could pour this goo on pretty much anything and it would make it shine. This recipe tests my theory: We mix popcorn with toasted pecans and a light goo coating, then bake it all together to make it extra crispy and caramelized. Sharing a big bowl of this with Christopher while watching TV, lying on the couch, is the best way I know to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

3 tablespoons/45 grams vegetable oil (such as canola)

¾ cup/165 grams unpopped popcorn kernels

2 cups/200 grams pecan halves, toasted

¾ cup firmly packed/165 grams light brown sugar

¾ cup/1½ sticks/170 grams unsalted butter

¾ cup/255 grams honey

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 350°F and place racks in the center and bottom third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.

In a very large pot with a lid, heat the oil over high heat until hot. Add the popcorn kernels, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to medium-high. Shake the pot every few seconds until you start to hear the popping. As soon as you can hear it popping, shake the pot constantly. When the popping slows down to one pop every few seconds, turn off the heat but keep shaking. When you hear one pop every 5 or 6 seconds, remove the pot from the stove and dump the popcorn into a large bowl. Remove and discard any unpopped kernels. Add the pecan halves to the popcorn.

These next few steps go quickly, so be sure to have all the ingredients and equipment at hand. Return the pot to the stove and add the brown sugar and butter. Heat over high heat until the butter melts. The mixture will get foamy and start to color bit by bit. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, for 3 minutes—the color will deepen a shade and it will smell rich and delicious. Add the honey and bring back to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. (The caramel goo will bubble up and foam a bit from the reaction of the baking soda with the sugar.)

Drizzle the caramel goo over the popcorn-pecan mixture and toss to distribute well, until the popcorn is evenly colored. Spread on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets and switching their positions midway through the baking time, until the nuts are deeply toasted and the popcorn smells fragrant.

Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheets on a wire rack. When the popcorn cools, it will be crunchy and crispy. Break up the popcorn into bite-size clusters after it cools.

Sticky bun popcorn can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Butter Mochi

Makes about 24 squares

Makes about 24 squares

Every few years Christopher and I take an extended work vacation in Hawaii. It started about a decade ago when we were invited by the Hawaii Culinary Education Foundation to teach restaurant business classes and baking classes to culinary students and professionals in Honolulu. The director of the foundation, Hayley, and her husband, Mike, have since become dear friends; we continue the friendship by finding any reason we can to travel back to teach more classes and spend time enjoying the unparalleled hospitality of the Hawaiian people. While teaching how to make our famous sticky buns at the Halekulani Hotel one year, I tasted an unusual and delicious Hawaiian pastry called butter mochi. The hotel pastry chef, Mark, had baked off an impressive spread of desserts for the students to enjoy during break and these plain-looking treats were displayed on a large platter alongside standard blueberry muffins and tropical fruit tarts. I loved them so much I took a goody bag of them back to my room and nibbled on them for the rest of the trip, trying to make them last. I knew I had to make these when I got back home and asked Chef Mark for the recipe. He generously shared, and I created my own version of this classic Hawaiian pastry. The mochi is super chewy and fun to eat and very easy to make.

4½ cups/1 pound/455 grams mochiko (glutinous rice flour or sweet rice flour)

One 13.5- to 14-ounce/375- to 390-gram can full-fat coconut milk

1½ cups/360 grams whole milk, at room temperature

1⅔ cups/335 grams sugar

½ cup/1 stick/115 grams unsalted butter, melted

3 large eggs (about 150 grams), at room temperature

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¾ cup/90 grams sweetened shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Generously butter a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the mochiko, coconut milk, milk, sugar, melted butter, eggs, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Whisk together until smooth. Add the shredded coconut and whisk it in. Let the batter sit for about 15 minutes at room temperature for the rice flour to fully absorb the liquid.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes, rotating the pan midway through the baking time, until the top of the cake is golden brown and the mochi feels firm when you press it in the middle. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Cut the mochi into small pieces, about 2 x 2 inches square, and use a small spatula to remove them from the pan. Place each piece in a small muffin paper or on a piece of parchment or waxed paper.

Butter mochi can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. You can also freeze them; put them in a 325°F oven for about 20 minutes to revive and get a little chewy and caramelized on top.

Maple Pecan Tassies

Makes 24 tassies

Makes 24 tassies

Jonathan, our pastry chef at Flour Harvard, created this recipe for a monthly special at the start of maple-eating season in the fall. Even though maple-tapping season is in the spring when the sap starts running, the time to smother everything in maple syrup is when the weather gets cooler and the leaves start to turn color. A tassie is a mini pecan pie made with tender, flaky cream cheese dough. Jonathan wanted to highlight local maple syrup so he substituted maple for part of the sugar. The result is a buttery, mellow, nutty, bite-size treat. They are hard to stop eating, which to me is the definitive sign of a great pastry.

Pecan Tassie Dough (recipe follows)

1 cup/100 grams pecan halves

⅔ cup firmly packed/150 grams light brown sugar

¼ cup/85 grams maple syrup

3 eggs (about 150 grams), at room temperature

3 tablespoons/45 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon kosher salt


Make the pecan tassie dough and chill as directed. Shape the dough into 24 balls 1 inch in diameter and press them evenly over the bottoms and up the sides of the 24 cups of a mini muffin tin. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Toast the pecans on a baking sheet for 6 to 8 minutes, until they are lightly toasted inside; break a few open to check. Let cool, then roughly chop into small pieces. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the brown sugar, maple syrup, eggs, butter, vanilla, and salt. Add about half the chopped pecans and mix until well combined. Spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared shells (2 to 3 teaspoons per cup), filling them all the way. Sprinkle them generously and evenly with the remaining nuts.

Bake for 24 to 28 minutes, rotating the muffin tin midway through the baking time, until they are puffed and brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes in the tin on a wire rack. Pop them out of the pans and continue cooling on the wire rack.

Pecan tassies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Pecan Tassie Dough

Makes enough dough for 24 tassies

½ cup/1 stick/115 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 tablespoons/3 ounces/85 grams cream cheese, at warm room temperature

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons/165 grams all-purpose flour

⅛ teaspoon kosher salt


In a small bowl with a wooden spoon, or in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Gradually add the flour and salt and mix until well combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to handle, at least 1 hour.

The dough can be stored, well wrapped, in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Let thaw overnight in the fridge before using.




You Might Also Like