Posts Tagged ‘Maple’

Yes, das ist eine bread basket

Maple Walnut Sticky Buns

I need your help. The title of this post, Yes, das ist eine bread basket, is ripped straight from the fractured memories of my childhood. I think it was one of the lyrics of a “list” song I learned as a tot, but that single line is all I remember. That, and when you sang the words “bread basket” you pointed to your stomach. If you know the song please refresh my memory. (Or titter at my lack thereof.)

Can you tell that Thanksgiving makes me a sloppy nostalgic sap? Why not? It’s a big family holiday, so my thoughts always go to my Pop.

I always thought my Pop had the strangest tastes. When we’d go to the deli counter he’d order Three Bean Salad. He just loved it. I used to think, “Who eats Three Bean Salad? Yech.”

When we’d go for ice cream I’d order chocolate chip with jimmies; he’d order maple walnut. I’d think, “Who orders maple walnut ice cream? Yech.”

On Thanksgiving he always ended his meal with Baked Indian Pudding, and I’d think, “Really? But there’s pie!”

Granted, I’m still not a fan of Three Bean Salad, but that has more to do with a general aversion to the whole cole slaw / potato salad / macaroni salad niche of cold salads. But make maple walnut anything and I’m in. When did that happen?

Naturally my Pop was special because he was mine. But in reality he was a fairly typical guy of his time: first generation American, very solicitous of his Mother, World War Two army vet. During times when I was youthfully undisciplined, his strongest remonstration to me was, “A little time in the service would straighten you out but good.” The latter was a show of exasperation: he would no more have wanted me to join the service than he would have wanted me to run away with the circus.

When I was a kid, I had a voracious sweet tooth. My Pop had a sweet tooth too, but his was more measured. I never saw him eat candy. He was a cake and ice cream guy. It’s odd that I have sort of grown into that same type of sweet tooth and ironic that while I consider myself to still have a sweet tooth, I often complain about things being too sweet. How do I reconcile those contradictory claims?

Easy. I’m here to confirm the sad truth that, yes, we do become our parents, hair (or lack thereof) and all.

When I was a kid the first thing I’d grab out of the Thanksgiving bread basket was one of the sticky buns. Don’t confuse these with the lumbering, Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man-sized, mall-sourced Cinnabons. The little ones I’m recalling were designed to fit into a breadbasket, and seemed to always appear on Thanksgiving. Was this a New England tradition? Dunno.

As an adult my bread basket tastes have veered away from the sticky sweet and towards the savory: biscuits studded with cranberries, Anadama bread, and toasty, puffy white rolls—like Parker House Rolls. Even Northern-style cornbread—sweet—seems like a sugar rush. The sticky buns seem unredeemable and icky now, and the sticky fingered charm of my seven year-old alter ego fits my adult persona about as well as my old Cub Scout uniform. That is: not at all.

Yet people request them, and truthfully, who am I to deny today’s seven year olds the same fun I had getting everything and everyone sticky? And who am I to deny their Mothers the fun and frivolity of commanding them to, “… wash those filthy hands right this minute!”?

So here’s my version, ready for Thanksgiving.

To shake things up a bit I decided to not make the typical pecan sticky buns. To add a bit of flavor complexity, pay tribute to my Pop, and make preparation a bit easier, I reached deep down into my soul and got in touch with my Kitchen Wonk.

So, these are Maple Walnut Sticky Buns.  I recognize that these are a “project” and that if you are preparing an entire Thanksgiving dinner, you may want to farm out this “project” to a willing patsy collaborator. The good news is that I have built the recipe on the bricks of the Parker House roll recipe, so depending on the size of your expected crowd you can make the basic dough and make half of it into sticky buns, and the other half into toasty, white Parker House rolls. You can also double the recipe and…well you know what to do.

Besides being a wink and a nod towards Pop, using maple syrup makes prep a little bit faster because the filling and the topping are easier to mix together as opposed to using just brown sugar. I like to think it is healthier than the dark corn syrup called for in some recipes. (Yeah, I know, this aint health food.)

Because we are making really small buns—one or two bites—I recommend that you bake them in pie plates or round cake pans. This way you’ll end up with fewer of the dreaded “middle buns”, the ones that are baked inside the pan and therefore brown less than the outies.

The recipe also instructs you to carefully turn the buns out when they are fresh from the oven to let the syrup and nuts drizzle down. After careful tasting and consideration (a sticky job but someone had to do it) I am ready to declare that I think I like them upside down—with the topping left on the bottom. That way you won’t miss the toasty crust which remains barely kissed with the syrup.

You can make these a day ahead, but you will want to gently warm them prior to serving in case the sugar in the syrup has crystallized.

Phew! I think holiday baking season has arrived. I’m pooped already. Time for a nap.

But first I’d better go wash my sticky hands.


Here’s the recipe for Maple Walnut Sticky Buns.


Keep these other Thanksgiving recipes in mind:

Cranberry Sauce

Parker House Rolls

Anadama Bread

Baked Indian Pudding

Alfred Lunt’s Famous Pumpkin Pie


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So many tweets, so little time

Ol’ Faithful

Maple Walnut Bars

Utility player...with walnuts

I’m a New Yorker. I grew up in the Boston area. My name is Michael. Funny, I could be describing the current Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, or myself. We have all those things in common, so let’s also play a little game I like to call “Let’s Compare Bank Accounts”. Michael Bloomberg is a billionaire. I’m…hey, did you watch the World Series?

Albert Pujols. Albert Pujols. Albert Pujols. What: did the guy invent baseball? Do I have a chip on my shoulder? A couple. Yup, enough for a cookie.

I have always had bad eyesight. I remember being taken to the movies as a kid and thinking, “Jeez, what a crummy theater. This movie is totally out of focus!”

Of course, bad eyesight translates into being picked last for team sports. (That’s a real pat on the back.) I’ve never figured out why they thought this was a good idea, but they always stuck me in the outfield. A nearsighted kid with no depth perception. In the outfield. The ball would “hang” in the sky then suddenly be on the ground behind me and my gloved, outstretched hand.

(This inevitably reminds me of the joke about the bad actor: the director keeps telling him to move up stage. “Farther up, please…no, even farther please…” to which the bad actor objects, “But, if I move any farther up I’ll be off the stage.” To which the director replies, “Yes! Just a few more steps please!”)

Oh, well. I couldn’t catch a baseball. I can bake. Can Albert Pujols? (Don’t answer that. I saw him on Paula Deen’s show. )

That’s life. There’s always a “star.” Everyone else? The trusted “utility players,” those stalwart, dependable folks who really form the underpinnings of any organization, whether it be sports or show biz or the hard-scrabble world of department store perfume spritizing, are always appreciated yet ignored. Love ya baby, now, hit the showers.

What always amuses me is when the “stars” don’t quite live up to expectations. (I don’t want to mention any names because Alex Rodriguez reads this blog. Madonna turned him on to it, now he’s got Cameron Diaz reading it. I understand she makes my Fleur de Sel Chocolate Caramel Cookies with canned Dulce de Leche. Not cool, Cammie.)

When a star ballplayer isn’t reaching their potential, the fans can be vehement in their dismissal. C’mon folks, be nice. Just because an underperforming player still gets to take home all of his multi-million dollar salary doesn’t make him bad people. It just means he’s like the rest of us but wildly overpaid. Wait. I think I lost the thread of my logic.

The thing is, sometimes you don’t want a star; sometimes you want that solid utility player who you know can get the job done every time. Nothing fancy, maybe not a whole lot of style, but also less worrisome for you. The Maple Walnut bars in the picture above are like that. If you’re having a couple of chums in for coffee, dessert after a movie, or a card game, you aren’t going to serve Profiteroles. But this bar cookie is simple to make and plain in a welcoming, reassuring way.

(Listen, go ahead and serve Profiteroles. Just be sure to invite me.)

During the fall I am sucker for anything flavored with maple. These bars also have a touch of warmth from some added cinnamon, and the rich crunch of whole walnuts. As an option I have added a generous sprinkling of demerara sugar on top, which adds a pleasing but subdued crackle to each bite.

The recipe is written for a stand mixer, but is just as easily made using a large bowl and spoon. Just make sure to soften the butter to room temperature or you won’t be able to cream the butter and sugar together.

The bars are not sticky-sweet, so feel free to serve these early in the day—no need to wait for dessert. I used Extra Dark Amber Maple Syrup which is best for cooking. I found it at Whole Foods, but if you can’t find syrup that dark, just read the labels and chose the darkest amber syrup you can find. (Don’t use fake syrup. Mrs. Butterworth is not welcome at this party.)

Did I mention how they smell while they are baking? These are another one of those items that I will mimic when the big rollout of the Butter Flour Eggs scented candle collection happens.

The other candle is Shrimp Cocktail. Go ahead and laugh, but wait until you light that one. Your house will never be the same.


Click here for the recipe for Maple Walnut Bars.


Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

Let me email you when the blog has been updated! Opt in by clicking the biscotti at right or by sending your email address to


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