Jeff had been asking for some sort of sweet yeasted treat (hoping for cinnamon buns I think), but when I came across a recipe for these Fig-Walnut Sticky Buns and having an open container of dried Black Mission figs handy, I knew what I was going to try!
You'll need to set aside a couple hours to complete this recipe, but most of that is down time while you wait for the soft, supple dough to rise. Once you've gotten your hands dirty kneading this nutmeg-laced dough, it is covered and set aside until it has doubled in size - you'll know when it has risen enough when you press a couple fingers into the dough and the indentations left behind don't fill back in. Close to the time it was done, a combination of brown sugar, Lyle's Golden Syrup and milk is brought just to a boil - the chopped figs are added, which will create the sticky topping as these buns bake. I used golden syrup because I am enamored by its dark burnt sugar/caramel notes, but if this doesn't strike your fancy or it isn't available, dark corn syrup would be the way to go. Right before we spooned this mixture in the baking pan, we sprinkled a handful of finely chopped walnuts over the bottom.
When the dough has risen, we turned it out and let it rest for a few minutes - this short down time will make stretching it out into a rectangle a little easier. If at any point the dough starts to tug back at you and not want to behave, cover it and walk away for 5 or 10 minutes - the dough will take a deep breath, relax and give in to your hands. Brushed with melted butter, the dough is covered with brown sugar that we spiked with sweet-scented cinnamon. When you go to roll the dough up into a log, be sure to roll it tight and eliminate any air bubbles as you go along for a tight swirl. You can slice this a couple ways - use a serrated knife, or what I like even better, is unscented dental floss - I find with softer doughs the knife can end up squishing the roll while the floss glides right through for clean cuts. If you've never tried this method, slide the floss under the dough, crisscross the thread over the dough and pull the ends firmly to cut through.
The buns are arranged over the gooey fig mixture in the baking pan - you don't need to snug these together, just space them evenly in the pan to give them room to grow. After another rise, these little guys are baked until the tops are a rich golden brown and the sugary bottom is hot. While you do want to cool them for just a couple minutes, don't wait too long to turn them out - invert them while the bottom is still quite warm so you don't loose the topping.
While these might not be those humongous over-sized decadent buns you find in the malls, I have to say I appreciated the more delicate sweetness these reasonably portion-sized buns had. Jeff commented that the topping reminded him a lot of fig newtons, only a bit more nutty. These tender, sticky rolls will certainly keep us content and out of the holiday baked goods; however, I have a sneaking suspicion they will be gone way too soon (maybe because I've already had two...)!
Fig-Walnut Sticky Buns