Chocolate Pecan Brioche Buns with Salted Caramel Sauce

If you've been reading my blog for the last few months, you'll know that I have been working away from home this summer. I left at the beginning of June, so it's been about four months. The job was seasonal and the summer season is winding down to a close. This resort town is getting pretty quite with the tourists - and a lot of the summer staff- gone.

And I'm going home in 4 days!

I was able to visit home on the July long weekend, which was wonderful. It felt like I had never left. But it was only a few days and then it was back to work. My boyfriend and his family came to visit me in July, my mom, brother and their partners came to visit me a few weeks ago, and my dad and his wife are arriving today (!!). 

But other than those brief visits, I have been away for four months. Away from my boyfriend, my kitty, my family, my apartment. On paper is doesn't seem like a long time but in reality, it really has felt like a very long time. 

It's beautiful and amazing here but gosh darn, do I miss home. What I really miss about home is having my own place. I'm an introvert and I enjoy my alone time. I like being in silence, and by silence, I mean "mostly quiet except for my cat meowing at me constantly". My cat is my ideal roommate. I mean, yeah, he poops in a box and sometimes throws up on the carpet, but it beats dirty dishes in the sink and pee on the toilet seat.

I've mentioned it aready, but all the posts that I've put up in the past four months were made back in May. I couldn't possibly bring all my food props, baking equipment, camera, and tripod here for the summer, so I had to stock up on posts.

So, of course, I can't wait to bake again!! I mean, I bake at my job for 8-10 hours a day, but that's different. I miss baking new things in my home. I miss experimenting and dreaming up new recipe ideas, then testing them out! I miss photographing all my wonderful creations.

I have a big long list of fall and Christmas baking ideas that I'm dying to try out. The hard part is deciding what to make first! All the flavour ideas in my head - maple, gingerbread, caramel, white chocolate, cinnamon & orange, chai, apple & cinnamon, cranberry, peppermint! Oh, the winter flavours! 

Get your baking pants on this winter, guys. It's going to be a good one.

Chocolate Pecan Brioche Buns with Caramel Sauce
Recipe adapted from The Modern Cafe
Makes 6 buns

Brioche Dough

134 g bread flour
3.5 g salt
20 g sugar
1.6 g instant dried yeast
31 g whole milk, at room temperature
53 g eggs, at room temperature
1 g vanilla extract
68 g unsalted butter, diced, pliable but not soft

Chocolate and Pecan Filling

72 g dark chocolate (70%), finely chopped
36 g pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped

Salted Caramel Sauce

100 g sugar
150 g heavy cream
5 g kosher salt

Quick Candied Pecans

150 g sugar
50 g water
50 g whole pecans, toasted

To make the brioche dough, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a medium bowl.

In a stand mixer, pour in the milk, vanilla extract, and 53 g of the eggs and stir to combine. Pour the dry ingredients on top. Mix on low speed until just incorporated.

Add one-third of the butter and switch the mixer to medium speed. Once that butter has been incorporated, add another third of the butter. Wait until it has been completely mixed in, then add the remaining butter.

Continue to mix on medium speed until full gluten development is achieved. To check for gluten development, perform a "window test". Stretch a small amount of dough with your hands. It should be elastic enough to be pulled until it is very thin and you can see through it without it ripping.

Add the remaining eggs and mix until just incorporated. At this point, the final dough temperature should not exceed 27 C/ 80 F.

Take the dough out of the bowl and place on a floured surface. Cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to ferment for 45 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a sheet pan lined with a silpat or greased parchment paper to prevent it from sticking. Wrap the sheet pan with plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 12 hours.

Divide the dough into 50 g and roll into balls. Roll out the dough to a disk about 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, until firm.

Grease 6 spots in a muffin tin with butter. 

Working with one disk at a time, place 12 g of chopped dark chocolate and 6 g of toasted chopped pecans in the center. Bring the edges of the disk together and pinch closed, creating a little package. Place seam side down in the muffin tin. Repeat with the remaining disks.

Cover the muffin tin with plastic wrap and let proof for 45 minutes to 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 325 F. 

Brush the top of the buns with egg wash. Bake at 325 F for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 300 F and bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the muffin pan cool on a wire rack. When the brioche buns are cool enough to handle, take the buns out of the muffin tin and let them cool completely on the wire rack.

Meanwhile make the caramel sauce. Combine the sugar and enough water to make a paste in a saucepan. Dissolve the sugar over low heat, then increase the heat to medium-high. Caramelize the sugar, then slowly pour in the cream, whisking constantly. The caramel will bubble up and steam, so be careful. Once it has settled, add the salt. Pour the caramel into a clean bowl and refrigerate until cool.

For the candied pecans, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan. Dissolve the sugar over low heat, then increase the heat to medium-high. Once the sugar is caramelized, add the pecans, stir to coat them completely, and pour onto a silpat lined baking sheet. Make sure the pecans are separated and not overlapping. Once the caramel has set, carefully cut the caramel surrounding the individual pecan. With the excess caramel, chop it up finely and reserve.

To assemble, take cooled brioche buns and spoon a generous tablespoon of caramel sauce over top. Top with a pinch of the chopped hardened caramel, a candied pecan, and a few flakes of sea salt.