If you’re looking for something special to do for your honey on Valentine’s morning, here’s an idea: wake him or her up with a sexy little something sweet. (To eat that is.) Sensually-shaped golfeados, Venezuela’s deliciously gooey take on the American sticky bun, are fluffy, soft, warm and—yes—delectably sticky.
In South Florida, home to the US’s largest Venezuelan community, where the mere mention of the bun is enough to send people swooning, golfeados are becoming ever more popular, as South American bakeries continue to pop up. But no golfeado has been received with quite as much fanfare as the one served during Sunday brunch at the city’s critically-acclaimed Harry’s Pizzeria, owned by award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, of celebrity-frequented Michael’s Genuine. Which might make you wonder: what’s a golfeado doing at a pizza joint?
The answer is the restaurant’s rising star Chef de Cuisine, 39-year-old Manuel Sulbaran, who grew up in Merida, near the Venezuelan Andes, and attended culinary school in Caracas before moving to the US 11 years ago. Hand-picked by Schwartz to helm the pizzeria’s kitchen, Sulbaran is a self-proclaimed golfeado “fanatic” who never forgot the sticky buns of his childhood. “I used to go to the different bakeries in Merida and in Caracas and I’d try them one and after another,” he said. “I would search for the best golfeado.” So when Sulbaran was given the opportunity to design a brunch menu for the pizzeria a few months ago, he knew he wanted to introduce his guests to his anise- and cheese-laced obsession.
Today, just in time for Valentine’s, Sulbaran shares his prized golfeado recipe, which he tested at least seven times before finally putting it on the menu at Harry’s. The essence, he explained, is the anise seed that goes into the dough as well as the piloncillo (also known as panela), used to make the thick syrup that coats the buns. You can make the dough the night before you want to serve the buns (that’s what Sulbaran does at the restaurant) and bake it off in the morning. The recipe can also be cut in half if you want fewer buns. Just keep Sulbaran’s warning in mind: “If you make 10, you’ll eat 10. If you make 20, you’ll eat 20. They’re addictive.”
Golfeados (Venezuelan sticky buns)
2 cups milk
1 ½ tablespoons fresh yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter, plus 4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
4 ¼ cups tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups sugar cane, grated (panela or piloncillo)
2 cups pecorino cheese, grated
2 tablespoons anise seeds
1 pound soft cheese, like fresh mozzarella or queso de mano, sliced to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until it registers about 125˚F on an instant-read thermometer.
3. In a large mixing bowl combine the yeast, salt and sugar. Add the warm milk and melted butter and stir. Gradually add the flour and mix into dough, then add the eggs, mix, and then turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough is very soft, keeping the surface slightly floured to prevent sticking. With a rolling-pin, spread it into a rectangular shape about 12 by 24 inches and ¼ inch thick. Rub the dough with the room temperature butter and sprinkle 1 ½ cups grated sugar cane, the pecorino, and anise seeds over the dough.
4. Beginning along one side, roll up the dough, pinching to seal. Position the roll seam-side down on the work surface and cut into 1 inch slices. Place the slices on a buttered cookie tray and let sit for about an hour in a warm, dark place.
5. In a small mixing bowl add the remaining 2 cups grated sugar cane and 1/2 cup water. Stir until dissolved.
6. Place the rested buns in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until light brown in color. Remove and glaze buns with the sugar mixture using a squeeze bottle if you have one, or drizzle with a spoon.
7. Place the slice of cheese on top, drizzle with more glaze, and serve warm. Makes 20 buns.