The Old-Fashioned Sweetener

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In colonial times, there was scarcely an American kitchen that did not have a jug of molasses handy at all times – in New England for doughnuts, in Pennsylvania for shoofly pie, and everywhere it was poured over pancakes and biscuits.  Therapeutic properties were even attributed to molasses if taken with sulfur, when it then became “spring tonic.” But for now, rich and fragrant molasses can be used in these delectable sticky buns to enjoy this weekend.
Molasses Sticky Buns

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup very warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1-3/4 to 2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon grated orange zest
1 egg, beaten
Molasses glaze (recipe follows)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup raisins
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1.  Dissolve yeast in warm water in medium bowl; let stand 5 minutes.  Mix 1-3/4 cups flour, the 2 Tablespoons sugar, and salt in a large bowl; make a well in the center.  Heat milk, 2 Tablespoons butter, and orange zest in a small saucepan over low heat until mixture is warm (90 to 100 degrees) and butter melts.  Stir into yeast mixture. Stir in egg.  Pour yeast mixture into well in dry ingredients.  Stir to form a soft sticky dough.

2.  Turn dough onto floured surface; knead in as much of the remaining flour as needed to form a soft dough.  Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Let rise, covered, in large greased bowl in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. 

3.  Meanwhile, make molasses glaze (below).  Spread glaze evenly over bottom of greased 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan.

4.  Punch down dough; let rest, covered, for 5 minutes.  Roll on lightly floured surface into a 14-by-12-inch rectangle.  Spread 2 tablespoons softened butter evenly over dough, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides.  Sprinkle evenly with raisins.  Combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the 2 teaspoons cinnamon in small bowl; sprinkle evenly over dough.  Roll up dough, beginning at long edge; pinch seam to seal.  Cut roll crosswise into 12 slices.  Arrange slices, cut side down, in prepared pan with glaze.  Let rise, covered, in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

5.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake until buns are light brown, about 20 minutes.  Invert onto serving platter; cool slightly.  Serve warm.  Makes 1 dozen buns.

Molasses Glaze:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup light molasses
1 Tablespoon orange juice

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until blended.

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