Many have tried and failed to replicate this amazing dessert; it seems nothing yet has come close to replicating the perfect gooey buttery bliss of his memories. For his birthday, I decided to take a stab at it using a recipe similar to this one... I know it won't be the real thing, but hopefully it comes close!
To prepare the dough:
Whisk to combine the water (1/4 cup warmed to 110 degrees Fahrenheit) and yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast) mixture to then set aside for a few minutes. Next, cream the sugar (1/3 cup) and butter (1/2 stick at room temperature) together until fluffy:
Mix in the egg (just one) and vanilla (2 tsp):
Stir in the water-yeast mixture, milk (1/2 cup warmed to 110 degrees Fahrenheit), salt (1/4 tsp), and 2 cups of the total 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour needed. Switch to using a dough hook and knead mixture for about 5-8 min, gradually adding last 1/2 cup of flour as needed to result in a smooth dough.
Cover bowl with a towel (I also covered in saran wrap) and leave in a warm place until dough rises to about double in size (about 1 hour).
To prepare the Gooey Butter Topping:
Combine granulated sugar (2 1/2 cups), butter (2 sticks unsalted, softened), salt (a dash), egg (just one), light corn syrup (1/4 cup), vanilla extract (2 tsp), water (1/4 cup warmed to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, flour (2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour) and beat in an electric mixer until well-combined.
When the dough is ready, gently punch it down and press lightly into greased baking pan to fit; press up the sides to keep gooey mixture from running under.
Prick the dough with a fork and spread gooey butter batter over the dough: