While everyone else is out trying to score some Black Friday deals. I am cozy at home, baking. I have never enjoyed shopping on Black Friday. It’s too intense, too busy. I get anxiety just thinking about it. I prefer to stay at home, to begin pulling out the Christmas decorations and maybe, if I feel the need to shop, to sit down at my computer and fill up my virtual cart.
I wanted to try out a new sticky bun recipe. I usually make monkey bread for Christmas Morning, it’s become a tradition. But, sometimes I get the urge to try something new. The only problem is, if the new bun isn’t as good as the beloved monkey bread, I will be in trouble. So, I feel the need to test out some new recipes. See what the family thinks. I’m usually drawn to cinnamon buns, the kind that you top with white frosting. Like the Pillsbury kind that you literally pop out of the can. I’ve always been wary of sticky buns. Maybe it was the pecans. Maybe I didn’t trust the thought of nuts in my pastry. I also didn’t like that they looked sweaty. What I didn’t realize that the “sweat” on the buns was actually melted butter and brown sugar. Nothing scary about that at all!
Something about this recipe lured me in. And, fair warning, it’s a long process to make these buns. A lot of waiting (for the dough to rise) and proofing (the rolls.) But, as I sit here inhaling the sticky bun, hoping I can stop at just one. I promise you it’s worth it. The smell alone of the baking buns is worth it! I can’t wait for my family to get home and try them while they’re hot.
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
3 3/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting counter
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Oil to coat bowl
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups toasted and cooled, chopped pecans (divided)
Make the dough: If using active dry yeast, it needs to be proofed: warm milk to about 110 to 115 degrees F. Place in bottom of large mixing bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Stir in 1 tablespoon sugar and yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes. It will look a slightly frothy or foamy.
After 5 minutes, whisk in butter, yolks and whole egg. Add half the flour and combine with the dough hook of a stand mixer or use a wooden spoon, if mixing by hand. Add salt, then second half of flour and continue to mix until a dough forms. If using a stand mixer, knead for 5 to 7 minutes on low until a stretchy, elastic dough forms. If kneading by hand, do so for 5 to 10 minutes on a floured counter. Remove dough and lightly oil your large mixer bowl, then add dough back into oiled bowl. Let dough rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours for active dry yeast.
About 45 minutes before the dough has doubled, prepare your caramel base: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar, cream, honey and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until caramel is golden brown and glossy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour into a the bottom and up the sides of a deep 9×13-inch baking dish and let the dish cool down a little while you assemble your buns. You want to coat the sides and the bottom of the dish because you will be adding the buns to this dish and this will be the topping for your finished buns.
Roll out and fill buns: In a small bowl, stir sugars, cinnamon and salt together. Remove slightly cooled caramel base from fridge and sprinkle it with 1 cup pecans. (not all of the pecans)
Turn the risen dough out onto a floured work surface and roll it into a rectangle that is approximately 18 inches wide and 12 or so inches long. Brush the dough with the melted butter. Sprinkle it with the filling and then 1/2 cup pecans. Roll the dough into a tight 18-inch long spiral. Using a sharp serrated knife, very gently cut the log into 1 to 1 1/2-inch sections; you should get 12. Arrange the buns evenly spread out over pecan-caramel base. At this point, there will be spacing between the buns.
Proof buns: Cover with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for another 1 to 2 hours, until they press tightly together in the pan and look puffed again. Or, you can refrigerate the buns overnight, and up to 16 hours. If chilling overnight, remove from fridge 1 hour before you’d like them to bake. Heat oven to 350°F (175°C).
Bake buns: Bake your buns until they’re puffed and golden, approximately 30 to 40 minutes. If they brown too quickly on top before the centers are baked, cover dish with foil for remaining baking time. Enjoy the smell, it doesn’t get much better than this!
Let the buns rest in the pan on a cooling rack for 2 to 3 minutes, then carefully and quickly invert onto a large serving tray, nudging any caramel left behind in the pan or puddled in the center of the buns back evenly over the tops and sides. Be careful not to burn yourself on the hot caramel. Eat warm. Store any leftovers in the fridge, rewarming slightly.