Sticky buns are an odd thing for me. Are they breakfast or dessert? I could swing either way and be happy. I remember eating them as a treat after dinner when I was younger or as an on-the-go breakfast when heading out on a boat in the wee hours of the morning. Granted, I’ve always said that some of the best breakfasts are essentially desserts, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.
The core behind any sticky bun recipe is simple: awesome, sweet, sticky buns. The variety then comes in two fashions: how to make the dough and what to dress the buns up with (e.g. glaze, cream cheese frosting, nuts, etc). In making these, I chose to follow the sage approach from one of my favorite baking-oriented books: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. The buns themselves are made of brioche, a dense, rich, buttery, yeast-based bread. The topping: a simple but delicious, guilty pleasure: a dark, honeyed glaze with pralined pecans. To say the total combination was very tasty would be an understatement–these were incredible. The aroma was fantastic as they baked and the texture was wonderful: a crisp, firm, well formed exterior (I hate limp, flaccid sticky buns) with a tender, dense crumb for an interior. The glaze was very sticky and the crunch of pecans mixed with the molassesy honeyed flavor of the glaze made for a great experience.
- Brioche dough (enough for 2 loaves)
- 2 packets active dry yeast
- 1/3 warm to the touch water
- 1/3 cup warm to the touch whole milk
- 3.75 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 eggs, room temp
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 sticks (1.5 cups) butter, room temp
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1.5 cups pecans
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 3 Tbsp butter (room temp)
The first order of business: make the brioche dough. This needs to be done a day ahead of time.
Set your stand mixer up with the dough hook. In the bowl of the stand mixer, add the yeast, water (warm to the touch), and milk (warm to the touch). Add the flour and pulse to dampen. Mix on medium-low for 1-2 minutes and a shaggy mess will be your reward.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, drop the speed to low, and add both the eggs and sugar. Crank the speed up to medium and beat for 3 minutes until a ball forms.
Drop the speed to low and add the room temperature butter in 2 Tbsp sized chunks one at a time, waiting until almost entirely incorporated before adding the next piece. The dough should become very soft, almost like batter. Once done adding butter, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl (roughly 10 minutes).
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover it, and let it rest at room temperature for 40-60 minutes (til roughly doubled in size). Then, degas (e.g. flip the dough over) and transfer to the fridge. Degas once more 2 hours later and leave this covered in the fridge overnight.
On the next day, divide the dough in half. You can set the other half of dough aside (in the fridge) for a loaf of bread or any other purpose (e.g. double batch of sticky buns!). I’ll post another great use of the bread in the coming days.
Meanwhile, let’s finish the sticky buns now that we have brioche dough ready to go.
Prepare the glaze. In a heavy saucepan, add the butter (chopped into 4 pieces), sugar, and honey. Bring these to a boil over medium-low and stir frequently until the sugar is dissolved. Butter a large pan (and yes, walls are required. A cookie sheet would be a bad idea) and pour the glaze in, tilting to spread it out evenly. Toss in the crumbled pecans.
Now, make the filling. This is incredibly simple: mix the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. The butter should be warm and spreadable, but still solid and not melted down. If its not quite there yet, beat it in a bowl.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough to be roughly 16 inches square. Spread the butter as evenly all over the top as you can. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on and cover all but a 1 inch strip on the side furthest from you.
Roll the dough as tightly as you can, forming a cylinder, starting from the side closest to you. Something I didn’t do, but you could: wrap this up in plastic wrap and freeze it for another day (just defrost for a day when you want to use it and make the glaze as you need it)!
Now, gently cut the log into 1 inch segments. You should get 15 or 16 pieces (depends if you’re not nuts about the end piece looking a little ragged. I’m happy to eat it!).
Place the cut segments into your glazed pan with some space between them. Hey–they’re beginning to look like sticky buns!
Let these sit in a moderately warm place (with wax paper lightly pressed on top) for 1 hour and 45 minutes or until doubled in volume. They should be puffy and probably all bunched up on one another.
With the buns ready to go, bake in a 375°F oven for 30 minutes. The glaze will be bubbling along and things should smell pretty darn good.
Once time is up, don’t wait too long for things to cool down as you’ll never get them out. So with great care (after all, that glaze is dangerously hot right now), unmold the buns onto a silicone mat/buttered foil as quickly as you can. Once cool enough to handle, see how long those last you. They sadly don’t keep well for very long, so enjoy…soon!