Honey Pecan Sticky Buns

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.

Honey Pecan Sticky Buns

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
  • Glaze
    • 1 cup dark brown sugar
    • 1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 1.5 cups pecans
  • Filling
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 3 Tbsp dark brown sugar
    • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
    • 3 Tbsp butter (room temp)

Proof the brioche dough

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.

Melt the syrup and toss the pecans

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.

Roll out the dough, butter, and layer on cinnamon sugar

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 and cut at regular intervals

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 rolled sticky buns in the syrup

Place the cut segments into your glazed pan with some space between them. Hey–they’re beginning to look like sticky buns!

Proof the sticky buns till they're all touching

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.

Bake the sticky buns

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.

Honey Pecan Sticky Buns

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!

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17 Responses to “Honey Pecan Sticky Buns”

  1. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    I could never make these, because I have absolutely no self-control around cinnamon buns of any kind! Oh, wait, maybe for a party, so I’d be sure that every last one would be eaten by one of my guests. Thanks for the how-to; they do look delicious.

  2. dawn Says:

    I don’t make these that often as I tend to just eat the tops, you know a bit of the roll and all of the glaze. Bad I know, but I sweear there should be a recipe for sticky bun tops, like the muffin tops.
    So, that last shot is so money to me.

  3. grace Says:

    sticky buns are like completely amped-up and improved cinnamon rolls, which i wasn’t sure was possible. gorgeous photography and wonderful creation, mike!

  4. pam Says:

    I can just imagine how good those smelled!

  5. nina Says:

    I am not a dessert kinda gal, so I will gladly have mine for breakfast with strong black coffee!!! I love the idea of the brioche dough, it is just lighter and less doughy…you know what I mean??Splendid!!!!

  6. Hélène Says:

    Couple weeks ago I had success making sticky buns with the Cook’s Illustrated recipe. The dough was a charm to work with. We love them for breakfast and dessert. Great pictures, love yours.

  7. Ben Says:

    LOL sticky buns, cinnamon rolls and muffins are for people who are embarrassed to order cake for breakfast :-p I love them though and your recipe sounds awesome :)

  8. Marta Says:

    Hahahaha I think sticky buns should be a dessert, but are most eaten at breakfast! I enjoy them as dessert because I don’t like how crazy they make me feel when I send my body on a sugar high on an empty stomach! These loook SOOOOOOOOO sticky and moist. I love the pecans!
    Thanks for sharing this :)

  9. Arlene Says:

    In my next life, when I’m a size 0, I will eat sticky buns every day. These look amazing.

  10. siri Says:

    Cripes, these look like a lot of work, but totally worth it!

    As for the whole breakfast?/dessert? dilemma… it’s amazing how quickly your palate changes when you move to a different country. In the states, I could eat cinnamon buns, sticky buns (like these), chocolate muffins, etc…for breakfast and it would seem perfectly normal and healthy. In Norway, the only sweet thing people eat for breakfast is jam on their bread, if even that. Needless to say, I don’t do the sweet thing for breakfast anymore. Unless there’s pie in the house. Then an acceptation is made!

  11. Jan Says:

    Oooh I LOVE pecans – those buns of yours look
    dee-lish!

  12. Carrie of CKC Says:

    One of my absolute favorite Dorie recipes!

  13. Dragon Says:

    I’d have these sticky buns of goodness anytime of the day. Yum!

  14. Brioche French Toast with Strawberry Compote from Mike's Table Says:

    [...] Honey Pecan Sticky Buns [...]

  15. Kevin Says:

    Great looking sticky buns! I could sure go for those for breakfast tomorrow!

  16. Aparna Says:

    Beinmg traditionally used to savoury food for breakfast, I find it difficult to have anythin sweet in the mornings, but if this was dessert I would definitely say yes.

  17. Rose Says:

    By using Brioche…are these buns more crunchy, as opposed to doughy, and soft?

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