I’ve had sticky pecan buns on my must-bake list for almost a year now after an afternoon spent at the Tavern in Brentwood. I had stopped in for some coffee with my mom and sister, having spent the day shopping in L.A., and we shared a few different pastries with our drinks. One of those pastries was an absolutely tantalizing sticky pecan bun. I found out later that most people in L.A. agree with my sentiment and have listed the Tavern as one of the best places in L.A. for a sticky bun. Regardless, I left that day with a need to recreate the ooey, gooey perfection I had just tasted.
But you know how these things go…or maybe you don’t. You see, my must-bake list is about as long as the Constitution, and as I continuously bake items off the list, the list proportionately grows as I add more and more items. But after I passed a jumbo size bag of pecan halves in the market, I instantly thought of the sticky pecan buns I had in L.A. and made it a priority to whip these up. I used Joy the Baker‘s dough recipe and paired that with Deb’s (from Smitten Kitchen) recipe for the filling and caramel topping. The result is a cinnamon bun that is just as much cake-y as it is bread-like, a contradiction that only makes sense once you take a bite of one of these. The filling is a wonderfully fragrant, sweet combination of white and brown sugar, married with ground cinnamon. The star of the whole dessert is, of course, the gooey caramel topping and toasted pecans. If you have impatient family and friends like I do, they will be begging to just eat the caramel sauce on its own. And when the buns are baking in the oven, you yourself might just have the urge to open up that oven door and eat the buns unfinished, they smell that good. Once again, however, patience proves to be a virtue worth having, as these finished babies are mouthwatering. The caramel looks absolutely luscious when you flip the buns out of the pan, it’s juices running down the sides of the buns. These sticky pecan buns are simply every baker’s fantasy.
for the dough
- 2 c whole milk
- 1/2 c vegetable or canola oil
- 1/2 c granulated sugar
- 1 tsp packet active dry yeast, about 2 1/4
- 4 1/2 c of flour, plus more for rolling out, divided
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
for the filling
- 1/4 c packed brown sugar
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/2 c toasted pecans, chopped & divided
for the caramel
- 1/2 c unsalted butter
- 3/4 c brown sugar
- 3/4 c heavy cream
- 1/3 c honey
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- First you’re going to get started on the dough. Begin by adding the milk, oil, and granulated sugar to a large dutch oven or heavy bottom pot. Heat over medium heat just until it comes to a slight boil. Then turn off the heat and move the pot off to the side to slightly cool.
- Once the milk mixture is warm and no longer hot (needs to be about 110°F), drop your yeast into the mixture and let it rest for 1 minute (don't stir!). At this point, go ahead and turn on your oven’s warm/hold setting for 30 seconds, before turning the oven back off.
- Stir the 4 cups of flour into the milk mixture and combine to create a wet, sticky dough. Cover the pot with the lid and stick the pot into your slightly warm, turned off oven. Close the oven door and let the dough rest for 1 hour, or until it’s nearly doubled in size (make sure your oven is off!).
- While your dough rises, get started on the caramel sauce. In a medium pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted, add the brown sugar, heavy cream, honey, and salt. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to low and continue to let the mixture simmer (stirring occasionally) for another 5 minutes until the liquid is golden brown.
- Pour this caramel sauce into a 9 x 13 inch deep, casserole-type dish. Gently tip the pan from side to side to get the caramel sauce up the sides of the pan and evenly distributed along the bottom. Place in the refrigerator to cool and somewhat set.
- Next, create your filling by simply combining the brown and white sugar together with the ground cinnamon and salt. Toast your pecans if you haven't done so and/or chop if you haven't done so.
- After your dough has risen, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Take out your caramel sauce from the fridge and set on the counter. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously flour your work surface and roll out your dough into a rectangle that measures about 12 by 10 inches. The dough should be rolled out somewhat thin.
- Brush your dough with the melted butter, then evenly sprinkle the sugar filling all over the dough. Add 1/2 a cup of the toasted and chopped pecans all over. Now, in a typewriter-like motion, grab the long side of the rectangle that is furthest from you and begin rolling towards you. You should end up with a log who's seam is face down. Use a sharp knife, dusted with flour, to cut 1 inch slices from the log.
- Evenly sprinkle the remaining pecans over the cooled caramel sauce. Place the bun slices on top of the nut-covered caramel and let rest for 15 minutes. Then bake the buns for approximately 30 minutes, or until the buns have somewhat browned on the top and centers read 180°F on a thermometer. Place the pan of sticky buns on a wire cooling rack for a few minutes before inverting the pan onto a large serving plate. Use a spoon to scoop up any extra caramel sauce in the pan and pour onto the buns.