When a cooking magazine cover makes you do a double take from across the room (and upon closer examination far outshines the pouting cover models on display next to it)... you buy it. Such was the case with the April 2012 issue of Bon Appétit. The cover boasts a close-up shot of a stunningly seductive caramel and pecan sticky bun that verges on the pornographic. I immediately bought the magazine and, yesterday afternoon, satiated my lust for this dessert. These sticky buns have it all: buttery, flaky, soft dough that pulls apart; oozing honeyed caramel; roasted crunchy pecans; and a sweet cinnamon butter swirl.
The base for sticky buns is typically a yeasted dough. In the past, I have made sticky buns with everything from biscuit dough to bread dough, with varying results - aesthetically and digestively. The dough for this particular recipe, developed by Melissa Roberts, is versatile and perfect in texture. Yeasted dough has a life of its own – often echoing the particular mood or attention given to it in its preparation. This dough and I were instant friends – the yeast bloomed beautifully and the dough was happy to eat each chunk of soft butter I fed it.
I highly recommend setting out all of your ingredients beforehand, which is helpful to ensure you don't have to make a last minute dash to the store for anything you've forgotten (especially if all you're wearing is an apron). ... And makes for a great boudoir shot, n'est-ce pas?
Chopped pecans are toasted until dark brown and fragrant (your kitchen will smell amazing – but keep a close eye on the pecans, as nuts are quick to burn).
For the ‘sticky’ part: butter, brown sugar, heavy cream, honey, and salt are melted together. I used Manuka honey, which has its own caramel taste and is wonderful for baking (and sore throats!). This mixture is brought to a boil and simmered until golden and glossy.
The glaze is then poured to cover the bottom of a baking dish and toasted pecans are sprinkled on top.
The dough is rolled out to a 12” x 16” rectangle in preparation for the filling. I loved how easy this dough was to handle – it basically rolled itself.
The dough is rolled into a log and pinched together to seal at the seam. The log is then cut into 1½" rounds, which are then carefully fondled into shape and distributed across the baking dish previously covered with glaze (I used two separate dishes, as my 8" baking pan would not accommodate all the rounds). A clean, damp kitchen towel is draped over the baking dish and the dough is left to rise for 45 minutes (allow to rise 1½ hours if you left the dough to chill overnight). A quick peek under the covers told me my dough had risen beautifully - the rounds expanding towards one another across the blanket of caramel.
Once doubled in size, the tops of the buns are brushed with an egg wash and baked in a 350 degree oven until the tops are golden brown and the caramel is bubbling up through the cracks and indents of the dough. The buns are removed from the oven, allowed to cool slightly, and then drizzled seductively with the remaining caramel glaze.
These sticky buns, like any good cover model, are practiced in the art of temptation - they will beckon to you, position themselves at their best angle to catch the light just so, and beguile their way onto your plate.
If you're not already running to your pantry to make them, might I suggest surrendering to their siren call.
CARAMEL & PECAN STICKY BUNS – slightly adapted from the recipe by Melissa Roberts in April, 2012’s issue of Bon Appétit
For the Dough:
2/3 CUP whole milk
5 TBSP sugar, divided
1 ¾ TSP active dry yeast
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 TSP kosher salt
1/2 CUP salted butter at room temperature, cut into 1” pieces, plus ½ TBSP, melted
1 additional egg, for egg wash (whisk egg with a 1/2 TSP of water)
In a small saucepan, warm milk to 110-115 degrees. Stir in 1 tablespoon sugar and sprinkle yeast on top, whisking to blend. Allow to rest about 5 minutes, or until yeast has bloomed (is foamy). Add eggs and whisk until smooth.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine remaining sugar, flour, and salt. Pour in milk mixture and combine on medium speed. Feed the dough individual pieces of butter, allowing each piece to incorporating fully after each addition.
Once all the butter is incorporated, knead on medium-high speed until the dough is silky and soft, with a slight sheen. Brush a bowl with melted butter and place dough in bowl, brushing the top with butter as well. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for two hours (or overnight, if you like).
For the Caramel Glaze:
1 ¾ CUP chopped pecans
½ CUP salted butter
¾ CUP brown sugar (packed)
¾ CUP heavy cream 1/3 CUP honey
¼ TSP kosher salt
Toast pecans on a baking sheet until fragrant and slightly darkened – about 10-12 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
Melt butter, brown sugar, heavy cream, honey and salt in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Allow mixture to come to a boil then reduce heat to simmer until glaze is golden brown and glossy (about 5 minutes).
Pour 1 cup of glaze into baking pan, tilting to distribute evenly. Sprinkle with ½ cup of toasted pecans. Let cool.
For the Spread:
½ CUP salted butter, at room temperature
½ CUP brown sugar (packed) 1 TSP cinnamon
½ TSP nutmeg 1/8 TSP kosher salt
Combine all ingredients, beating together on medium speed until light and fluffy. Set aside.
For the Buns:
Punch down dough. Roll into a 12” x 16” rectangle, about 1/4” thick.
Spread whipped cinnamon-sugar-butter mixture evenly over the surface, leaving an inch of space at the top of the rolled out dough. Sprinkle ¾ CUP pecans evenly over the surface.