Now that the chilly weather is here, I wanted a caramel cozy recipe and these sticky buns fit the bill. This old-fashioned sticky buns recipe comes complete with a decadent caramel glaze and chopped pecans. Made completely from scratch with a make-ahead option, these are a wonderful choice for holiday brunches, weekend breakfasts, or an extra-special dessert. I started making homemade cinnamon rolls and needed to practice self-restraint every time I tried to master them at home.
STICKY BUNS RECIPE PRE-NOTES- Before you get the whole way down to the bottom and start reading the recipe, let’s give it a quick overview so you know what you’ll be doing:
Make the Dough – This is an enriched dough with butter and egg, which means that it’s silky smooth and a dream to work with. It also means that the fat keeps it from rising quickly, which is why the rise times you’ll see below are slightly longer than other recipes you may have made with instant yeast. I also use bread flour in this recipe, as all-purpose flour created way too much “fluff” in the buns; a denser version is what I was after and the bread flour delivered.
Allow the Dough to Rise – The dough needs to double in size and this can take upwards of 2 hours (see above as to why!).
Make the Caramel Glaze – While the dough is rising, get the caramel glaze ready to go by creaming together butter, granulated sugar, white sugar, and corn syrup until light and fluffy. If you’re planning to use pecans, you can get them chopped up now, as well.
Roll and Shape the Dough – Next, we’ll roll out the dough into a rectangle, sprinkle it with an obscene amount of cinnamon-sugar (yes, use it all!), roll it up, and cut it into rolls.
Get Everything in a Pan – Spread the caramel glaze in your pan, sprinkle with pecans, then place the rolls on top, evenly spaced out.
Rise #2! – Time to let those rolls puff up and smash into each other.
Bake – Total bake time takes around 30 to 40 minutes (mine usually clock in right at the 35-minute mark), then let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes.Flip! – Take that pan and flip it over, either onto a serving platter or another pan (a rimmed half sheet pan is perfect). Scoop up any caramel glaze that runs off and plop it back on the top of the sticky buns. Allow them to cool a bit, then dig in while still warm or let them cool to room temperature.
FOR THE DOUGH:
6½ tablespoon granulated sugar 5½ tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature) 1 teaspoon salt 1 egg (slightly beaten) 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 3½ cups bread flour 2 teaspoons instant yeast 1 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk (at room temperature)
FOR THE CINNAMON SUGAR:
6½ tablespoons granulated sugar 1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
FOR THE CARAMEL GLAZE:
1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature) ½ cup granulated sugar ½ cup light brown sugar ½ teaspoon salt ½ cup light corn syrup 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ½ cup coarsely chopped pecans
Cream together the sugar, butter, and salt on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. Whip in the egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
Meanwhile, make the Caramel Glaze: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt, and cream together for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add the corn syrup and vanilla extract, and continue to cream for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
Transfer the dough to the counter. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top of the dough with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle 18 inches wide by 9 inches long. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough (use it all!), and roll the dough up with the long side facing you, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 12 even pieces.
Coat the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish with the caramel glaze, then sprinkle the pecans evenly over the surface. Lay the pieces of dough cut-side-up on top of the caramel glaze, evenly spaced throughout the pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size.
Make-Ahead Note: Instead of the second rise, you can place the shaped buns in the refrigerate for up to 2 days, pulling the pan out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and adjust the oven rack to the lowest shelf. Bake the sticky buns for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool the buns in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, and then remove them by flipping them over onto another pan or serving platter. Carefully scoop any run-off glaze back over the buns with a spatula. Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.
The sticky buns are best eaten the day of baking but can be stored, covered, at room temperature for up to 2 days (see notes below on reheating).
While you may substitute all-purpose flour for the bread flour, know it will produce a slightly different texture than what you see here. The corn syrup is a key ingredient in getting the exact right texture for the caramel glaze and I don't recommend making any substitutions.
Make-Ahead Note: You can prepare the sticky buns through placing the rolls into the pan, then cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days before baking. Bring to room temperature prior to baking as directed in the recipe.
Once the sticky buns have cooled to room temperature, I recommend a quick reheat in the microwave for 10 seconds for optimal enjoyment