Thursday night my mama arrived, full of big smiles, rolling laughs, and a declaration that we must, simply must make Sticky Buns. She also brought a piece of my artwork that she’d found while cleaning out her files this winter. It was a small piece of construction paper on which I had drawn myself on one side (helpfully labeled “Erina” lest my mother or father forget my name) and a cake on the other (helpfully labeled “Cake” lest one not be able to tell).
“See Nana-B”, (that being just one of my family’s very sweet and slightly embarrassing nicknames for me), “you’ve been cooking and baking for years. It says it right there: Erina. Cake.”
She then resumed her campaign about making Sticky Buns having just had them while visiting her brother and sister-in-law in Norfolk, Virginia (which incidentally she is incapable of saying without laughing since Norfolk sounds like Nor-F*ck…get it, get it?). We are easily amused, what can I say.
Sticky Buns have always seemed like one of those “scary foods” requiring too many steps, too much skill, and the dreaded bread hook on my KitchenAid. But buoyed by my mother’s enthusiasm and my apparent child prodigy nature in the kitchen we got to baking, and you know what? They aren’t that hard. At all! And they are delicious! And impressive. So impressive I had to invite our friends Angela and Harrison (remember them?) down for an impromptu Saturday brunch so that others could witness their goodness.
Go ahead and give these a try…take that childhood enthusiasm and confidence that we seem to lose along the way, put on your apron, and make a bold declaration as only a five-year-old could. Erina. Cake.
Cinnamon Pecan Sticky Buns
Adapted Slightly from Simply Recipes
A perfect and easy Saturday brunch because you make them the night before. Serve with a pot of coffee and hard-boiled eggs.
- 1/4 cup warm water (105° to 115°, you can use a meat thermometer to check)
- 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup milk
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter chopped into about 16 small pieces, plus more for greasing
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
- 1 1/4 teaspoon. salt
- 4 to 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) coarsely chopped pecans
- Make the dough. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine warm water, yeast and 1 tsp. sugar. Stir to dissolve and let sit until foamy, about 7 – 10 minutes. You want to see some little air bubbles.
- Add milk, butter, remaining sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest, salt and 3 cups flour. Mix on low speed until blended. Switch to a dough hook and then, again on low speed, slowly incorporate the remaining 1 cup of flour. Increase speed to medium, kneading dough until smooth and slightly sticky (adding a little more flour if too wet), 3 to 5 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large, buttered bowl. Turn dough over in bowl to coat with the butter from the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour (or 2 hours if not in an entirely warm place). After the dough has risen, punch down. Turn out onto a lightly floured cutting board and let sit 20 minutes.
- Make the filling. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Melt butter; keep separate.
- Roll dough out into a 12″ x 18″ rectangle. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Starting with the long side, roll dough into a cylinder. Place seam side down on a flat surface and cut crosswise into 15 slices.
- Make the topping. In a 1-quart saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter, honey (or maple syrup) and corn syrup over low heat; stir until sugar and butter are melted. Pour mixture into a 9″ x 13″ pan and sprinkle pecans on top.
- Place dough slices, flat side down, on top of prepared topping. Space out so that they roughly fill the whole pan while still slightly touching in places. Cover with plastic wrap, leaving room for the buns to rise, and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove the rolls from the refrigerator an hour before you want to make and let come to room temperature. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°. Bake buns on the middle rack until golden, 28 – 32 minutes. Remove pan from oven and immediately (and carefully as not to spill hot topping on your toes!) invert onto a serving tray or baking dish. Let buns cool slightly and serve warm.