We had some amazing neighbors growing up who had a family mission to deliver warm homemade sticky buns to all their nearby friends on Christmas morning. We'd be opening presents and hear a knock at the back door and their sweet little daughter (now quite grown up and accomplished, but still sweet) would be standing there wearing a Santa hat and holding out a tinfoil package of warm gooey sweet yeasty goodness.
I missed them (the buns, I mean, but also the neighbors, of course) when I moved away and started making them for our Christmas breakfast (I haven't been ambitious enough to deliver them to anyone else, though) years ago. You should have seen the look of horror on the family faces when I couldn't find the recipe this Christmas Eve! I found a similar recipe online and changed it to be more like what I thought I remembered (and reduce the sugar because I hate too sweet; these are still plenty sweet) and also to work in a little inspiration (cardamom!) and this is what I came up with.
(I know it's way past Christmas, but I don't want to lose my notes on this one! You could always make them for a birthday or Mother's Day or...)
Because-It's-Only-Once-A-Year Sticky Buns
(adapted from Real Deal Sticky Buns by Patricia Talorico)
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 1 cup milk
- scant 2 Tbs sugar
- 1 Tbs active dry yeast (these instructions assume rapid rise yeast!)
- 1.5 tsp kosher salt (just use less if you only have regular salt)
- 1 whole egg and the yolk of another egg
- 3 + cups of all-purpose flour
Gooey Nutty Topping:
- 1.5 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 3 Tbs honey
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans
Spiced Sugar Filling:
- 1/4 cup butter, very soft
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 Tbs cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
You can make these the night before and keep them in the fridge. I was worried they would over-rise that way, but they didn't!
For the dough: Melt the butter and warm the milk in the microwave until quite hot, but not scalding (hotter than for regular yeast). Dissolve the salt and sugar in the liquid and slowly pour in the eggs while stirring. Mix the flour and yeast in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture in parts to the liquid until you have a wet dough. Knead the dough for a few minutes, adding more flour if necessary. Use a stand mixer if you have one! The dough will end up firm but still a little sticky. Don't add too much flour and dry it out.
Let the dough rise for close to 2 hours.
While the dough rises, line a 9X13 inch pan with baker's parchment (or greased foil, just something to line the pan makes the final step a lot easier). Make the gooey topping by melting the butter and sugar and honey together. Pour it over the bottom of the pan (you'll turn the whole thing upside down after it's baked). Sprinkle the nuts into the topping.
Roll out the dough into a BIG rectangle. The original recipe said 15X12 inches, but I think I did closer to 15X13. HERE IS MY BEST TIP FOR ROLLING OUT YEAST DOUGH (good for pizza, too): do NOT punch down the dough and knead it after it has risen. It will get very elastic and incredibly hard to roll out. Just gently lift or dump the dough onto your rolling surface (flour that to prevent sticking) and start rolling right away. You'll be squishing out the air, but in the process making a thin sheet like you want.
Spread the very soft butter all over the sheet of dough, leaving one side (one of the long sides) unbuttered so you can have a hope of making it stick to itself later. Sprinkle the spiced sugar evenly over the butter and roll the whole thing up from the long side that did get buttered to the long side that didn't get buttered. Try to gently pinch the seam together, but don't worry about it too much.
Now lay the roll so the seam is down and slice it into rolls, about 1 inch thick. Arrange these slices flat in the pan on top of the sugar goo and cover with plastic wrap.
You can let them rise less than an hour and bake, but I did the overnight method and that worked great - put the pan straight in the fridge (no rising first) and they should be perfect in the morning. Just let them come to room temperature (or close) before you bake them.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until they look/feel/test done. Let the whole pan cool for 5 or 10 minutes (but not much longer! they have to still be warm!) before putting your serving dish/pan over it and turning the whole thing upside down. Then carefully remove the parchment/foil and replace any errant pecan bits.