Gorgeous sticky buns baked upside down, with the maple-pecan topping bubbling at the bottom of the baking tray.
Sticky bun bliss
I don’t know about you, but I can never resist a warm sticky bun.
Be it honey buns, cinnamon rolls or, seasonally, hot cross buns, it is simply bliss when ramming warm yeasty dough into my mouth almost to the point of choking, syrupy topping running down my chin and licking the fingers meticulously afterwards.
Apologies for uninhibited imagery but if we can’t describe food and eating experiences in sensory terms, the world must have got very sad and miserable indeed. I command to bake some sticky buns as a remedy and lick our fingers while eating them!
Sticky bun dough
First things first then: the recipe belongs to Yossy Arefi of NYTimes Cooking who seems to be as lovely as her bakes.
Making the dough is quite straightforward though much aided by a standing mixer. The dough is super-sticky so the elbow grease required to knead it by hand is substantial.
And also, because it is so sticky, after the first proof in bulk in the bowl, it needs to be chilled before shaping and processing, similarly to brioche dough which is next to impossible to handle fresh from kneading.
The best approach is to split the job over two days, and mix the dough and give it the first prove on one day, chill it over 24 hours in the fridge, then proceed on the following day with the shaping, filling and topping.
But if you’d like to get it done all in one day, refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.
Sticky bun topping
Either way, prepare the topping and filling while the dough is stashed away in the fridge.
The topping will, confusingly, go at the bottom of a deepish baking tray about 23 x 30cm (9 x 13 inch) in size – no loose bottoms allowed!
The topping is the impossibly sticky and divine mix of butter, brown sugar and maple syrup cooked down slightly with a large pinch of salt. It will lubricate the bottom of the tray, to be encrusted generously with toasted pecan chunks.
You can prepare it all before the dough even emerges from the fridge; if it sets, it will be easier to nestle the buns in.
Sticky bun filling
The filling is classic: soft butter spread all over dough, showered with sugar and spice; in this instance brown sugar with cinnamon and coarsely crushed cardamom seeds.
Don’t use ground cardamom! You’ll miss out on the wonderful bursts of flavour when crunching on shards of cardamom.
Getting ahead of myself here though: before spreading the filling, the dough needs to be rolled out, to a large sheet, 40 x 30cm (16 x 12 inch).
Butter it thoroughly except one long edge rim towards which the sheet will be tightly rolled up and sealed. Then, just like cinnamon rolls or Chelsea buns, cut the log into 12 chunky swirls.
Nestle them into the sticky, pecanned tray and let them prove, covered, for less than an hour – or cold prove it in the fridge until the following day again (delayed gratification!).
Sticky bun baking
Baking takes half an hour or so, till it’s all excitingly browning on top and bubbling around the sides (let the buns warm up and puff up if cold stored overnight).
Ten minutes cooling in the tin on a wire rack should make the bubbling abate. Run a palette knife around the edges, get a large tray or board to invert the buns onto and brace: cover the tin with the tray and flip.
They should all come out beautifully, the sticky syrup oozing down the dough, saucing the buns, an odd pecan stuck to the tin and dropping out reluctantly.
But even if you have to nudge them off the tin in places, making it a bit messy, don’t worry – the messier, the more gorgeous the eating experience will be…
They will keep very well, since they are covered in syrup, but they will also happily freeze, in a plastic tub perhaps, so you can scrape out every bit of the topping on defrosting.
More bun recipes
Austrian Buchteln, baked jam-filled doughnuts, pull-apart breakfast treats. Buchteln (boogh-telln) are tricky to pronounce for an English speaker, but very easy to eat!
Hot cross buns for your next Easter: wholemeal, with tons of raisins, piped crosses and delicious sticky honey glaze. There’s no better spring breakfast than a buttered hot cross bun.
Pistachio morning buns, a treat for breakfast, with cardamom scent and toasted pistachio and sugar crunch. Made from enriched bread dough on tangzhong milk starter.