Five years ago, I had the first official date with my girlfriend. And of course, I cooked for her. It was a brunch date, because that allowed for the perfect opportunity to make what she told me was her favorite food — eggs. Yet, if I wanted to impress her, I knew I needed to feed her more than eggs.
That’s when I recalled the most recent issue of Bon Appetit. On the cover were these beautifully gooey and flaky sticky buns. I didn’t know anything about sticky buns, nor did I care. I was determined to make them, and when I got home sometime after ten the night before, I set out to do so.
It was at that late hour that I learned sticky-bun dough requires multiple rises, in addition to a period of chilling. But that wasn’t a problem. I made the dough, went to sleep and woke up in time to take it out of the fridge. I went back to sleep and woke up a bit later to fill and shape the buns. Then I let them rise again while I attempted just a little more sleep. I doubt I ever really slept much that night.
Nevertheless, the sticky buns came out great. But I remember having difficulty determining if she was impressed. Something must have worked, though, as we’re still together five years later. And as we were recently talking about our anniversary, though we don’t agree on the date, she mentioned those sticky buns and how good they were. I hadn’t made them since our first date, and now seemed like a good opportunity.
Yeah, these buns do require multiple rises, like I mentioned. But time does not equate difficulty. Unlike my experience, you just shouldn’t wait and stay up half the night making them for the morning. Get started the afternoon before, and you’ll be good to go. Between the prep and amount of butter in them, they’re certainly more of a special-occasion food, and certainly worth the effort.
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 10 buns
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1¾ teaspoons active dry yeast (or one ¼-ounce envelope)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 stick (4 ounces) room-temperature unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- ½ tablespoon butter, melted
- 2 cups chopped pecans
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1/3⅓ cup honey
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- Coarse sea salt
Heat milk in a small pan over medium heat until it’s between 110°–115°. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and stir in one tablespoon of sugar. Sprinkle yeast over the milk and whisk together. Let sit until the yeast is foamy, about five minutes. Add the eggs and whisk to combine.
Combine the flour, salt and remaining sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the milk mixture. With the mixer running, slowly add the room-temperature butter. Mix on medium speed for one minute. Knead on medium-high speed until dough is soft, about five minutes.
Brush a large bowl with the melted butter. Add the dough and brush with remaining melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm area until doubled in size, about 1–1½ hours.
Then transfer the dough to the fridge for 2 hours.
The dough, before first rise, can be made a day ahead. Cover with plastic and chill. Increase the rise time to 2–2½ hours.
Preheat oven to 350°. Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast until fragrant and slightly darkened, about 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
Melt butter in a small pan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, cream, honey, salt and orange zest. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until golden brown, about 3–4 minutes. Pour 1 cup glaze into a 9×13” baking pan, tilting to coat the bottom and sides. Set aside remaining glaze. Sprinkle 1/3 of the toasted pecans over the bottom of baking pan.
Using a mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl until light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Set side.
Roll out the dough on a floured work surface into a 12×16” rectangle about ¼” thick. Arrange so that one of the long sides faces you. Spread the filling over the dough and sprinkle with half of the chopped pecans.
Starting with the edge closest to you, roll the dough into a log, tightening as you roll and patting in ends if they taper. Arrange with the seam side facing down.
Using a large knife, cut the log crosswise into 10 pieces. Turn each piece cut-side up and gently pat top to flatten. If needed, reshape to form round edges. Transfer bun to the prepared pan, spacing evenly apart. Loosely cover the pan with a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm area until doubled in size for about one hour. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°.
Whisk the egg with a splash of water in a small bowl. Brush tops of buns with egg wash. Bake, rotating pan halfway through and tenting with foil if browning too quickly, until buns are golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes.
Spoon remaining glaze over the top, along with the remaining pecans and a sprinkle of salt. Serve warm.