These pecan honey sticky buns are incredible. Think cinnamon rolls topped with a honey caramel glaze and lots of toasted pecans. They are made with a tangzhong method, giving the softest fluffiest bread that’s ooey and gooey and stuffed with goodness.
What’s the difference between sticky buns and cinnamon rolls?
I barely adapted this recipe from Joshua Weissman, and one of the comments on the video made me laugh. It referred to sticky buns a cinnamon buns hotter cousin. I totally get why!
Sticky buns are like cinnamon rolls brought to another level. Instead of a typical cream cheese frosting, the buns are baked onto a honey caramel sticky glaze that’s topped with pecans. Once baked, you flip the pan, and the sticky pecan side is now on top. So in summary, sticky buns are extra sticky with a caramel and nut topping.
Why should you make these pecan honey sticky buns?
They are gooey and delicious and messy. If I had to choose between cinnamon rolls (as unbelievable as these are) and sticky buns, the toasted nuts and caramel win out.
The honey in the caramel really enhances the flavor and depth of the caramel glaze.
Toasting the pecans gives them so much extra flavor and oomph. Nothing like toasted nuts!
Pecans are such a celebratory nut, making these the perfect thing to bake during autumn, winter, and any holiday season.
The easy tangzhong method used (more on this later) gives such a beautifully soft and fluffy dough. Truly makes a difference, and with not much extra effort at all!
Sticky buns- the ingredients:
The ingredients to make these buns can be divided into several categories:
The gelatinized flour is made with a small amount of equal parts of flour, milk and water.
Instant dry yeast
Lukewarm milk:(around 98F or 37C), warm enough that it isn’t room temperature, but not too hot that it’s uncomfortable to stick your finger in. Kind of like a tepid bath. The temperature is important in activating the yeast.
All purpose flour– love that you don’t need any speciality flours for this!
Water About 3 tbsp, but if you feel the dough is dry and not coming together you can add another tbsp.
Eggs make sure these are room temperature so they don’t clump up in the dough!
Butter, melted and slightly cooled
Dark brown sugar (can use light brown, but the dark brown has a little more molasses in it giving a lovely toffee flavor
Joshua also used fresh nutmeg and all spice, but I didn’t have any so I didn’t. Turned out amazing anyway!
The thing that forms all that awesome stickiness.
Dark brown sugar
Toasted pecans– you can easily toast them by scattering pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet and placing in a 350F hot oven for 7-8 minutes. Once out the oven, immediately move to a chopping board so they don’t over toast, and once cool enough to handle, chop them.
How to make sticky buns:
As you can probably guess from the ingredient list, several steps are involved. They are all simple, and don’t take too much time (except for passive time like the dough resting) so don’t be intimidated!
To make the dough:
Make the dough by blooming the yeast in lukewarm milk (by mixing it slightly then setting aside for 10 minutes)
While the yeast is blooming, prepare the tangzhong by whisking together the flour, milk and water in a small pan over medium heat.
What is tangzhong?
Tangzhong is a Japanese method of gelatinizing a small amount of flour, and adding it to the remainder of the bread dough ingredients. This helps make bread fluffy and light and improves shelf life. It’s a very simple step to take and gives great results!
All you need to do is keep whisking the flour, milk, and water until they become sticky and clump together. That’s it! Set aside until it’s time to add to the dough.
Whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Then attach the bowl to the mixer, with dough hooks, and turn it onto medium low speed. Add the yeast milk mix, the tangzhong, the water, and the room temperature eggs.
Continue mixing for six minutes at which point the dough will smooth out and become a ball.
After six minutes, add the softened butter, piece by piece, and waiting until the first piece is incorporated before adding the next. When all the butter is added, mix for an additional five minutes.
The dough rise:
Remove the dough from the stand mixer and shape into a smooth ball, transferring to a lightly greased bowl. Let it rise in a warm place for 1.5 hours or until dough doubles. I like placing it in the laundry room, or in a turned off oven, somewhere warm and compact!
After this initial rise, you punch down the dough, and spread it out onto a lightly floured surface, allowing it to rest for another 10 minutes.
Then, it gets rolled out into a 20 inch long, about 10 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick rectangle with a floured rolling pin.
Filling the rolls:
The filling goes on top of this rectangle. To make the filling, just melt the butter gently and allow to cool slightly so it isn’t so hot it scalds the yeast in the dough, then brush it all over the dough rectangle.
Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle all over the rectangle, leaving just a 1/4 inch border free of sugar on all sides.
Roll the rectangle up tightly, starting from the long part of the dough, and seal into a log, that you then cut into 9 equal pieces using a serrated knife. Some people swear by using dentil floss, but a knife always works fine for me!
These dough pieces are placed onto the glaze which you’ll have poured into a lightly greased 9×9 inch pan and topped with chopped pecans.
To make the glaze, simply combine the brown sugar, honey and butter in a small pan or skillet, and stir until the sugar melts and the mixture is smooth. Cool slightly before pouring onto pan bottom.
Baking the rolls:
Bake the rolls at 350 F in the middle rack of the oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and puffy, and the filling is bubbling nicely. Once it’s out of the oven, let the pan cool for 5-7 minutes, then loosen the edges of the buns slightly with a spatula, and flip the pan onto a serving plate so that the pecan topping is now up. Enjoy warm! Nothing like them.
Pecan honey sticky buns substitutions:
You can substitute the honey for maple syrup to make maple sticky buns
Light brown sugar can be substitued for the dark.
You can use bread flour instead of all purpose if you want chewier buns.
Try adding more spices like nutmeg, all spice, even ginger.
You can add walnuts instead of pecans, or omit the nuts altogether for allergy reasons.
How to store pecan sticky buns:
These pecan honey sticky buns are most delicious fresh out the oven, but still so good leftover. I think it’s the tangzhong method that ensured I enjoyed these even a few days later reheated.
Store at room temperature, very tightly covered, and either reheat in the fridge or microwave.
Alternately, these will freeze very well (both baked and unbaked). If freezing the unbaked dough, freeze tightly wrapped for up to a month.
If freezing after baking, let the rolls cool, then freeze tightly wrapped for 2 months. Thaw for 30 minutes or so, then heat in the microwave or oven.
Overnight pecan sticky buns:
To make these in advance, prepare the buns all the way through to placing on top of the glaze, but instead of their second rise, cover them with foil and place in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, take them out of the fridge to lose some of their chill one hour before baking, then bake as directed.
Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
For the tang zhong
- 1.5 tbsp flour 15g
- 1.5 tbsp milk 20g
- 1.5 tbsp water 20g
For the dough:
- 2.5 tsp instant dry yeast 9g
- 1/2 cup lukewarm milk 120ml around 98F, 37C
- 3 cups all purpose flour 443g
- 3/4 tsp salt 2g
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar 44
- 3 tbsp water 55g
- 2 eggs room temperature
- 3.5 tbsp butter, softened 50g
For the filling:
- 5 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly 70g
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar 115g
- 2.5 tsp cinnamon powder 5g
For the glaze:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter 115g
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar 115g
- 3 tbsp honey 51g
- 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped 140g
For the tang zhong:
- Combine the equal amounts flour, milk and water for the tang zhong into a small pan and whisk over medium heat till it comes together like clay. Set aside.
For the dough:
- While you are making your tang zhong, whisk the yeast into the lukewarm milk with a fork and let stand for 10 minutes.
- In a stand mixer bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar, then attach the dough hook and add the yeast and milk mixture, plus the water, the tangzhong, and the eggs. Mix for 6 minutes on medium low speed, the mixture will be smooth.
- Add the softened butter, a tablespoon at a time, waiting for each tablespoon to incorporate before adding the next. Once the butter has mixed in, continue to mix for 5 minutes.
- Remove dough from mixer, shape into a ball and allow to rise in lightly greased bowl for 1.5 hrs or until doubled.
- After this resting period, punch down dough, then spread slightly on a lightly floured surface, covered with damp towel, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the glaze (next set of instructions)
For the glaze:
- Combine the butter, brown sugar, and honey in a small pan over medium heat until sugar has melted. Set aside to cool slightly, then into a lightly greased 9”x9” pan, pour the glaze, and sprinkle pecans on top of it.
- After the 10 min dough rest, roll dough to rectangle measuring around 20 “ long, 10“ wide and 1/4” thick, brush the surface of the dough with the melted cool butter and prepare the filling.
For the filling and assembling:
- Mix brown sugar with cinnamon, then sprinkle onto buttered dough rectangle, leaving 1/4” border on all sides.
- Tightly roll dough from bottom up, sealing lightly to form a tight tube. Use a serrated knife to cut into 9 even pieces, each about two inches long, and arrange in 3 rows of 3 on top of the pecan glaze.
- Cover with damp towel and allow to rise at room temperature for 45-60 minutes or until doubled, or overnight in the fridge. If baking straight away, preheat oven to 350F (180C).
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until tops are golden brown and filling is bubbling.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-7 minutes, then loosen buns around edges, and invert pan onto serving tray, so that the pecan glaze is now on top. Enjoy warm!