Maple-Pecan Sticky Buns

True to their name, these buns are sticky and sweet with cinnamon and brown sugar swirled into layers of pillowy yeast-raised dough. Made with Missouri pecans and VAIN vanilla extract, the gooey glaze on top is rich and fragrant. Don’t be surprised if the entire family gets behind this fall baking project. For an adults-only version of this recipe, add a splash of bourbon to the glaze after it’s cooled.

Maple-Pecan Sticky Buns

Yields | 8 sticky buns |

Sticky Bun Dough

  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • 4½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • large eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

Brown Sugar Filling

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Maple-Pecan Glaze

  • 2 cups pecan halves 
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

| Preparation – Sticky Bun Dough | In a small heatproof bowl, heat milk in the microwave until warm to the touch (not hot, approximately 110ºF), approximately 30 seconds. Sprinkle yeast over warm milk and gently stir to combine; let rest, 5 minutes, to activate yeast.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add milk-yeast mixture, vanilla and eggs; mix until dough has formed, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and add soft butter, 1 tablespoon at a time; mix until combined. Once all butter has been added, continue to mix, 8 minutes. The final dough should feel tacky but not sticky. If the dough feels too firm, add 1 to 2 tablespoons warm milk and mix until combined. Transfer dough to a large bowl; tightly cover bowl. Set in a warm spot to rise, 2 hours or until dough has doubled in size.

Meanwhile, line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Prepare brown sugar filling and maple-pecan glaze (recipes follow).

Once dough has doubled in size, pour half of the cooled glaze into prepared baking pan; sprinkle half of the cooled toasted pecans on top. Set aside.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Roll out into a 16-by-16-inch square. Using a pastry brush, spread melted butter from filling over the surface of the dough; evenly distribute brown sugar filling on top. Starting with the edge nearest you, begin rolling dough into a thick log; lightly pinch seams to seal in filling. Cut dough log into eight pieces (cut the whole log in half, then cut each half in half and so on). Transfer pieces, cut side up, to prepared baking pan, creating two rows of four evenly spaced pieces. Cover pan and set buns in a warm spot to rise, 1 hour. 

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bake buns until deeply golden and filling is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and set on wire rack to cool, 10 minutes. Meanwhile, reheat remaining glaze until warm and fluid and then stir in remaining pecans. Remove from heat and set aside.

Carefully invert sticky buns onto a large baking sheet or cutting board. Pour reheated glaze over the warm buns. Serve warm or lightly reheated. Store any leftover buns in an airtight container at room temperature, up to three days.

| Preparation – Brown Sugar Filling | In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set melted butter aside.

| Preparation – Maple-Pecan Glaze | Preheat oven to 350ºF. On a baking sheet, spread pecans out in a single layer. Toast in oven until lightly browned and fragrant, 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven and set on wire rack to cool.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and maple syrup. Whisk in sugar and salt; bring mixture to a simmer. Remove from heat and carefully whisk in cream (it will bubble up quickly, so add slowly, whisking constantly). Place saucepan over medium heat again; bring mixture to a boil and cook until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Once glaze is no longer bubbling, whisk in vanilla extract. Set aside to cool until ready to use.

Teresa Floyd is a Kansas City-based food writer, editor for the online food publication feedfeed and contributing monthly columnist for Feast Magazine’s Sugar Rush. Find her current creations on Now, Forager, a pastry blog featuring seasonal desserts.

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