Here's an idea: let's eat sticky buns, all day every day. Starting right here, right now.
I mean, what would the world be like if we really did eat sticky buns all day everyday? Please, take a moment to dream.
I'm sure that in real life, if you ate sticky buns all day every day, you'd quickly tire of their lightly sweet, yeasty, baked-to-golden perfection, soaked-in-caramel flavor. I'm sure you would.
But part of me secretly thinks I'd never get tired of sticky buns, even if I ate them for every meal for the rest of my life.
One of my favorite things about sticky buns is the element of magic in making them. First, you spread the fillings on top of dough then roll it up, jelly-roll style. When you slice the roll, you magically have little cinnamon roll-looking things.
Then, there's the actual baking, which is what defines sticky buns from cinnamon rolls.
Sticky buns are actually baked upside down, sitting pretty in a pool of caramel and nuts or whatever you want. When they're baked, you invert the pan and let the sticky goodness drip over the buns. When you eventually lift the inverted pan, not only are you greeted with an aroma that will make you feel the pure essence of sweet joy, but you find that magically, the goo at the bottom of the pan has been transformed into a decadent topping.
I hope that you can tell that I really, really love sticky buns. And you know what, I think you will too. I know that there are a lot of recipes out there on the great wide internet, but this one really is worth your time. A cinnamon-sugar and buttery filling helps round out the flavor, giving the buns a rich, moist texture. But it’s the topping that truly makes them crave-worthy: a thick, homemade salted caramel sauce. I also added chocolate to mine, because WHY NOT.
When you start the morning by baking up a batch of sticky buns like these, you know it’s going to be a great day.
Caramel Sticky Buns
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus 2 ½ hours rising times Cook time: 30 minutes / Yield: 16 buns / Printable version here
- 1 ½ cups warm milk
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 packet (0.25 ounces) active dry yeast
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- About 1 ½ cups caramel sauce (recipe follows)
- 1 cup toasted chopped pecans (optional)
- Combine the milk, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Let sit until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Mix in the melted butter, egg, and vanilla. Stir until combined.
- Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt, and mix until combined.
- Continue adding the flour, ½ cup at a time, mixing after each new addition. Keep on adding the flour until the dough becomes thick and while sticky, easy to handle with oiled hands.
- Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes by hand, slightly less using a dough hook.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or a cloth; set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
- Near the end of the cooling period, make the caramel sauce (recipe below). Generously butter two round cake pans. Divide the caramel sauce between the two buttered cake pans. If desired, sprinkle pecans on top of the caramel.
- Divide the dough in half, and roll out each portion into a long, skinny rectangle, about 14 by 6 inches.
- Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl.
- Brush the entire surfaces of the rolled-out dough with the remaining melted butter, and then sprinkle each portion evenly with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Starting with the long side, roll up each rectangle into a roll. Cut each long roll into 8 equal parts. Place one roll in the center of the caramel-lined pan, and place the remaining rolls in a circle around it. Let the rolls rise again until roughly doubled (they will fill out the pan nicely), about 30 minutes.
- Position a rack in the middle position of the oven, and one in the lower position. Place a baking sheet on the lower rack, to catch any drips when you bake (I've never had it happen but the caramel can bubble and threaten to make a mess sometimes). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bake the pans of buns side by side for 25-30 minutes, rotating at the 15 minute mark, or until golden and cooked through. Once you remove them from the oven, immediately invert the pans onto serving platters, and leave inverted for a few minutes so all of the caramel can drip down on the buns.
Serve, topping with additional nuts or some chocolate if you wanna.
Prep time: 10 minutes / Cook time: 30 minutes / Yield: a little over 1 cup
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup cream
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- ¼ tsp salt
- Pour the sugar into a large, heavy-bottomed pot with tall sides. Shift the pot side to side to distribute the sugar evenly.
- Put the pot over medium-low heat. Stay nearby, but don't stir or shift the sugar. This is a slow, gentle heating, and nothing visual will really happen for a few minutes. Concurrently, you can combine the milk and the vanilla in a heatproof measuring cup, and heat the mixture in the microwave for about 1 minute (this will help lessen the reaction when the liquid hits the hot sugar in a bit).
- After several minutes (5-8) you'll see the sugar beginning to liquefy. At this point, use a heatproof rubber spatula to turn the mixture over on itself, moistening the still-dry portions of sugar.
- Continue heating. As the sugar warms, it will begin to darken in color, first to a sort of beige and then to a light caramel color. When the sugar has reached a rich, coppery caramel tone, medium-brown but not dark, remove from heat. Now, be ready for some hissing and bubbling as you pour about 1/3 to 1/2 of the milk mixture into the caramel mixture. It will hiss, it may bubble, hardened bits may form, but it shouldn't bubble over the sides of the pot. Once the bubbling has subsided, add the rest of the milk mixture, and return the pot to the burner, and put it on medium-low heat. It is very likely that hardened little boulders of sugar have formed when you added the milk; don’t worry, this is very normal. As you cook the mixture, they will dissolve.
- Stir constantly as the mixture cooks. You'll see that the hardened bits begin to shrink and then dissolve. Once the hardened bits have mostly dissolved, stir in the salt.
- Cook for about 10 minutes for a thinner caramel sauce, 15-20 minutes for a thicker sauce. Remove from heat when the mixture is about 20% short of how thick you'd like it, because it will thicken more as it cools.