Why It Works
- Using all-purpose rather than bread flour keeps the dough tender and light.
- Baking soda regulates the dough's pH, helping it brown in the oven.
- Belgian brown sugar or deeply toasted sugar give the buns an authentic caramel flavor that deepens in the oven.
- Though optional, toasted cream adds a layer of complexity to the caramel topping.
- Unflavored dental floss or butcher's twine cuts through the dough without squishing it flat.
Thanks to deeply toasted sugar—or, if you prefer a store-bought product, Belgian cassonade—these gooey sticky buns are quite literally dripping with caramel flavor. Compared to recipes based on American brown sugar, which is laced with tangy molasses, true caramel gives the filling and topping a rich, dark complexity and mellow sweetness, one that only deepens as the caramel topping bubbles in the oven, saturating the buns. For caramel fanatics, sourcing (or making) the right sugar will make a sticky bun unlike any other.
For the Filling:
4 ounces unsalted butter (8 tablespoons; 115g), creamy and soft, about 70°F (21°C)
6 ounces light brown candi sugar, such as Brewer's Best, or deeply toasted sugar (about 3/4 cup, gently packed; 170g)
1/4 ounce ground cinnamon (about 1 tablespoon; 7g)
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon (1g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
For the Dough:
16 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 1/2 cups, spooned; 450g), such as Gold Medal, plus more for rolling
3 1/2 ounces plain or lightly toasted sugar (about 1/2 cup; 100g)
2 teaspoons instant yeast, such as SAF (not rapid-rise; see note)
1 3/4 teaspoons (7g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces unsalted butter (8 tablespoons; 115g)
4 ounces milk (8 tablespoons; 115g), any percentage will do
8 ounces plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt (about 1 cup; 225g), any percentage will do
4 ounces toasted pecan halves, roughly chopped (a shy cup; 115g), or more to taste
For the Caramel Topping:
For the Filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter, candi or toasted sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Mix on low speed until moistened, then increase to medium and beat the dark paste until creamy, light in color, and very soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a zip-top bag or disposable pastry bag and set aside until needed, up to 24 hours at room temperature.
For the Dough: Wipe the bowl with a paper towel, then whisk together flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and baking soda until thoroughly combined. Melt butter in a 2-quart saucier over low heat, then stir in milk and yogurt, warming to about 80°F (27°C). Add to flour and stir to form a very dry and shaggy dough. With the hook attachment, knead on low until silky-smooth and elastic, so that it can be gently stretched into a thin but rough sheet without tearing, about 20 minutes.
First Rise: Cover bowl with plastic and set dough to rise until puffy, light, and doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes at roughly 70°F (21°C). If the dough feels dense, firm, or overly resilient, rest 15 minutes before testing again (this is more likely in chilly months).
For the Caramel Topping: Just before shaping the dough, line a 9- by 13- by 2-inch aluminum baking pan with parchment (or use two parchment-lined 8-inch by 3-inch round cake pans). Add the candi or toasted sugar to the pan, along with the salt and plain or toasted cream (or divide these evenly between the two pans). Mash with a fork to roughly combine.
Shaping: Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, dust with flour, and roll into a 13-inch square. Snip a corner from the bag of cinnamon filling, squeeze over the dough, and spread into an even layer with an offset spatula. Sprinkle pecans on top and roll to form a 12-inch log, ending seam side down.
Slide an 8-inch strand of thread, unflavored dental floss, or butcher's twine under the dough until you reach the middle. Cross the ends over the top and pull tight to divide the log in two. Cut each half into six 1-inch slices and arrange in the prepared pan(s).
Second Rise: Cover rolls with foil and refrigerate overnight, or up to 48 hours. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350°F (180°C); meanwhile, let the pan(s) stand at room temperature until oven is hot.
To Bake and Serve: Bake, covered, until the rolls are puffed and firm but pale, about 40 minutes. (If using dark pans, check on the cinnamon rolls after 25 minutes.) Remove the foil and continue baking until lightly browned, about 10 minutes more. Loosen rolls from the edge of a pan with a dull knife, then invert onto a serving plate (or plates). Serve immediately.
Stand mixer, 2-quart saucier, flexible spatula, digital thermometer, offset spatula, unflavored dental floss or butcher’s twine, 9- by 13- by 2-inch anodized aluminum baking pan or two 8-inch anodized aluminum cake pans (preferably 3 inches deep)
Instant yeast doesn't require hydration prior to use and is suitable for cold fermentation, making it distinct from both active dry and rapid-rise yeast. My favorite brand is SAF, which is of higher quality than anything found in supermarkets, and dramatically cheaper, too.
This Recipe Appears In
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 26g||34%|
|Saturated Fat 13g||63%|
|Total Carbohydrate 83g||30%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||9%|
|Total Sugars 53g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||1%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|