Pick up a sticky bun with your fingers and you'll know this pastry is not misnamed. The bun owes its stickiness and its name to the brown sugar, honey or maple syrup that is combined with butter and pecans to create a sticky, gooey, caramelized topping.
Lucky for us, someone has declared Thursday as National Sticky Bun Day. (What, you didn't know?)
Sticky buns were brought to Philadelphia by German and English immigrants in the 18th century. Dr. Ronald Wirtz of the American Institute of Baking has done extensive research on sticky buns and writes that the buns "combine the size and make-up of the English Chelsea bun with the fillings and coatings of the rich German Schnecken type roll."
Sticky buns are enjoyed today throughout the United States, but are still most often associated with Philadelphia, where they are called cinnamon buns.
You don't have to travel to Philadelphia to eat one of these sweet pastries. We've asked local bakers to share their sticky bun recipes so you can bake them at home.
Gwin Grogan Grimes of Artisan Baking Co. in Fort Worth says, "The main difference between cinnamon rolls and sticky buns is that sticky buns have caramel and usually nuts (here in this part of the world, mostly pecans) placed in the bottom of the pan. Then the cinnamon roll part is placed on top. After baking, the pan is inverted and the caramel and nuts then form a sticky 'sauce' on the top of the bun."
Her recipe for pecan sticky buns follows.
"I can't think of anything better than a sticky bun, right out of the oven, and a cup of hot tea," says Barbara Harris, who offers the buns at her Silver Spoon Cafe & Bakery in Southlake. "The sticky bun is the ultimate sweet roll."
For those who want a quicker way to bake sticky buns and don't want to make the dough, try Bobby Flay's recipe from his Brunch at Bobby's television show on the Cooking Channel. He uses blackberries, hazelnuts and frozen puff pastry.
Search the King Arthur Flour Co.'s website to find several other variations of sticky buns that include pumpkin, walnuts or cranberries. Step-by-step photos showing how to make sticky buns are provided on the King Arthur blog.
Celebrate National Sticky Bun Day by serving some of these freshly baked sticky buns to your family. Just be sure to have some napkins handy for all those sticky fingers.
Silver Spoon sticky buns
1/2 cup oil
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (110-115 degrees)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1. In large mixing bowl, mix together oil and sugar. Add boiling water. Cool.
2. In separate bowl, add yeast to lukewarm water. Let stand until dissolved. Add to sugar mixture.
3. Add egg, salt and flour. Mix well. Put in bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise until double, about 45 minutes.
4. When dough is ready, roll out to 1/4-inch thickness into a 10-by-14-inch sheet.
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1. Spread melted butter over dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
2. Roll dough up from 14-inch side and cut into 1-inch slices to make 10 rolls.
10 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups pecans, chopped
1. In large muffin pan, put 1 tablespoon of melted butter in each of 10 cups.
2. Mix softened butter and brown sugar together. Place 2 tablespoons of this mixture in each cup and then 2 tablespoons pecans.
3. Place cut rolls in each cup. Let rise until double.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Turn out onto cookie sheet immediately. Let muffin pan rest on top of rolls for a few minutes so all the topping comes out of pan.
-- Barbara Harris, Silver Spoon Cafe & Bakery, 621 E. Southlake Blvd., Southlake, 817-442-9112; silverspooncafebakery.com
Pecan sticky buns
2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 cup cool water
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry milk powder
3 cups bread flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1. Add the yeast, water, milk powder, flour, sugar, baking powder and egg to mixing bowl. Mix the dough for two minutes at low speed until the ingredients are moistened. Stop the machine and scrape down the bowl, if needed. Add additional water, if needed, to make a firm yet sticky dough. (The dough will soften as it kneads.)
2. Add the salt. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the butter a few pieces at a time and mix until the soft dough is smooth and fully developed, approximately 5 more minutes. Do a windowpane test to determine if dough is completely developed. (Remove a walnut-sized piece of dough from mixer and stretch with fingers in front of a light source.) If the dough forms a gluten window (a thin, translucent membrane), the dough is ready. If dough tears immediately, continue kneading until fully developed.
4. Rest the dough, covered, for 45 minutes to allow it to rise (bulk fermentation).
5. Round the ball of dough and let it rest for 10 minutes or so (cover with a clean tea towel or a piece of plastic wrap if warm/dry). At this point, you can refrigerate the dough for 12 to 24 hours. Bring it out of the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed into measuring cup
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
1. Make filling by mixing the cinnamon, pecans and brown sugar.
2. Roll out dough into a rough rectangle. Brush with the melted butter, then top with the filling mixture and roll up into a log like a jelly roll. Pinch the ends of the log to seal. To save for later, wrap log in a piece of parchment or waxed paper, place in a zipper-top plastic bag and refrigerate for up to a day or freeze for up to two weeks.
3 ounces honey
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed into measuring cup
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1. Make topping by beating together the honey and brown sugar in a small bowl. Stir in pecans. Mixture will be very stiff.
2. When ready to bake dough, coat 12 muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray and spoon about 1 tablespoon of the topping mixture into each muffin cup. Slice log into 12 rounds and fit into prepared muffin cups.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When oven is preheated and rolls have doubled in size, bake until golden brown, about 10-20 minutes (timing depends on thickness of rolls). As soon as rolls come out of the oven, invert pan and carefully spoon any loose nuts and caramel back on top of rolls.
Tip: To bake from frozen, remove log from freezer and let sit on counter for about 15 minutes, or until soft enough to slice into rounds with a serrated knife.