I never thought any sweet bread could ever trump my favorite cinnamon rolls, but then I ate these Sticky Pecan Cinnamon Buns and stood corrected! Unbelievably soft and pillowy cinnamon rolls are topped with a sticky, caramelized pecan topping, making every bite nothing short of extraordinary. And the best part is, this is a very simple, fuss-free recipe, which you can make without a stand mixer.
WHY YOU SHOULD TRY THIS RECIPE
First off, just look at them…
Now, after looking at these pictures, you still need convincing, here are some inarguable reasons why you MUST try this recipe:
- These rolls are pillowy soft. Softer than any cinnamon rolls you've probably tried. Let me tell you a little story: my sister in law is married to a Swedish man who has a family recipe for cinnamon rolls. So when she was about to try these buns, she warned me that she has very high standards. But seconds after her first bite, her eyes bugged out of their sockets, and a delirious "oh my god" stuttered out of her mouth. She was speechless, as was I, and told me these are the softest buns she's ever had
- The pecan topping is sticky, crunch, nutty and caramel-y all in one. The pecans are toasted first, and therefore retain a crunch even after being backed in the sticky sauce. The result is a nutty caramel goodness that is hard to explain
- They buns are sinfully delicious. It will make you question if you should ever make plain cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting again
- They are easy to make. I know many people are intimidated by yeast recipes, but I'm here to tell you it's just an ingredient like any other! And this recipe is intentionally designed to be fuss free. There are no unnecessary steps, and almost all components come together quickly. Then you just need to wait for the proving and baking
- No stand mixer is needed. I have kneaded this dough both with and without a stand mixer, and both methods work perfectly fine
COMPONENTS OF STICKY PECAN CINNAMON BUNS
These sticky pecan cinnamon buns are made of 3 key components:
- The dough. This is the heart of these buns, and a recipe I am extremely proud of. The dough isn't too wet or sticky to work with, but results in very soft, fluffy buns. The key to get it right lies in the kneading and proving, both of which should be given the right amount of time
- The cinnamon sugar filling. Made by simply mixing together the ingredients, this filling gives a wonderful grit and balanced cinnamon flavor to the buns
- Sticky pecan topping. First, toast the pecans until they become fragrant. This step is a must as otherwise pecans can taste a bit earthy and become soft. Spread them out in the baking tray. Then you make a sauce by just mixing everything together over medium heat, and pour on top of the pecans. The rolls are then placed on top to be baked. At the end, the baking tray is flipped upside down so the sticky pecans become the topping
THE SECRET TO MAKING THE SOFTEST DOUGH
There are three important tips you need to follow for your dough to turn out perfect:
- Measure accurately. I strongly recommend using a weighing scale instead of measuring cups as that will yield the most accurate results. Otherwise, you may end up with too much flour, making the rolls more dry
- Knead to the window-pane stage. If a dough is not kneaded enough, the gluten is not activated enough, and therefore the dough cannot trap enough air as it rises, making it more dense and less soft. Whether you are using a stand mixer or kneading by hand, make sure to keep kneading until the dough becomes really soft, smooth, and stretchy. The key is to reach the window-pane stage: if you hold a piece of dough in your fingers and slowly stretch it, it should get paper thin and translucent before it starts to rip. That's when you know there's enough gluten
- Don't under or over proof. Underproofed dough will result in denser buns that don't hold their shape properly, and overproofed dough will result in deflated sad buns. Proofing time can vary depending on the temperature and humidity in your kitchen, so look for the right signs. After the first proof, the dough should more than double in size, and, when poked gently with a finger, should partly spring back. After the second proof, which is done after shaping the buns, the buns should look puffy but should not yet take up the whole tray
HOW TO MAKE STICKY PECAN CINNAMON BUNS
Here's a quick video in which I demonstrate the method:
The detailed method is provided in the brown recipe card below, but here's a quick overview of the steps:
- Knead the dough. First, activate the yeast in milk and sugar. Then add all ingredients and knead until the dough reaches the window-pane stage
- Proof the dough. Cover and let it double in size
- Make the sticky pecan topping. Make the sticky sauce and pour it over the toasted pecans in the baking tray. Stick this in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to cool down
- Make the cinnamon sugar filling
- Shape the buns. Roll out the dough, spread on the filling, cut into strips and roll up the strips into 12 cinnamon rolls. Place them on top of the pecan topping in the baking tray
- Proof the buns. This is a shorter proof which allows the buns to become fluffy again before bein baked
- Bake! Voila, time to go in the oven
- Flip and serve. Wait for 5 minutes, then carefully flip the buns onto the serving platter, remove the parchment paper, and serve!
Once you perfect this recipe, you can play around with many variations! Here are some examples:
- Make plain cinnamon rolls by skipping the pecan topping, and frost with cream cheese frosting. Here's a foolproof recipe
- Replace the pecans with other nuts - walnuts also work great!
- Replace the cinnamon with a different spice. For example, substitute the cinnamon with coffee for coffee buns, or with cardamom for cardamom buns
- Make a different filling altogether. Chocolate makes for an incredible filling, like in these chocolate espresso rolls!
If you like this recipe, don't miss out on these other crowd favorites:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Yes, instant yeast can be substituted for active dry yeast in the same quantity, and you don't need to first activate it. Simply throw everything together and knead.
You can substitute the egg with ¼ cup of full fat yogurt.
Yes, you can replace the pecans with a different nut. I find walnuts to be the best substitution.
This recipe does tend to be slightly on the sweeter side due to the topping. If you'd like, you can reduce the sugar in the topping and in the filling. However, I cannot guarantee the same results.
Yes! I have shown a no-mixer method because not everyone has mixers, but I totally recommend using a mixer if you have it. Why spend all the extra energy? 🙂
The buns should develop a light golden color when they are done baking. In addition, try picking up one roll with a fork and knife, and look at the edges where it was touching the other rolls. Do they look cooked, or do you see specks of raw dough?
You can store these buns in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Any longer than that, store them in the fridge and microwave for 15-20 seconds before enjoying.