These are inspired by what my Southern grandmother called "stickies." She would pat out her homemade buttermilk biscuit dough into a rectangle, top it with soft butter and cinnamon-sugar, roll it up into a log, cut it into rounds, and nestle them into a cake pan. Delicious for sure, but some cooks — even accomplished ones — can feel a little intimidated about making homemade biscuits. This short-cut version is equally divine, but really easy. If you can stir up a cake mix, you can make these sticky buns.
The recipe starts with spooning a simple caramel sauce into a muffin pan along with a few pecans. Next, scoops of simple drop biscuit dough are rolled in melted butter and cinnamon sugar, and then plopped into the pan. In only 15 minutes, the soft, warm, fragrant, sticky buns emerge from the oven, dripping with caramel. Oh. My. Goodness.
Caramel-Pecan Sticky Buns
Makes 1 dozen
For the topping:
48 pecan halves (about 3 ounces)
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
Pinch of salt
For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
For the topping: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 425°F. Mist the cups and top of a sturdy, light-colored metal muffin pan with nonstick spray. Arrange 4 pecan halves in each cup.
Melt the butter in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the brown sugar, cream, honey, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Reduce the heat and let simmer until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Spoon a scant tablespoon of the caramel into each muffin cup. You might have a little left over, which you can spoon over the finished buns.
For the dough: Whisk together the flour, 2 teaspoons of the granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until well-mixed. Stir in 1 1/4 cups of the cream to make soft, slightly sticky dough that pulls in all of the dry ingredients. If the dough is dry, add more cream.
Pour the melted butter into a small, shallow bowl. Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, the cinnamon, and brown sugar in another small, shallow bowl. Use a 1.5-ounce scoop (or your hands) to form 12 equal balls of dough. Gently roll each ball in melted butter and then in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place one in each muffin cup.
Bake until the buns are puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack. If any of the caramel has bubbled up onto the top of the muffin pan, gently push it back into the muffin cups with the tip of a spatula. Let cool for 8 minutes.
Carefully turn out the buns onto a serving platter. Replace any pecans that come loose. There will be drips, but that's not a bad thing. Serve warm.
Make-ahead note: Although best when freshly baked, these buns aren't bad when made the night before. Let sit at room temperature. Cover with foil and place them in a 325°F oven for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, turn out the buns, place them uncovered on a plate, and heat them in the microwave at 50% power for about 30 seconds.
Sheri Castle is an award-winning food writer, recipe developer, recipe tester, and culinary instructor. She is the author of The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Recipes for Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers' Markets, Roadside Stands and CSA Farm Boxes. Sheri is known for melding storytelling, humor, and culinary expertise, so she can tell a tale while making a memorable meal. She hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains but now lives in Chapel Hill, NC with her husband, daughter, and beloved dog. She is fueled by farmers' market fare and excellent bourbon. Check her out at www.shericastle.com.
(Images: Faith Durand; Justen Clay)