These Sticky Toffee Pecan Buns are a cross between a fluffy pecan roll and the classic English dessert - sticky toffee pudding. Lots of gooey caramel and toasty pecans will top your spiraled buns in a picture perfect fashion.
Every Christmas morning, my mom would would make her world famous pecan rolls. Many moons later, Scott and I adopted a classic sticky toffee pudding as our official Christmas tradition. This recipe is a combination of two of my holiday favorites that come together to create a unique, ooey-gooey breakfast bun full of lots of comforting holiday flavors. We hope you love them as much as we do!
For another delicious breakfast bake, try our Ultimate Monkey Bread French Toast!
Making These Ooey Gooey Breakfast Buns
This yummy recipe is made in three parts: the Date Molasses Dough, the Brown Sugar Filling & the Sticky Toffee Sauce with Crunchy Pecan Topping. Here's all you need to know about each of the three elements of this recipe:
1. Just Dough It: Making The Date Molasses Dough
These Sticky Toffee Buns use a simple yeasted dough that can be made easily in the bowl of your stand mixer. This dough is flavored with molasses that gives the buns a rich color and deep caramelized flavor throughout. We recommend baking these buns with bread flour that will result in a fluffy, well-structured dough. After kneading, your dough may be a little soft and slightly tacky, but should not be overly sticky. Feel free to knead in some additional flour, one Tablespoon at a time, if needed, to reduce stickiness.
Date Molasses Dough Ingredients
- Whole milk
- Molasses - We use Grandmas's brand light sugarcane molasses
- Active dry yeast - See Note: a to try modifying this recipe with instant yeast.
- Bread flour - We like to use bread flour to give this dough more chewy, fluffy structure. In a pinch, you can make this recipe with all-purpose flour for a slightly different texture.
- Unsalted butter
- Dates - Dried deglet noor and medjool are the most commonly available dates where we live, in the United States. This recipe works well with either of these date varietals.
Incorporating Dates Into the Dough
To mimic the flavors of England’s beloved sticky toffee pudding, we have added dates directly into this sticky bun dough. The dates add a natural sweetness and yummy, chewy texture. To evenly incorporate the dates into your dough, follow this procedure.
- Lightly dust your chopped dates in one teaspoon of flour to prevent them from sticking and clumping together.
- Turn your kneaded dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your hands, press the dough down into a thick disk or rectangle. Distribute about one third of the dates over the doughs surface. Lightly press the dates into the dough. Fold the dough in half over itself to enclose the dates within.
- Repeat this process twice more until all of the dates have been incorporated.
- Knead the dough once or twice to shape it into a round before proofing.
2. Buttery, Pecan Filling: Ingredients & Procedure
While your Sticky Toffee Bun dough is rising, this sweet, buttery filling will whip up in no time. This Brown Sugar Filling is made from softened butter, dark brown sugar, toasted pecans and a pinch of salt. We like to lightly cream our butter, salt and dark brown sugar together until is is light and easily spreadable. We love the richness of dark brown sugar, but you can substitute light brown sugar for a lighter, less-caramelized flavor.
Baker's Journal: When we tested this recipe using melted butter in the filling, the filling tended to leak out and was more messy. The buns were also a bit more difficult to roll neatly. Instead, using this method to cream the butter creates a smooth filling that nestles perfectly into each spiral of dough.
3. Sticky Toffee Sauce and a Crunchy Pecan Topping
The only thing that could make the Sticky Toffee Buns better is a warm blanket of homemade sticky toffee pudding sauce and a layer of crunchy, nutty pecans. This English toffee is the finger-licking sticky sauce that will keep you dreaming of these pecan buns long after the pan is cleared.
This Sticky Toffee Sauce is made of just a couple ingredients and is so easy-peasy you’ll be searching for reasons to make another batch. We recommend making this sauce during the dough’s first proof and transferring it from the stovetop to your cool baking dish immediately. This will give the warm toffee a chance to cool for a few minutes before adding the sliced buns. (So you don’t disturb the ideal proofing temperatures.)
As for the pecans, we like to use some full pecan halves AND some chopped pecans - but that’s totally up to you. You can leave them all intact for a luxurious presentation or chop them all up to get little bits in every bite. Either way, we do not toast these pecan toppers before baking. Since these pecans will bake on the bottom of your dish, toasted pecans have the potential to burn. Use raw, un-toasted pecans for the best results.
Sticky Toffee Sauce Ingredients
- Unsalted butter
- Dark brown sugar - Light brown sugar can be used for a lighter sauce, instead.
- Molasses - We use Grandma's brand light sugarcane molasses
- Heavy cream - For a rich a luxurious toffee sauce, we recommend going all in with full-fat heavy cream. No substitutions!
- Pecans - Un- toasted!
How To Shape These Sticky Buns
This Sticky Toffee Pecan Bun recipe uses the same technique as any homemade cinnamon roll or sticky bun. Here's how it's done:
The Do-ughs and Don’ts of Working with Yeast
For most of our recipes, including these delicious Sticky Toffee Buns, we prefer to use active dry yeast. Active dry yeast is the World War II invention that revolutionized the home kitchen with shelf-stable, no-refrigeration-required leavening. We love baking with active dry yeast because it is widely-available and very reliable.
Here Are Some Tips to Ensure Properly Proofed Sticky Toffee Buns:
Before You Make the Dough:
- DO: Bloom (or hydrate) your active dry yeast in warm milk around 105° Fahrenheit (40° celsius). This temperature is reminiscent of warm bath water. If you are unsure, we recommend using an instant-read thermometer to ensure proper temperature.
- DON’T: Overheat your milk. Yeast will begin to die at 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees celsius). Dead, or partially dead, yeast will not leaven your bread leaving you with undesirably dense dough.
- DO: Add sugar to the warm milk to help activate your yeast. For this recipe, we are dissolving the molasses directly into our milk. This process helps to distribute the molasses throughout the dough and provides sugars to feed your yeast and kickstart fermentation.
- DO: Allow your yeast to bloom for 5 - 10 minutes. Your shelf-stable yeasts have been dormant for a long time! This warm bath allows your yeast to “wake up” and prepares them to work their rising magic.
- DON’T: Bake with inactive yeast. Discard any yeast that does not create bubbles or foam in your warm milk. No bubbles, no business! Healthy yeast will begin to ferment in warm, sweetened liquids. If your milk does not become foamy after 5 - 10 minutes, your yeast is dead and will not leaven (rise) your buns. Save yourself the disappointment by discarding your flat, yeasty milk and try again.
After You Make The Dough:
- DO: Proof (rise) your dough in a warm, draft-free environment. Rising (also known as proofing) doughs prefer temperatures around 70° Fahrenheit (20° celsius). You can do this on your kitchen counter, covering the dough with a damp towel, proofing bag or plastic wrap. If your kitchen is running a little cooler, you can proof the covered dough in your oven, with the light on. If using this method, make sure you do not begin preheating your oven while proofing!
- DON’T: Over-proof you dough. Closely watch the dough until it has doubled in volume. Proofing dough is a fermentation process that has many, many variable factors. Whenever rising dough, all rise time instructions are subjective and will depend greatly on the conditions specific to your dough and kitchen temperatures. Properly proofed dough for this recipe will have doubled in volume and gently spring back to shape when poked. If your dough is over-proofed, it may deflate when poked and flatten in the oven.
- DO: Rise the dough twice! This dough will need to rise twice to become the fluffy buns you are dreaming of. The initial rise will take place as soon as the dough has been kneaded. The second and final rise will happen after the Stick Buns have been filled and shaped. You will be looking to double the doughs volume in each rise.
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The Best Sticky Toffee Buns with Pecans
- Stand Mixer with Dough Hook and Paddle Attachments (Optional)
- 9x13 inch glass baking dish (23x33 centimeter)
- Rolling Pin
Date Molasses Dough
- ¾ Cup whole milk
- ¼ Cup molasses we use light sugarcane molasses
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)(See Note: a.)
- 3 ¾ Cups plus 1 teaspoon bread flour divided, plus more if needed and to prevent sticking
- 1 teaspoon fine kosher salt*
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs room-temperature, lightly beaten
- ¼ Cup unsalted butter softened to room-temperature
- 12 - 16 grams dates pitted, chopped (See Note: b.)
- Cooking spray or oil to lightly-oil a mixing bowl, as needed
Brown Sugar Filling
- ½ Cup unsalted butter softened to room-temperature
- ¾ Cup dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine kosher salt*
- ½ Cup pecans lightly toasted, chopped
Sticky Toffee Sauce and Crunchy Pecan Topping
- ⅓ Cup unsalted butter
- ¼ Cup plus 1 Tablespoons dark brown sugar we use light sugarcane molasses
- 1 Tablespoon molasses
- 1 teaspoon fine,sea or kosher salt
- 1½ Cups heavy cream room-temperature
- 1 Cup pecans un-toasted: halves, chopped or a combination (See Note: c.)
Date Molasses Dough
- Gather, measure and prepare the Date Molasses Dough ingredients as listed. For the most consistent results, we recommend using metric weight measurements whenever possible. To view metric measurements, toggle the US Customary/Metric switch at the top of this recipe card.
- Combine the whole milk and molasses and warm to approximately 105° Fahrenheit (40° celsius). This can be done in the microwave for about 45 seconds or on the stovetop. Stir in yeast to bloom (hydrate) and set aside for 5 - minutes until frothy. (See Note: d.)
- In a medium mixing bowl, add 3 ¾ Cups (485 grams) bread flour, salt and sugar. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- Add bloomed yeast mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add eggs and stir to combine.
- Add flour mixture to stand mixer. Mix on low speed until a shaggy dough has formed. Increase speed to medium to begin kneading for 1 - 2 minutes until dough begins to look smooth and homogenous.
- While kneading on medium speed, add butter, about 1 Tablespoon at a time, mixing for several seconds until the butter is incorporated before continuing. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl, as necessary, until all butter is completely incorporated into the dough. Once incorporated, continue to knead the dough for 3 - 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Dough may be slightly tacky but should not be overly sticky. If very sticky, add more flour 1 Tablespoon at a time, kneading briefly after each addition.
- Meanwhile, toss the chopped dates in the remaining1 teaspoon of bread flour.
- Incorporate the dates into the dough: Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your hands, press the dough down into a thick disk or rectangle. Distribute about one third of the dates over the doughs surface. Lightly press the dates into the dough. Fold the dough in half over itself to enclose the dates within. Repeat this process twice more until all of the dates have been incorporated. Shape the dough into a round before proofing.
- Place the dough into a large, lightly-oiled mixing bowl. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel, proofing bag or plastic wrap. Allow the dough to double in size in a warm, draft-free environment, about 60 to 90 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the Brown Sugar Filling and Sticky Toffee Sauce.
Brown Sugar Filling
- Gather, measure and prepare the Brown Sugar Filling ingredients as listed.
- Combine butter, brown sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. On medium speed, cream ingredients until thoroughly combined and easily spreadable, about 1 - 2 minutes. Set aside at room-temperature with the chopped pecans until Date Molasses Dough is proofed and the buns are ready to be shaped.
Sticky Toffee Sauce
- Gather, measure and prepare the Sticky Toffee Sauce ingredients as listed.
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter, brown sugar, molasses and salt, stirring to combine. Once melted, stream in cream slowly while stirring. Bring to a simmer, stirring often, to prevent burning. Once simmering, remove from heat and pour into a glass 9x13 inch baking dish. Allow to cool to room-temperature before adding your shaped sticky buns.
- Arrange pecans over toffee sauce in the bottom of your baking dish. After baking, the dish will be inverted and the pecans and Sticky Toffee Sauce with top your Toffee Sticky Buns. Cover your toffee sauce-filled baking dish with plastic wrap and set aside.
Shaping & Baking the Sticky Toffee Buns
- Arrange a rack in the center third of the oven and preheat to 375° Fahrenheit (190° celsius).
- Once the Date Molasses Dough is doubled in size, it is time to shape the sticky buns. Punch down the dough to deflate. On a lightly floured work surface roll the dough into a large rectangle about 18 inches (or 48 centimeters) by 12 inches (30 centimeters).
- Spread the creamed Brown Sugar Filling evenly across the surface of the dough leaving a small ¼ inch (1 centimeter) border along the edges. Sprinkle the chopped pecans (from the brown sugar filling recipe) over the filling on the dough.
- Starting from a longer edge, roll the dough into a spiraled log. (See Note: e.)
- Using a sharp knife, slice the log of spiraled dough into 12 equal buns about 1 ½ inches (or 4 centimeters) wide. With your hands, gently shape you sliced buns back into circles, spiral side-up. Arrange the buns over the Sticky Toffee Sauce and pecans in your baking dish.
- Proof the buns in the baking dish with the pan covered with a damp dish towel, proofing bag or plastic wrap. Allow the buns to double in size in a warm, draft-free environment, about 30 - 45 minutes.
- Bake Sticky Toffee Buns for 25 - 35 minutes or until the dough in the center of the pan reaches 190° Fahrenheit (88 degrees celsius) on an instant-read thermometer. Rotate the pan halfway through baking and tent with foil to prevent over browning, if necessary.
- Remove from the oven and place baked Sticky Toffee Buns on a cooling rack and allow to set for about 5 minutes. Proceed to the next step while buns are still warm.
- With an off-set spatula or knife, loosen buns from the outer edges of the pan. To invert the buns, use oven mitts or thick, dry dish towels. Place a large sheet pan or serving platter over your baking dish and carefully invert the pan. Be cautious not to burn your hands on the hot pan or gooey Sticky Toffee Sauce. Enjoy warm!
* A Note About Salt
Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on The Sage Apron are developed using Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. It is a great all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If using table salt, reduce quantities by about half.