These Sticky Toffee Buns are a cross between a fluffy pecan sticky roll and the classic English dessert - sticky toffee pudding. First, a quick yeasted dough is infused with rich molasses flavor and studded with chopped dates. Then, the dough is rolled with a buttery, brown sugar filling. Finally, the rolls are sliced and baked in a homemade toffee sauce with pecans. Once the pan is inverted all that gooey caramel and toasty pecans will top your spiraled buns in a picture perfect fashion. These Sticky Toffee Buns can be a cozy Sunday morning treat or a memory-worthy holiday crowd pleaser!
Even though these homemade Sticky Toffee Buns with Pecans will look like they came from the window of your city’s favorite bakery - we promise you can do it all by yourself! These buns follow the same basic guidelines and procedures as any great sticky bun recipe. However, the absence of cinnamon and the addition of molasses, dark brown sugar and dates makes these buns a one-of-a-kind delight.
Just Dough It: Making The Date Molasses Dough
These Sticky Toffee Buns use a simple yeasted dough that can be made by in the bowl of your stand mixer or kneaded by hand. 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. That being said, you can make this recipe with all-purpose flour, if that is what you have available. 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.
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.
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. We also appreciate active dry yeast’s better, yeast-ier flavors and our ability to ensure it’s liveliness before baking. In most cases, active dry yeast can be substituted with Instant Yeast using a 1:1 ratio. Instant yeast will rise only once (which will save you a little time) but lack the depth of flavor. (See Note: a.) Furthermore, there is no way of knowing if your instant yeast has died before baking. Long story short, this recipe was developed and tested using active dry yeast.
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 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees 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 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees 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.
Buttery, Pecan Filling
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. While you may be tempted to use melted butter in the filling, we can’t personally recommend it. We have found that melted butter tends to seep out of the buns during the proof and baking. Instead, your creamed butter and brown sugar will spread smoothly across your dough. Then, you can sprinkle your pecans across the filling and gently roll into delectable little spirals.
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 initial 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.
Share Your Success!
We hope these Sticky Toffee Buns bring as much delight to your Sunday mornings as they do to our own! When I was growing up, my mom made the ultimate pecan sticky buns every Christmas morning. Many moons later, Scott and I shared home-baked sticky toffee pudding on our first Christmas’s together. Needless to say, this recipe is near and dear to our hearts and we now find ourselves baking these buns all year long. When this recipe makes its way to your table, be sure to drop us a star rating! And, as always, mention @foodworthfeed or tag #foodworthfeed in your Instagram posts and stories! We’d love to feature you on social! We love having a seat at your table, you’ll always have one at ours. Cheers!
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