Homemade pecan sticky buns ready in under an hour! This recipe has no yeast, so the process is quick and easy. Treat your family to a decadent breakfast bun topped with crunchy nuts and a sweet coating of gooey caramel sauce.
Table of Contents
If you’re looking for a quicker alternative to my classic sticky buns, this no-proof version is the way to go. Instead of using yeast to help the dough rise, I use baking soda and baking powder as the leavening agents. This method yields similar tasting results but without a long fermentation wait time.
The recipe uses a clever hybrid of two techniques; sweetened biscuits and cinnamon roll filling. The process entails flattening the dough, layering on the cinnamon-sugar mixture, then rolling it into a cylinder shape, and slicing it up. Fill each muffin cup’s bottoms with a buttery sweetened pecan topping that caramelizes as it bakes.
Make the caramel topping
To create a thick and syrupy caramel sauce that coats the buns’ surface, simply combine melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, maple syrup (or corn syrup), and a little bit of salt to enhance the sweet taste. Melting the fat makes it easier to mix and spoon into the bottom of each tin.
The butter adds richness to the caramel and helps prevent some sticking to the pan once the buns are removed. As the sucrose heats up in the hot 425-degree oven, it will deepen in flavor and caramelize when it reaches between 320 to 350ºF (160 to 177ºC).
Sauces & Condiments
Add nuts to the topping
I like to mix coarsely chopped pecans into the topping. The smaller chunks allow for even distribution with the sauce as it bakes in the oven. You’ll notice that as the nuts cool, they get candied for a delightful crunchy texture. If you prefer, you can use other nut types like walnuts, peanuts, or coarsely chopped almonds.
I find it the easiest to use a muffin pan that can hold twelve servings. The nonstick pan lightly sprayed with cooking spray or vegetable oil helps release each pastry and the sticky topping. Add about 1 tablespoon of the nut topping mixture to the bottom of each cup, and spread it out. This step ensures it will coat the dough and stick on top.
Make the dough
If you can whip up homemade biscuits, this recipe is even easier! Instead of using solidified butter broken into small pieces, I melt it because we don’t want the texture to be crumbly or flaky. This process efficiently coats the wheat flour proteins to keep the buns soft and tender.
I also add buttermilk. The extra fat provides richness and a slight tangy taste to boost the sugar’s sweetness in the dough. The sour lactic acid is a natural flavor enhancer, but don’t worry, it won’t taste tart. The flour, salt, granulated sugar, baking powder, and baking soda mix with the liquids, then briefly kneaded to encourage some bread elasticity.
Roll out and portion
Very similar to making cinnamon rolls, whereby you roll out the dough into a large rectangle. Brush melted butter on top to keep the layers from sticking together. Then sprinkle on a mixture of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar, which dissolve together to create warm spiced notes.
I also add chopped pecans to provide a nice crunchy texture inside and on top. Roll into a tight cigar shape using the long side to get the most slices. I cut them into roughly 1-inch thick pieces. Press each piece into the muffin tin and ensure direct contact with the topping to stick better during baking.
Bake at elevated temperatures
To quickly activate the chemical leavening agents for a softer crumb, turn the oven up to 425-degrees. The heat creates faster development of carbon dioxide bubbles as it reacts with the moisture and acids in the dough, causing the buns to grow in size.
The elevated temperature also encourages caramelization of the butter-sugar mixture on the bottom. It takes under 20 minutes for the dough to rise and the sauce to thicken. Don’t overbake. Otherwise, the caramel will have a burnt flavor.
Removing from the pan
The easiest way to remove the buns from the warm pan is to run a knife along the edges, then place a parchment paper-lined sheet pan on top. Swifty, flip it over, but don’t remove the pan! Let it sit for about 5 minutes.
Gravity will release the nuts and sauce onto the surface. Don’t let the sticky buns cool in the pan. Otherwise, it will make the exterior too crisp, and the caramel will harden and make it difficult to remove.
Flavor compared to yeast-leavened buns
The chemical leavened bun layers are thinner and slightly crisp on the edges and get more tender towards the center than a traditional sticky bun. It’s like layers of biscuit, but since you mix the dough longer, more gluten bond formation occurs, so it still has a chew that doesn’t crumble apart.
Yeast-leavened buns have a bread-like texture, bouncing back more when pressed. Both are delicious in unique ways! If you need to satisfy your sweet tooth quickly, the baking soda approach is a winning option.
The benefits of adding buttermilk to the dough
Cultured buttermilk has a strong sour taste, which can complement a basic biscuit dough. The lactic acid develops the tart flavor in the milk. It’s a natural flavor enhancer, increasing the sweet and savory notes of the other ingredients. The increase in acid also enhances the baking soda’s reaction to create more carbon dioxide to help the dough rise. This results in a sticky bun that’s soft and tender without hours of fermentation.
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Pecan Sticky Buns (no yeast)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup brown sugar, packed
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup, or dark corn syrup
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup pecans, roughly chopped
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ground
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¾ cup pecans, chopped
- Set the oven rack to the lower-middle position. Preheat to 425°F (218ºC). Lightly grease a 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or foil, set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, maple syrup, and salt. Evenly spread the mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup, about 1 tablespoon each. Evenly sprinkle the chopped pecans on top. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the buttermilk and ¼ cup melted butter, mix with a spoon until a shaggy dough forms, and the liquid absorbs. Knead dough in the bowl by hand until just smooth, about 30 seconds.
- Lightly sprinkle flour on a large piece of parchment paper. This will make rolling easier. Roll the dough out to a 14-inch by 9-inch rectangle.
- Brush the surface of the dough with 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of melted butter.
- In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Evenly spread the mixture across the dough's surface, leaving about a ½-inch border along the edges. Sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly on top and lightly press them down.
- Starting at the long side, roll the dough into a cigar shape, seam-side down. Use the parchment paper to help lift and roll the dough. Cut into 12 equal portions. Place into each muffin cup, lightly pressing down into the pan.
- Place the muffin tin on the parchment paper-lined sheet pan, bake until the rolls have puffed up, dry to the touch, and golden brown, about 16 to 18 minutes. Do not over bake, as the caramel topping can become burnt in flavor.
- Gently run a knife along the sides of each bun to make it easier to remove. Immediately place a parchment paper-lined sheet pan on top of the muffin tin, then quickly invert. Let the tin sit on top for 5 minutes, then slowly lift to release the buns from the pan. Scoop out any remaining nuts and sauce and place them on top of the buns. Cool for about 5 minutes, then serve warm.
- Storing: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
- Reheating: Microwave individual pieces on high power in 10 to 15-second intervals until warmed through.
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