Making mornings special with sticky pecan rolls

Becky Krystal

THE WASHINGTON POST – There was a lot of bread baking this year. Witness the disappearing flour and yeast off grocery store shelves, the uptick in sourdough. I’ve lost track of how many practical loaves I made in 2020 for all those lunches I’ve been eating at home, but sometimes it’s nice to mix in a purely celebratory bake.

That’s where these Sticky Pecan Rolls by food blogger and cookbook author Joy ‘the Baker’ Wilson come in.

In addition to being a real treat, this recipe is good for bakers who have yet to build up a lot of confidence in their bread skills. With a couple of teaspoons of instant yeast, there will be no suspense over whether the dough will rise. (Just make sure the yeast is relatively fresh or has been stored for safekeeping in the freezer.) This is an enriched dough, meaning it includes butter, sugar and eggs.

That, in turn, means the dough is forgiving – it’s easy to roll out without sticking or snapping back into place, and there’s little risk of it drying out in baking. It’s rich, tender and tasty.

Joy writes an airtight recipe, so you can feel confident in your ability to nail it the first time. Here are a few additional tips to guarantee success.

If, like mine, your kitchen runs cold in the winter, you may want to create a cozy spot to let the dough rise.

I do this by putting the dough in the turned-off oven with a pan of just-boiled water. A microwave also can serve this purpose.

Just make sure everyone knows your dough is proofing in there – a sticky note on the outside is never a bad idea.

I track the progress of my dough by wrapping a rubber band around my container or bowl.

A piece of tape or even a line drawn with a dry-erase marker works, as long as it helps you confirm whether the dough has indeed doubled.

A knife is fine for cutting the individual rolls, but if your knife is less than sharp or you’re worried about crushing the rolled-up dough, there’s another option.

Grab unflavoured dental floss! Cut a piece about six inches and slide it under the log. Then wrap it around the top, pulling the edges in opposite directions as if you were about to tie a knot.

The floss should cut neatly through the dough. I’ve also used kitchen twine, though the cuts are slightly less crisp, not that you can tell once the baking is done.

If you want a fresh-baked batch of rolls when you wake up, proceed with the recipe through the step when you place the cut rolls into the pan with the sauce.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, let the rolls come to room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes while you preheat the oven. Then bake as directed.

Nut allergies? No problem. It’s easy enough to leave out the pecans or switch to a suitable nut.

Feeling ready? Great. Pull a batch of these out of the oven in the morning – or any other morning- for a special way to start the day.


For the dough

Two-and-a-quarter teaspoons instant yeast

Three tablespoons warm water

Scant three cups (360 grammes) flour, plus more for dusting the counter

Half cup (120 millilitres) whole milk, at room temperature, or more as needed

One-third cup (65 grammes) lightly packed light brown sugar

One large egg, lightly beaten

One teaspoon vanilla extract

Half teaspoon kosher salt

Four tablespoons (57 grammes) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into medium chunks

For the filling

Half cup (99 grammes) lightly packed light brown sugar

One tablespoon ground cinnamon

One teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

One-eighth teaspoon ground cloves

Half teaspoon kosher salt

Six tablespoons (85 grammes) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the topping

Half cup (120 millilitres) heavy cream

One-third cup (113 grams) honey

Two tablespoons (28 grammes) unsalted butter

A quarter teaspoon kosher salt

One-and-a-quarter cups (125 grammes) coarsely chopped pecans


Make the dough

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the yeast with the warm water until combined. Add the flour, milk, brown sugar, egg, vanilla and salt. Using a silicone spatula, stir the mixture into a shaggy dough.

Place the bowl on the stand mixer and mix on low speed, slowly adding chunks of butter as the dough comes together. If the dough looks too dry, add another tablespoon of milk.

Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead the dough until it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about four minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand into a cohesive, relatively smooth ball, about three minutes.

Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, one to one-and-a-half hours.

Make the filling

While the dough rises, in a medium bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt until combined. Reserve the room-temperature butter for use in assembling the sticky rolls.

Make the topping

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, honey, butter and salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer gently until slightly thickened, about three minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the pecans.

Generously flour a work surface and unwrap the dough onto it. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 15 inches. Spread the reserved butter over the dough and sprinkle the filling mixture on top.

Starting with the long edge of the dough, lift and roll it into a tight log, seam-side down.

Using a sharp knife, trim off the uneven edges. Slice the log in half, and cut each half in half again. Then slice those four portions into thirds, which will leave you with 12 equal pieces.

Pour prepared pecan topping into a nine-inch square pan. Nestle the cut rolls over the topping. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest while the oven preheats, about 20 minutes.

Position the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Uncover the rolls and bake for 30 to 32 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

While the rolls are still warm, run a butter knife around the edges of the pan and invert the entire pan onto a large serving platter. Scrape any nuts or caramel that remain in the pan on top of the rolls.

Serve warm.


Calories: 420; Total Fat: 24g; Saturated Fat: 12g; Cholesterol: 65mg; Sodium: 130mg; Carbohydrates: 48g; Dietary Fibre: 2g; Sugar: 23g; Protein: 5g.