Pumpkin Sticky Buns with Pecan Bourbon Caramel Goodness

Growing up in my house, it was all about leftovers and Thanksgiving was the big kahuna. We ate turkey in various forms for what seemed like an eternity. Funny how we had plenty of leftover savory components, but never pumpkin pie. Fast forward to today, my pumpkin sticky buns have become legendary and will rock your world. Make them a new family tradition -- a show stopper for sure, but don't expect any leftovers!

Recipe courtesy Hedy Goldsmith
TOTAL TIME: 4 hr 20 min
Prep: 30 min
Inactive Prep: 3 hr 15 min
Cook: 35 min
 
YIELD: 16 to 18 buns
LEVEL: Intermediate

ingredients

STICKY BUNS:
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup warm whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 22 ounces solid pumpkin puree, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 5 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup as needed, plus more for flouring
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch cloves
  • 6 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
CARAMEL:
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup bourbon
  • 2 cups pecan halves, lightly toasted
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Directions

For the sticky buns: Melt the butter in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until it foams, about 5 minutes. As soon as it subsides and begins to have a nutty aroma, pull the saucepan immediately off the heat. The butter will burn quickly so be careful. Set aside to cool.

Begin making the sticky dough in a large mixing bowl by sprinkling the yeast over the warm water. Let the yeast sit until slightly foamy and creamy, 5 to 6 minutes.

Heat the milk and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat just until the sugar dissolves. Add the browned butter and set aside to cool.

Add the cooled milk mixture to the yeast and whisk to combine. Add 15 ounces of the pumpkin puree and the salt and mix with a spatula. The dough will become sticky. Start adding the flour, one cup at a time until you have added all the flour. Feel the dough and if its really soft, add an additional 1/4 cup flour. Mix the dough with your hands. While still in the bowl, keep folding the dough onto itself, 2 to 3 minutes.

Place the pumpkin dough in a larger lightly-oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic and allow the dough to rise until it's doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours depending on the temperature in your kitchen. I place my dough in the laundry room, it's the warmest place in my house.

When the dough has doubled in size, punch down the dough and either cover and chill the dough overnight or use it right away.

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt and cloves. Toss to mix and set aside.

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Remove one piece at a time while keeping the other half covered with plastic wrap.

Lightly flour a work surface. Shape the dough into a rectangle. Since the dough is super soft, you may need additional flour. Keep in mind too much flour will make the dough heavy and dry. Roll each piece of dough into a 12- by 18-inch rectangle. Brush off any excess flour. Spread half the softened butter on each rectangle of dough, leaving a 1-inch border across the top length of the dough, followed by the remaining 7 ounces pumpkin puree - it will be messy, thats ok - and then half the brown sugar mixture.

Starting with the wider edge, start rolling the dough from the bottom upwards. Roll this as tightly as you can. When you come up to the 1-inch border, slightly pinch it together. Once completed, set the first log on a baking pan and chill while rolling the remaining dough.

Repeat the steps with the remaining dough, making sure to chill each log in between. These logs can be chilled overnight or for 2 hours if you want to bake them the same day. These are much easier to cut when cold.

For the caramel: While the dough is chilling, place a small pan over low heat and melt the butter. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Increase the heat to medium and whisk until the sugar and syrup are dissolved, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, whisk in the bourbon. The caramel should look shiny. If not, put back on the heat for 1 minute.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray the muffin pans. Pour about 1 1/2 tablespoon of the warm caramel into each muffin mold. Drop 2 to 3 toasted pecan halves into the caramel. Set aside and allow the caramel to cool to room temperature. Set aside the extra caramel sauce and pecans.

Cut each log of buns into eight 1 1/2-inch slices. Round up the buns and fit them into pans, cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm spot until they double in size, about 30 minutes.

Bake the buns, 22 to 25 minutes. Its a bit hard to test for doneness due to the sticky (and yummy) caramel. I tend to slightly under-bake them by 1 to 2 minutes rather than over-bake. Carefully remove the buns from the oven and allow them to cool in the pan, 5 to 10 minutes.

Place a baking pan on top of the muffin pan and quickly invert. The buns should slowly unmold. Reheat 1 to 2 minutes if they are sticking.

Before serving, toss the remaining pecans with the caramel sauce and add spoonfuls over the tops. These are best eaten warm, not hot, out of the oven.

Cooks Note: Use extra-large muffin pans to bake perfectly shaped sticky buns.

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