Chocolate Pecan Praline Sticky Buns
I’m of the opinion sticky buns deserve better than a chalky, white, achingly-sweet glaze.
In my world, this beauty is the mother of all sticky buns, with its thick swirls of chocolate ganache dotted with dark and milk chocolate pieces.
The base is a brioche dough, which bakes up golden, buttery and pillowy soft
In the oven, the sticky buns float in a hot, bubbly pecan-and-honey-caramel bath. The result? When unmolded, the buns are enveloped in a caramel glaze that thickens and sets as the buns cool, the caramelized pecans clinging to the tops and sides of the bread.
Basically, this bun is a chocolate pecan pie disguised as a breakfast pastry. I am not alone in thinking the concept is kind of spectacular, as it’s inspired by several unconventional sticky bun recipes from two of my favorite cookbook authors: Rose Levy Beranbaum and Dorie Greenspan.
Trust me, you don’t want to be left alone with these babies. Plan to share them with friends, neighbors or coworkers, but you may want to heed Beranbaum’s advice, “Don’t serve these for breakfast. It’s too early in the day to have everyone swooning to the floor.”
CHOCOLATE PECAN PRALINE STICKY BUNS
I’ve had some failed attempts at brioche in the past — one particularly bad batch was confirmed when a dinner guest told me he “really liked the corn bread!” Greenspan’s brioche recipe worked brilliantly the first time, and I will be using it again — for sticky buns, individual rolls and whole loaves. You’ll only need half of the brioche for the sticky buns, but trust me, you’ll be glad to have the extra dough for another use.
Several friends commented the sticky buns weren’t as sweet as they expected them to be. I take that as a compliment, although I personally find the caramel glaze to be plenty sweet. The chocolate adds a nice depth of flavor. I think you’ll find these to be rich yet understated compared to your average sticky bun.
I did make a few changes to Beranbaum’s chocolate filling. I doubled the chocolate ganache and swapped out chocolate chips for bars of quality chocolate that I chopped myself. The chocolate used to make chocolate chips is allegedly the lowest quality of chocolate you can purchase. Bottom of the barrel, people. So buy the good stuff. Let’s do this thing right.
For The Brioche
2 packets active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1/3 cup lukewarm whole milk
3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm
For The Chocolate Ganache Filling
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 large egg whites
3.5 ounces milk chocolate, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
3.5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
For The Glaze
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
¼ cup honey
1 ½ cups whole pecans
Make The Brioche: In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast, water and milk and stir with a wooden spoon until the yeast is dissolved. Fit the mixer with a dough hook. Add the flour and salt and mix on low for 1 minute, then mix on medium speed for 2 minutes until the dough is evenly moistened. At this point, it will be very dry.
Scrape the bowl and add the eggs and sugar, mixing on medium for approximately 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon chunks, mixing each addition until the butter is evenly distributed. Once all the butter is added, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to another bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, approximately one hour. Deflate the dough by lifting the dough up around the edges and letting it collapse in the middle. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Deflate the dough every 30 minutes until it stops rising, approximately 2 hours. Leave the covered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight – or if you’re making it during the day, 8 hours should do the job.
When you’re ready to make the sticky buns, divide the dough in half, covering the unused dough in plastic wrap and returning to the refrigerator until ready to use.
* To make a brioche loaf with the remaining dough, see special instructions following the sticky buns recipe.
Prepare The Pans: The original recipe calls for a 9x13-inch baking pan but I found I needed more space, so I used an 11 ½ x 8-inch baking pan AND a square 8 ¼-inch x 8 ¼-inch glass pan. You could start with the 9x13-inch pan and use a second if you need it. Whatever you use, make sure you butter the pan(s) generously.
Make The Chocolate Filling: Melt the chocolate and cream together in a double boiler – or microwave the chocolate and cream 15 seconds at a time until melted. Remove from heat, add the corn syrup and stir until well combined. Gently stir in the egg white until fully incorporated. Set aside.
Make The Glaze: In a saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter and honey to a low boil over medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the glaze evenly into the buttered pan(s). Sprinkle the pecans evenly on top.
Assemble The Sticky Buns: On a flour-dusted surface, roll the chilled dough into a 15-inch square. Spread the chocolate ganache filling evenly over the dough, leaving a ½-inch strip bare on the ends. Sprinkle the chocolate pieces evenly over the ganache. Roll the dough evenly and snugly into a cylinder. Trim the ragged ends of the cylinder and, with a serrated knife, gently cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. You should have 12-15 buns depending on how exact your “inch-sized” buns are. I always get around a dozen even though the recipe says you will have 15. Place the buns cut side down in the glaze-filled pans. Cover with parchment paper and let rise for two hours or until doubled in volume.
Bake The Sticky Buns: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the parchment paper from the tops of the pan(s) and place the pan(s) on a baking sheet. Bake the buns for approximately 30 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove the pans from the oven. Let cool for 3 minutes. Carefully unmold the buns with a spatula onto a large plate or baking pan. The glaze will still be hot, so again, be careful. I like to spoon any remaining glaze in the pan as well as the extra pecans onto the buns.
The sticky buns are wonderful served warm. I keep mine covered with plastic wrap at room temperature up to 24 hours. Beyond that, you’ll have to do your own research — mine are always gobbled up within a day.
* Making A Brioche Loaf: If you want to use the remaining half of the brioche dough to make a loaf, butter one 8 ½ x 4 ½-inch loaf pan. Cut the dough into four equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 ½ inches long. Arrange the 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of the pan. Put the pan on a baking sheet and cover with parchment paper. Let the loaf rise at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pan, 1 to 2 hours depending on how warm the room is. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Beat ½ egg with 1/2 tablespoon of water and brush the top of the loaf with the glaze. Bake the loaf until it has risen and is golden, approximately 30 minutes. Let the pan cool for 15 minutes, run a knife around the edges and invert the loaf onto a rack. Let cool for one hour.