Whether you’re craving a comforting fall morning breakfast or a sweet indulgence for dessert, these Apple Sticky Buns have got you covered.
While we often associate certain ingredients and recipes with specific seasons – such as pumpkin spice for fall and eggnog for winter – some are so delicious that they deserve a place on our tables all year round. Like these Apple Sticky Buns – a warm, sweet yeast pastry that combines tart Granny Smith apples, crunchy pecans, and warm spices.
Are they perfect right now for fall’s apple harvest? Yes, absolutely! Would I make them for a spring brunch? Also yes! I’m such a fan of this recipe, I plan to revisit it throughout the year. And since it can be prepped ahead and baked fresh the next day, it’s destined for our next family brunch.
Start with sweet yeast dough.
I made this on a stand mixer, but you could knead it by hand if you don’t have one. It’s pretty much your basic sweet dough recipe made with quick rising (instant) yeast. Knead the dough 7-10 minutes, either by hand or by mixer fitted with the dough hook. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover. Let it rise in a warm place until doubled.
Shred some apples.
Meanwhile, break down the apples. You’ll need 4 cups, which is about 6 medium or 8 small Granny Smith apples. You can shred them on a box grater, or, like me, you can use the matchstick blade on your mandolin. You don’t even have to remove their skins – the apple peels will cook down well and the pieces are so small you won’t notice they’re there.
Make the glaze.
The secret in the ‘sticky’ sauce, which brings even more apple flavor, is apple juice. Combined with brown sugar, it imparts a caramel apple flavor. Put it in a pot and boil until thickened and a little syrupy. Then add another layer of flavor: butter. It’s heaven I tell ya! This sticky bun glaze uses no corn syrup, which is the usual ingredient that makes sticky buns ‘sticky’. Now, I’m not a purist. I don’t mind a little corn syrup in a recipe, but it’s nice when you can get good results without it.
Reserve 3 tablespoons of the glaze mixture in a small condiment cup; cover and set aside. Then pour the rest of the glaze into a lined 13×9 baking pan and sprinkle with pecans. Set aside while you make the filling and assemble the buns.
Prep the apple filling.
Remember those 3 tablespoons of reserved glaze? It goes in the filling, too! So much good stuff in here – apple butter, cinnamon, ginger… Stir it all together until completely mixed. I used my mom’s homemade apple butter in this recipe and it was out of this world delish. No worries if you don’t have homemade – there are several good brands that are ready-made (Smucker’s Cracker Barrel).
Assemble the apple sticky buns.
Gently knock down the risen yeast dough and roll it to an approximate 16×12-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Cover the dough with the apple butter mixture, grated apples, and pecans. Leave a small border around the edges so it’s easy to roll up.
Roll the dough up from a long end, jelly roll style. I always have a little bit of dough that isn’t completely filled on both ends so I very conservatively trim both ends of the roll – and you can too. If you do this you’ll still have plenty enough to cut out all the buns.
Cut the roll into 12 even slices and lay the slices on top of the sauce/pecan mixture in the pan. We’re almost there!
Allow the buns to rise until puffy and nearly filling the pan. Look how pretty! (Can unbaked sticky buns be pretty? I think so.)
Bake them until golden brown on top, then turn them out onto a baking sheet or tray with a lip that is larger than 13×9. Definitely use a pan with an rim, edge, or a lip to catch any of the sticky sauce that runs off the pastry when it’s turned out.
Once out of the oven, these Apple Sticky Buns are best enjoyed fresh and warm. The aroma alone will draw you in! I couldn’t resist sprinkling a pinch of Maldon flake salt on top of the sticky buns. It’s not mentioned in the recipe, but if you have some on hand you should try it!
Serve these for a special breakfast or cap off the evening with a satisfying dessert. Believe it or not – these sticky buns aren’t overly sweet! Which makes them a versatile choice for any time of day.
Related recipe: Giant Sticky Bun
Apple Sticky Buns
- Rolling Pin
- 13×9 inch baking pan
- parchment paper
- serrated knife
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 1 whole egg
- 3/4 cup apple juice
- 1 cup light brown sugar packed
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup apple butter commercially prepared or homemade
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 4 cups unpeeled grated apple about 6 medium Granny Smith
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.
- Place the butter and milk in a small saucepan and cook until the butter melts over medium-high heat. Let cool to 110°F to 115°F. Pour the butter and milk mixture into the flour mixture. Add the egg. Stir together on the lowest speed until a ragged dough forms. Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead until elastic dough forms, about 7 minutes.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl and turn over to coat all sides of the dough. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray and cover the bowl. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, more or less depending on your room temperature.
- Line a 13×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
- Place the apple juice and brown sugar in a small nonstick saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until thickened and a little syrupy, about 6 minutes. Add the butter and stir until melted. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Remove three tablespoons of the sauce to a small condiment cup. Pour the rest of the sauce into the lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the sauce with the chopped pecans.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the apple butter, cinnamon and ginger.
- Stir in the reserved 3 tablespoons of sauce.
- Gently deflate the yeast dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out to an approximate 16×12-inch rectangle.
- Spread the apple butter mixture evenly over the dough leaving about a 1/2 inch plain border around the edge. Top with the shredded apples and then the chopped pecans. Beginning with the long edge closest to you, roll the dough up tightly, jelly roll style. Pinch seams closed to seal. With a serrated knife conservatively trim away any unfilled overlapping dough, (usually 1/2 to 1 inch of dough) on each end of the roll.
- Again, using the serrated knife, cut the roll into 12 even buns. Place them on top of the sauce/pecan mixture in the prepared pan. Cover the buns with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bake the buns until puffed and golden about 30-35 minutes. They should sound hollow when gently tapped. Let the buns cool in the pan 5 minutes.
- On a large baking sheet or serving tray with a rim, invert the buns onto the serving platter; peel away the parchment paper.
- Serve the buns warm. They have the best flavor and texture the same day they’re made. See recipe notes for make ahead instructions.