Here’s the thing: these are crazy delicious. Too good to eat on a regular basis. I’m not going to lie and say you should make these all the time; you absolutely, positively should not. Save that for slightly more healthy things, like cranberry orange muffins. These maybe fall into the category of “whoa: get these away from me, I’m going to gain 5 pounds just looking at these big, beautiful, dripping-with caramel buns.” So, special occasion breakfasts then. Proceed with caution.
These started out as perfectly wonderful caramel pecan rolls. I have never been able to work my way up to making a proper cinnamon roll. I’ll get around to it eventually, I’m certain; I just get inordinately nervous when it comes to yeast bread things. So until that day comes, these are my stand-in. And a tried-and-true one, at that. I’ve made the straight caramel/pecan version maybe six different times now, and they go over like gangbusters at brunches and breakfasts.
Why these buns are absurd:
- the heaping tablespoon of whipped butter/brown sugar mixture on each one. and, ahem, that’s just the topping.
- the muffin tins makes them come out perfectly, like individual bites of heaven. you get the caramel-y, toothsome crisp on the outer edge and the gooey soft caramel inside. all at the same time.
- the puff pastry gives them a less poofy, more flaky taste…sort of like you tried drowning a really great croissant in butter and caramel and dealt it a death-blow by smothering it with pecans.
- the blueberries take it to a whole other realm of inner gooeyness, and the fruit is a great, slightly tart balance to the roll’s sweetness.
Bonus points: these rolls are fantastic the first day, but even more fantastic the second day. Which means, happy holidays YOU, you can make these a day in advance and just warm and serve the next morning. And people will fall over with happiness and think you’re a saint for getting up so early to make them such a sumptuous and indulgent breakfast.
I would imagine you can make these with fresh blueberries just as easily as I did with frozen. it’s december, and my stock of frozen blueberries from this summer has run out, so I used good quality frozen ones. I fully intend to try them with fresh once summer rolls around again. I have also tried these, minus the blueberries and adding the zest of an orange or two, and that turned out nicely as well. At some point, I would love to try these with dried cranberries to see how it goes.
The only word of caution I give you is to please check on these babies towards the end of their cooking time. there is almost nothing worse smelling or tasting than scorched caramel, and your buns will be inedible. Making these with blueberries lengthened their cooking time a few minutes, but not much. My rule of thumb (and my oven cooks slightly hot) is:
Caramel and pecans only: 20-25 minutes, checking at the 20 minute mark and then watching them through the remainder of the cooking time.
Caramel, pecans and blueberries: 25-30 minutes, checking at the 25-minute mark and then watching them through the remainder of the cooking time.
It’s a small amount of tail-end effort for majestic results.
Blueberry Pecan Sticky Buns
for the topping:
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
- 1 package (17.3-ounces/ 2-sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
and the filling:
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries, drained in a colander (just to get some of the excess liquid off), or use fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked through for any errant stems
- confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (i know, as if you needed more sugar here.) optional.
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Seriously: these babies will leak on the muffin pan and will most likely leak onto this sheet pan, and it’s much easier to clean it off that than the bottom of your oven.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.
Lightly flour a wooden board countertop surface. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, and 3/4 cup of the blueberries. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down. Trim the ends of the roll about 1/2-inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.
Bake for 20-30 (depending on your choice of filling, see note above) minutes, until the sticky buns are golden brown on top and firm to the touch. Be careful – they’re hot and they will hurt you. Allow to cool for 5 minutes (without blueberry version) or around 8-10 minutes (with berries) only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon) and cool completely. OR: when they have blueberries in them, I like to sit a piece of parchment on top of the buns, then put a baking sheet on top of that and, gripping firmly onto both muffin tin and baking sheet, flip over. that way they’re not falling and they are much less likely to lose their shape.
Truly: don’t wait too long to unleash these from their muffin tin home, or they’ll start to attach themselves and you’ll have problems. Like you’ll have to eat them directly from the muffin tin and, although delicious, it will be really embarrassing.