Apple Butter Sticky Buns

Eating in moderation, using local and organic ingredients wherever possible, is a motto I generally try to adhere to. However, I must admit that I consider the December holiday season to be a special time-out period. It seems almost obligatory to over-indulge, let the extra calories fall where they may, and deal with the consequences in January. I had my CFA study material in hand, and couldn’t bare another minute of getting ready for finals. I needed to treat myself! So I thought, “sticky buns anyone!?” and came up with one of my favorite recipes to this day.

apple-butter-sticky-buns-360During my childhood, my dear departed German-American grandmother, Lydia, would always stay with my family during the Christmas holiday season. She was not generally known for her cooking skills, but she had a magic touch when it came to sticky buns. We kids, whose typical idea of December holiday fun here in balmy Florida was to run wild outdoors, found reasons to play inside when Grandma was baking these buns. After all, might she not need our crucial help monitoring the baking process and removing the pan from the oven? Singed fingers and lips seemed a small price to pay for eating these, straight from the oven.

This recipe provides instructions for home made brown dough, which I use. However, if you prefer, you may substitute prepared frozen bread dough. Simply thaw the dough according to the package instructions and begin with Step 2 below.

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple or Karo syrup
1 tablespoon apple cider, apple brandy, or apple juice
1 cup pecans

2 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup apple butter
1/4 – 1/2 cup brown sugar (depending on the sweetness of your apple butter)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
(optional) 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins


Prepare the dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine water and yeast and set aside for approximately 2 minutes until the yeast is fully dissolved. Add 3 tablespoons sugar, salt, oil, and 2 cups flour. Beat with a beater attachment for 2 minutes until smooth. Add remaining flour and, using a bread hook attachment, mix for approximately 5 additional minutes until the dough forms a smooth, elastic ball. Turn the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with a tea towel, and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in bulk.

apple-butter-sticky-buns-insert2 apple-butter-sticky-buns-insert3

Prepare the glaze: Lightly oil a 10″ x 13″ baking pan. In a small sauce pan on a medium-heat burner, combine the first four ingredients of the glaze and stir until melted. Pour into the baking pan and sprinkle evenly with the pecans.

Transfer the dough to a smooth work surface lightly dusted with flour and knead a few times. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a thin 12″ x 18″ rectangle. Dot the dough with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Spread the apple butter evenly over the dough surface and sprinkle with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and optional cranberries or raisins, if used. Starting with the wide edge of the dough, roll it up tightly, jelly roll fashion, and cut across the roll into 15 equal slices. Place each slice, cut side down, on the glaze in the prepared baking pan, as shown in the above photo. Cover the pan with a tea towel and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until the rolls have almost doubled in bulk.

Set the pan on the middle rack of a cold oven, set the oven temperature to 350 degrees F., and bake for approximately 40-50 minutes or until the buns are lightly browned. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately (important!) flip the pan over onto a baking sheet or platter to cool.