Jonathan Brooks of Milktooth bakes these extreme pecan sticky buns (the recipe comes from his pastry chef, Zoë Taylor) atop a caramel sauce made with coconut milk, ale, coffee, and barley malt syrup—the bitterness of the sauce balances the sweet buns.
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For the Coffee–Coconut Caramel
- 2 1⁄2 cups coconut milk
- 2 1⁄4 cups light ale
- 2 cups (14 1/2 oz.) packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup brewed coffee
- 1 1⁄2 tbsp. barley malt syrup
- 1 1⁄2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp. kosher salt
- 3 sprigs sage
For the Buns
- 1⁄4 cup whole milk, warmed to 105º
- 1 tbsp. active dry yeast
- 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus 4 tbsp. melted
- 3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
- 3 1⁄4 cups cups (14 3/4 oz.) all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2 cup (3 1/2 oz.) sugar
- 3 tbsp. vital wheat gluten
- 2 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
- 2⁄3 cup (5 1/2 oz.) light brown sugar
- 3 tbsp. whiskey
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1⁄2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1⁄4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1⁄2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
Make the caramel: In a large saucepan, combine the coconut milk with the ale, brown sugar, coffee, malt syrup, and vanilla bean and seeds, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces to a dark caramel, about 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, whisk in the cream, salt, and sage, and let cool. Remove the sage sprigs from the caramel, rinse in water, and reserve the leaves; discard the stems and vanilla beans.
Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, stir the milk with the yeast and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the melted butter and eggs. Then add the flour, sugar, wheat gluten, and 1 1⁄2 tsp. salt and mix on low speed until the dough comes together. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar with the softened butter, whiskey, 1 tsp. salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla seeds, and orange zest and beat with a wooden spoon until well combined, fluffy, and smooth.
Uncover the dough, scrape it onto a floured work surface, and, using a rolling pin, flatten into a 14-inch square. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1⁄2-inch border along the side farthest from you. Sprinkle the filling with the pecans and, starting with the side of the dough closest to you, roll up the square into a tight log. Trim the ends and cut the log into 8 large rolls. Pour 2 cups of the caramel in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or 12-inch cake pan and arrange the rolls on top of the caramel, spaced evenly apart. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
Heat the oven to 350°. Uncover the rolls and let stand for 30 minutes to come to room temperature. Scatter the reserved sage leaves over the rolls and bake until the rolls are golden brown on top, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack, let cool for 5 minutes, and serve the rolls warm with their caramel spooned over top.