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This year, I asked Rob what he would like for his birthday breakfast, choosing from any treat in the world. Without hesitation, he responded, “sticky buns”. I immediately thought of Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), who seems to always have the most perfect recipes for decadent brunch treats. To my surprise, I could only find reference to an amazing older recipe, along with a newer “easy” version employing frozen puff pastry. Well, I’m sorry. Her sticky pecan topping may have looked perfect, but this was no time for shortcuts.
Next stop, Smitten Kitchen. If anyone would have found a deliciously sweet breakfast treat and perfected it, it would be here. Right? Well, turns out Smitten is more of a cinnamon swirly bun type of gal. You know the ones…spiral buns with cinnamon and raisins in between the layers, frosting on top. Close, but not the upside-down gooey, nutty, caramelly jobs that I was aiming for.
Time to improvise. Could I combine Ina’s luxuriously sticky topping with Smitten’s homemade dough? Worst case scenario, it’s only somewhat amazing, and I make another batch. Or some eggs to wash them down.
Most Amazing Upside-down Pecan Raisin Sticky Buns
Start with Smitten’s dough recipe for Cinnamon Swirl Buns.
While rising, prepare Ina’s topping. Combine 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature with 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed until smooth (she recommends a stand mixer with paddle attachment, which I did). Measure out 1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces. Distribute the butter/sugar mixture evenly among 12 muffin cups and top each butter mound with the pecans.
Press down dough. Transfer to a floured work surface and roll out to a rectangle (this is where my instructions start to get a little loosey goosey), about 12″ x 15″. Brush the dough with melted butter (a couple of tablespoons should do it). Sprinkle about 1/2 cup brown sugar and a few teaspoons of cinnamon, then about a cup of raisins over the dough. Starting at the longer side, roll dough into a log. (Note: this is where I refrigerated mine the night before. In this case, the second rise takes a little longer).
With seam side down, trim the ends off if needed. Cut the log crosswise into 12 equal slices (about 1″ wide each). Place one spiral in each muffin tin, then cover with a towel and let rise once more until the dough is nice and soft (one hour; two if you refrigerate after the first rise). They will be bulging out of the muffin tin at this point and you’ll wonder how on Earth they will keep from exploding all over the inside of your oven, but fear not. I suppose you could try putting them into one big pan if you like. Say, they might even come out lighter and more delicious that way. Round two?
Anyway, once they’ve risen for a while in a nice warm spot, bake them off for about 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. I recommend a lined baking sheet on the rack below to catch the butter drippings (I never said these were good for you).
Allow them to cool for a few minutes in the tins before turning them out onto a platter. You do have to scoop out the extra nuts and gooey bits, but that’s not such a bad problem to have. Plan on having a crowd at the ready to eat these when they’re warm and fresh (or at least one other person).