These homemade sourdough sticky buns are as good as it gets! Made with active sourdough starter, the brioche dough makes the rolls incredibly soft and full of flavor from the butter. After a convenient overnight bulk fermentation, they’re nestled into an easy caramel sauce and baked, then served warm.
It takes a lot for me to say that something is “the best”.
But after taking my first bites of these warm sourdough sticky buns, with rich caramel and toasted pecans, I looked at Brian and said, “This is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my 36 years of living.” And I meant it.
Why They’re The Best Sourdough Sticky Buns (a.ka. Sourdough Caramel Rolls)
These sticky buns are NOT cloyingly, over the top sweet. Instead, you’ll taste the buttery dough, cinnamon swirls, brown sugar notes of the caramel, and the nuttiness of the pecans. ALL THE GOOD THINGS.
You don’t need a thermometer or corn syrup to make the homemade caramel. It’s an easy stovetop technique!
The dough is pillowy soft, yet stands up to the creamy caramel. The finished buns shred apart like cotton candy.
The bulk fermentation takes place overnight so you can bake these later in the morning for an epic brunch treat.
This recipe starts with a brioche dough (meaning it contains butter, egg, and milk) that’s nearly identical to my Dreamy Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, but with less sugar because of the caramel that enrobes the baked rolls.
You’ll need a stand mixer to knead the dough. Because it’s enriched, the stand mixer is essential to properly strengthen the dough. It does all the work for you!
Adding the softened butter in cubes comes last in the mixing process, and then the dough is ready to rest through its long bulk fermentation.
Around 3pm, feed your starter.
Around 9pm: Mix the dough, and let bulk ferment on the counter overnight, covered.
The next morning between 7-8am: Check your dough and ensure it is puffy and has grown double.
Put dough onto a liberally floured countertop, and let rest while you make the caramel, which gets poured into the pan you’ll bake the rolls in.
Let caramel cool in refrigerator on a hot pad.
Roll dough out to 1/4-1/2 inch thick, large rectangle roughly 17″x 12″.
Mix filling ingredients in a bowl then spread over the rectangle of dough keeping about a 1/2 inch away from all the edges.
Roll into a log and cut individual rolls. You’ll really want to have a bench scraper for rolling up the log, and cutting. It’s a game changer.
Around 9am: Nestle rolls into caramel in the baking pan.
They’ll rise for 3ish hours in a warm spot, until they’ve risen about double. Then BAKE!
Variations and Tips:
Nuts: If you don’t have or don’t prefer pecans, you could use cashews or walnuts instead.
How to know when the caramel rolls are done: Using a thermometer is most helpful for knowing when the buns are cooked all the way through. You’re shooting for a temperature of 200 degrees F.
Pan: This recipe can be made in a 9×13 or 7×11 baking pan.
How to Store Leftover Sticky Buns: These will keep covered at room temperature for up to 3 days. I personally like to wrap them in plastic wrap. Be sure to rewarm in the microwave for 15-20 seconds to return their texture to fresh baked!
Homemade sourdough sticky buns, also known as caramel rolls, that are soft, gooey, and absolutely incredible. Using active sourdough starter, these sticky buns go through an overnight bulk fermentation to make things easy.
Add flours to bowl of a stand mixer. Stir together.
Whisk egg, milk, and starter together in separate bowl until starter is no longer lumpy.
Attach hook to mixer, and turn on on speed 2 of your Kitchenaid, and gradually add liquid ingredients, until all dry bits are gone. When most of the flour is absorbed turn the mixer up one level to knead for 30 seconds. Mixture will not look smooth, just shaggy. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Turn mixer onto speed 2 (using Kitchenaid Stand Mixer) add sugar, salt, and one chunk of butter at a time to the dough, only adding another chunk once the previous is incorporated into the dough. Keep doing this until all the butter is added to the dough.
Once all the butter is in the dough, turn KitchenAid up to speed 4 and continue kneading for 8 minutes, until dough is smooth, and cleaning the sides of the bowl. It will be sticky to the touch.
Overnight rise: Once kneading is done, place the dough in a bowl and put bowl inside plastic shopping or garbage bag, or alternatively cover with a very damp cloth. Leave overnight on counter at room temp to rise until double and puffy, about 10 hours if your home is at 68-70 degrees F. It will take longer if your home is cooler, less time if your home is warmer so plan accordingly.
In the morning, check your dough. It should have doubled and be domed on top. Turn it out onto a heavily floured counter. Gently pat it into a rectangle shape and let rest with a linen over the top, while you make the caramel.
To make caramel, melt butter in a saucepan. Add remaining ingredients except pecans, and bring to a boil, whisking to help dissolve the brown sugar. Once it is at a boil, turn down to a simmer for 5 minutes, until caramel is nice and brown, glossy, and smells butterscotchy. Pour into a 9×13 pan, and sprinkle with 3/4 cup pecans. Set in refrigerator to cool for 15-20 minutes, propped on a cooling rack.
Using a floured rolling pin, roll your dough it into a large rectangle roughly 16″x 12. Brush the butter onto the dough, keeping 1/2" away from edges. Mix the remaining fillings ingredient together, then sprinkle evenly on top of the butter, keeping 1/2" away from edges.
After spreading the filling, use your bench scraper to help your hands begin tightly rolling up the dough into a log, starting with the long edge closest to you. Use a little extra flour on the bench scraper each time to help pick the dough up from the surface. Don’t worry if it sticks a little, just use a little more flour dust. Roll it to the top and pinch the bottom edge of the dough log to seal it.
You should have a long log of dough roughly 16-18″ long. Now cut the dough log with your bench scraper, at about 2 1/2 inch pieces” and set pieces into the pan with the caramel swirl side up, making sure the caramel has had 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator.
Place the pan inside a clean garbage bag and fold the opening over so that no air gets inside. Leave on counter, preferably a warm spot, to proof for 3ish hours so that the buns expand, puff up, and are touching each other. You can see photo of what they should look like above in post.
When the rolls are done proofing, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 35 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown at the edges and set in the middles. You can use a thermometer to test their interior, which should be at 205 degrees F.
Remove pan from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Then take parchment paper that is larger than your pan, and set on top of rolls. Place a large baking sheet on top of that. Then, using oven mittens slide your hands underneath the pan, and holding the top of the baking sheet and bottom of the baking pan, flip over so that the baking pan is now upside down. Using oven mitts, lift the baking pan off the rolls, jiggly it and patting top if needed, and your sticky buns will emerge! Scrape out all extra caramel in the pan and place on top of all rolls. Enjoy warm.
Caramel rolls will stay good in the refrigerator enclosed in a container, for 3 days. Reheat in microwave for 15 seconds.
*Bakers Schedule is listed above in post. *Caramel recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen.