There was a lot of bread baking this year. Witness the disappearing flour and yeast off grocery store shelves, the uptick in sourdough. I’ve lost track of how many practical loaves I made in 2020 for all those lunches I’ve been eating at home, but sometimes it’s nice to mix in a purely celebratory bake.

That’s where these Sticky Pecan Rolls come in. It was one of the featured recipes in our Baking Basics newsletter by food blogger and cookbook author Joy “the Baker” Wilson. And, yes, you can still sign up for that newsletter free any time.

In addition to being a real treat, this recipe is good for bakers who have yet to build up a lot of confidence in their bread skills. With a couple of teaspoons of instant yeast, there will be no suspense over whether the dough will rise. (Just make sure the yeast is relatively fresh or has been stored for safekeeping in the freezer.) This is an enriched dough, meaning it includes butter, sugar and eggs. That, in turn, means the dough is forgiving — it’s easy to roll out without sticking or snapping back into place, and there’s little risk of it drying out in baking. It’s rich, tender and tasty.

Joy writes an airtight recipe, so you can feel confident in your ability to nail it the first time. Here are a few additional tips to guarantee success.

  • If, like mine, your kitchen runs cold in the winter, you may want to create a cozy spot to let the dough rise. I do this by putting the dough in the turned-off oven with a pan of just-boiled water. A microwave also can serve this purpose. Just make sure everyone knows your dough is proofing in there — a sticky note on the outside is never a bad idea. I track the progress of my dough by wrapping a rubber band around my container or bowl. A piece of tape or even a line drawn with a dry-erase marker works, as long as it helps you confirm whether the dough has indeed doubled.
  • A knife is fine for cutting the individual rolls, but if your knife is less than sharp or you’re worried about crushing the rolled-up dough, there’s another option. Grab unflavored dental floss! Cut a piece about six inches and slide it under the log. Then wrap it around the top, pulling the edges in opposite directions as if you were about to tie a knot. (See the photos in this King Arthur Baking post for a visual aid.) The floss should cut neatly through the dough. I’ve also used kitchen twine, though the cuts are slightly less crisp, not that you can tell once the baking is done.
  • If you want a fresh-baked batch of rolls when you wake up, proceed with the recipe through the step when you place the cut rolls into the pan with the sauce. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, let the rolls come to room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes while you preheat the oven. Then bake as directed.
  • Nut allergies? No problem. It’s easy enough to leave out the pecans or switch to a suitable nut.

Feeling ready? Great. Pull a batch of these out of the oven on Christmas morning — or any other morning— for a special way to start the day.

Scale and get a printer-friendly, desktop version of the recipe here.


For the dough

  • 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • Scant 3 cups (360 grams) flour, plus more for dusting the counter
  • ½ cup (120 milliliters) whole milk, at room temperature, or more as needed
  • ⅓ cup (65 grams) lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into medium chunks

For the filling

  • ½ cup (99 grams) lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the topping

  • ½ cup (120 milliliters) heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup (113 grams) honey
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1¼ cups (125 grams) coarsely chopped pecans

Step 1

Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the yeast with the warm water until combined. Add the flour, milk, brown sugar, egg, vanilla and salt. Using a silicone spatula, stir the mixture into a shaggy dough.

Step 2

Place the bowl on the stand mixer and mix on low speed, slowly adding chunks of butter as the dough comes together. If the dough looks too dry, add an additional tablespoon of milk.

Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead the dough until it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 4 minutes.

Step 3

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand into a cohesive, relatively smooth ball, about 3 minutes.

Step 4

Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.

Step 5

Make the filling: While the dough rises, in a medium bowl stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt until combined. Reserve the room-temperature butter for use in assembling the sticky rolls.

Step 6

Make the topping: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, honey, butter and salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer gently until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the pecans.

Step 7

Generously flour a work surface and unwrap the dough onto it. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 15 inches. Spread the reserved butter over the dough and sprinkle the filling mixture on top.

Starting with the long edge of the dough, lift and roll it into a tight log, seam-side down.

Using a sharp knife, trim off the uneven edges. Slice the log in half, and cut each half in half again. Then slice those four portions into thirds, which will leave you with 12 equal pieces.

Step 8

Pour the prepared pecan topping into a 9-inch square pan. Nestle the cut rolls over the topping. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest while the oven preheats, about 20 minutes. (To store overnight, skip the 20-minute rest, cover the rolls with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator overnight. Let come to room temperature before baking.)

Step 9

Position the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Step 10

Uncover the rolls and bake for 30 to 32 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. While the rolls are still warm, run a butter knife around the edges of the pan and invert the entire pan onto a large serving platter. Scrape any nuts or caramel that remain in the pan on top of the rolls. Serve warm.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 420; Total Fat: 24 g; Saturated Fat: 12 g; Cholesterol: 65 mg; Sodium: 130 mg; Carbohydrates: 48 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 23 g; Protein: 5 g.

From food blogger and cookbook author Joy Wilson.

Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to

Scale and get a printer-friendly, desktop version of the recipe here.

Did you make this recipe? Take a photo and tag us on Instagram with #eatvoraciously.