Caramel-Pecan Sticky Rolls

IMG_1515We’re back home at last! For just over a week, we were snuggly abiding in a little cabin tucked into the wooded hills and rocky gorges of Ohio’s Hocking Hills. Surrounded by beautiful scenery, quiet, and more free time than we’d had in recent memory, it didn’t take much effort to unwind and feel right at home. But — as I’ve always felt — you know you’ve had a great vacation when you start having secret longings for the familiarity of home just before time to pack up and head for home. So, though it meant saying goodbye to our cozy cabin, we were happy when our tires pulled into our parking spot, we turned the key, and were greeted by two very excited kitties.

As a part of our autumnal getaway in the hills and woods, I’d planned a very full menu for most of our stay. I’d insisted that our cabin have a full kitchen for this very reason! For some, the idea of cooking every single day during a vacation would totally negate the notion of vacationing. For me, it was an enhancement of the vacation experience. While most weeks find me too busy to simply pull recipes IMG_1521willy-nilly from my files to prepare (especially breakfast recipes), our vacation afforded me an opportunity to really tie on my apron and cook to my heart’s content.

Cooking also made our vacation a little less expensive since we weren’t eating out nearly as frequently (even “fancy” recipes cost less than a meal at a decent restaurant). Plus, our cabin happened to be located in an area that was not exploding with exciting, nearby dining options. I wanted to be sure that we were eating good, hearty, celebratory meals without throwing caution to the wind!

As you might imagine, planning that many meals and cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen does present quite a few challenges. On the evening before we embarked on our voyage, I spent more time than I care to admit lining up recipes, adding up ingredient quantities, creating a giant list, and then creating an actual grocery list of things we’d need to buy from the grocery store on the way. This, of course, doesn’t include the host of staple ingredients, herbs & spices, mixing bowls, baking pans, and other utensils that I rightly assumed would not be included in our cabin’s kitchen. Needless to say, we had a lot to load into the car!


We arrived at the cabin late on a Thursday afternoon and had dinner out. On Friday, I wanted our first breakfast to be easy, so I made an experimental version of a seasonal baked oatmeal (more on that in a later entry). On Saturday, since we were also entertaining a little company over the weekend (James’ sister — who lives a few hours away — came to spend the weekend with us along with two other friends from nearby), I decided to pull out a recipe that I’d only been able to make once before but it was a fast favorite: Caramel-Pecan Sticky Rolls.


The recipe comes from Cooking Light’s glory days; the servings are not meager and the taste does not suggest “diet food”. The only problem with the recipe, however, is the length of time required from start to finish: a little over three hours. I’ve not tried it, but I’d be willing to bet that a good shortcut IMG_1583would be to prepare the dough the night before — putting the dough, wrapped tightly, into the refrigerator after the first 45-minute rise and punch-down. This way, you could save yourself 1.5 hours by only needing to roll out the dough, fill, slice, and let it rise for 30 minutes before baking. Yep, I’m going to try that the next time!

I’ve made a few adjustments to the recipe technique to streamline the process. One major adjustment was adding pecans to the filling. My opinion is that — if you’re going to put “pecan” in the title of a recipe — you should at least have an abundance of pecans! With my adjustments, the recipe can still be considered lighter fare — coming in at approximately 285 calories per serving and 9 grams of fat (4 grams saturated); they’re way better for you than something out of a can or from the food court.

Caramel-Pecan Sticky Rolls
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 12

    1 cup warm low-fat milk (100° to 110°)
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (1 standard packet)
    1/2 cup egg substitute
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    4 cups all-purpose flour, divided

    3/4 cup sucanat or dark brown sugar
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    2 tablespoons hot water
    1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted

    2/3 cup granulated sugar
    1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
    1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

    In a large bowl, combine the warm milk, granulated sugar, and yeast; stir to dissolve yeast and sugar. Cover bowl and place in a warm, draft-free location for 7-10 minutes or until foamy and fragrant.

    To the proofed yeast mixture, add egg substitute, salt, and melted butter; stir until well combined.

    Continuing to stir, add 3 3/4 cups flour to yeast mixture; stirring until smooth and dough begins to leave sides of the bowl (add more flour if needed). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (note: this dough will feel slightly soft and tacky compared to typical bread dough).

    Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray; turn to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free location, 45 minutes. Punch dough down and turn over in bowl; lightly coat with cooking spray, again. Cover and let rise for an additional 45 minutes.

    Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: combine sucanat, melted butter, and hot water in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Scrape sugar mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking pan coated with cooking spray; spread evenly with a spatula to line the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle evenly with pecans, and set aside.

    Punch down the risen dough; cover and let rest 5 minutes.

    While dough is resting, combine 2/3 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt, and finely chopped pecans in a small bowl. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; pat or roll into a 16 x 12–inch rectangle. Brush surface of dough with melted butter leaving a 1/4-inch border on the long sides. Sprinkle sugar-pecan mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border on long sides. Beginning with a long side, carefully roll up dough jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal (only pinch the long seam, not the ends). Cut roll into 15 slices (approximately 1 inch wide). Arrange slices, cut sides up, atop the prepared sauce. Lightly coat rolls with cooking spray; cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free location, 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

    While rolls are rising, preheat oven to 350-degrees.

    Bake rolls uncovered at 350° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Let stand 1 minute; carefully invert onto serving platter.

You probably notice that these are not exactly like traditional cinnamon rolls since there’s no white, sugary glaze. Instead, the sauce bakes along with the rolls, turning into a pecan-infused, caramelized syrup that oozes over the rolls with abandon when you flip the pan over before serving.

Don’t need 12 rolls? Don’t despair! If you wrap them individually in plastic wrap and then store in a gallon-size zipper bag, they freeze remarkably well. Reheating takes only about 10-20 seconds in the microwave and they’re just like fresh-baked! We’ve kept them in the freezer for up to four months with no change in freshness. If you plan to eat all of them within two days, however, you can keep them covered in the fridge and reheat them in the microwave.

To round out this sweet-toothy breakfast, I decided to serve the rolls accompanied by a savory Irish Omelet and freshly ground coffee. If you’re interested in making this simple, customizable omelet, here’s the recipe:

Irish Omelet
Serves 3

    4 ounces maple breakfast sausage
    1 1/2 cups egg whites, lightly beaten (or egg substitute)
    1 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
    1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
    1/4 teaspoon onion powder (salt-free)
    1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (salt-free)
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black and white peppercorns*
    kosher salt (to taste)
    1 1/2 ounces Dubliner cheese, sliced or shredded

    In a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, brown and crumble the breakfast sausage. Drain and remove cooked sausage.

    Coat skillet with cooking spray and return to heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg whites, sage, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, and salt.

    Pour the egg mixture into the preheated skillet. Swirl the eggs around to the edges by lifting and turning the skillet; using a spatula, lift the cooked eggs and allow uncooked eggs to flow underneath. When eggs are nearly set, spread the crumbled sausage over half of the skillet; cover sausage with sliced or shredded cheese. Using spatula, turn the un-topped half over the topped half; heat for an additional minute to melt cheese thoroughly.

    Slice into three wedges; serve immediately. *I use a 50/50 mix of black and white peppercorns in my pepper grinder. If you are unable to find white peppercorns, you can use half ground black pepper and half ground white pepper, or simply use all black.

Sipping coffee, munching on homemade sticky rolls (I had one-and-a-half, thank you!), staring out at blazing leaves flickering in the crisp morning’s autumn breeze… it may’ve required getting up at 5am, but I still say it was worth it!


~ by Jason on November 2, 2010.

4 Responses to “Caramel-Pecan Sticky Rolls”

  1. Oh yum! And welcome home. I really miss you guys! I feels like years since I’ve seen you.

  2. Hi Jason,
    Wonderful and so appetizing. Going to try this tomorrow.
    Keep up the wonderful work.
    What is Dubliner cheese or is it similar to something easier to find?
    Thanks again so much,
    Valerie deaton

    • Hi Valerie. Dubliner is an White Cheddar-type cheese from Ireland that’s becoming more and more common in supermarkets in the US. I’ve seen it in almost any supermarket chain, but they don’t seem to agree on where to PUT it. In a lot of chains, it’s put in the “specialty cheese” case along with other “fancy” cheeses, though it’s not really that expensive, just imported. If you can’t find it, you could use any aged white cheddar.

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