Recipe by Joan Nathan

Ann Arbor Schnecken (Pecan Sticky Buns)

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Dairy Dairy
Easy Easy
12 Servings

The baker Frank Carollo also tasted the pecan rolls from Drake’s when he was a student at Michigan. He later became co–managing partner at the Bakehouse, the second business in the Zingerman’s empire. Frank learned to make pecan rolls, as did I, from Michael London of Mrs. London’s Bakeshop in Saratoga Springs, New York. Michael learned about these schnecken (their German and Yiddish name) from the greatest of teachers, the late William Greenberg of William Greenberg Desserts in New York. Whenever I make these pecan sticky buns, cutting them into two circles and grilling them with butter, I remember the taste, and the carefree years at my alma mater.

The buns reheat well from room temperature (even if they’ve been frozen). Make them over two days; the dough is very soft, but that’s not a mistake.

Makes 12 sticky buns


For the Dough

  • 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) whole milk, at room temperature

  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast

  • 2 cups plus 6 tablespoons (320 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, such as Glicks, plus more for assembly

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick/113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar

  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

  • 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

For the Cinnamon Sugar Filling

  • pinch of sea salt

For the Topping

  • 1 cup (2 sticks/226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) packed muscovado or Haddar Dark-Brown Sugar

  • 3/4 cup (255 grams) good-quality honey, such as Gefen

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 2 cups (240 grams) chopped pecans

  • unsalted butter, melted, for brushing


To Make the Dough


Combine the milk, yeast, and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix for a minute at low speed. Then add the butter, sugar, and salt, increase the speed to medium, and beat for another minute, until the mixture is creamy, scraping down as needed. Now add the whole egg and egg yolk, mix until they’re incorporated, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. The dough will be sticky. Scrape it onto a sheet of plastic wrap, cover, and refrigerate it overnight (or for at least six hours).

To Make the Filling


Mix the sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.

To Make the Topping


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and line a baking sheet with Gefen Parchment Paper.


Beat the butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy, then mix in the honey and salt.


Toast the pecans on the prepared baking sheet at 325 degrees for about 6 minutes, until fragrant. Spread the topping on the bottom of the baking dish, then spread the pecans evenly over that.

To Assemble and Bake


Unwrap the chilled dough, and put it on a floured surface. Dust the top with flour. Roll into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle that is about 1/4-inch thick. Brush off any excess flour from the top and bottom of the dough, then arrange it with the long edge facing you. (Since the dough is so soft, it may expand beyond the initial dimensions, but do your best to keep it contained.) Brush melted butter over the surface, then sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over almost the entire surface, leaving one inch bare along the top long edge.


Starting with the edge closest to you, roll up the dough, keeping it as snug as possible. Once it’s completely rolled, pinch the far edge into the log to make a seam. Roll the log so the seam is on the bottom, then cut it into twelve equal slices. Arrange all the slices on the sticky topping, putting four rolls lengthwise and three widthwise. Press the rolls down until they’re 3/4-inch thick. Put the pan on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet (in case of spillage), cover the rolls with plastic, and let them proof for one and a half to two hours, until they’ve risen by 50 percent.


Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the rolls for 30 to 35 minutes, until the buns are golden on top and the filling is bubbling below.


Cool for five minutes, then place a sheet tray or serving platter on top of the pan. Carefully and swiftly flip to invert the sticky buns onto the tray, then remove the pan. Let them cool for a few more minutes. Eat warm. (If necessary, reheat them from room temperature.)


From My Life in Recipes by Joan Nathan. Copyright © 2024 by Joan Nathan. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Photography by Gabriela Herman.

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Ann Arbor Schnecken (Pecan Sticky Buns)

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