Sticky buns made with homemade brioche and filled with a layer of pastry cream and brown sugar-bourbon-butter schmear are the perfect breakfast treat!
sticky buns

Between the half marathon and the marathon there’s one little endurance event milestone that you don’t often hear about even though it’s kind of a big deal.

The Sticky Bun.

The Thomas Keller Bouchon Bakery Sticky Bun, to be precise.


More akin to a triathlon, and certainly not for the faint of heart, it boasts such challenges as a sprint through brioche-ville, backstroke into pastry-cream-land and cycle right into brown-sugar-butter-bourbon-schmear-topia.


Never one to turn down an opportunity to fatigue my muscles in unprecedented ways, I, uh.

Kinda sorta signed us up.


Yes, US.

If I’m going down into the Sticky Bun abyss, you, my foodie friends, are coming with me. (Besties.For.Life.)

No hard feelings?


As with training for any endurance event, the key is in the planning.

The brioche requires an overnight stay in the fridge while the pastry cream only needs an hour, but do both the night before and you are vastly ahead of the game.

Other than that it’s a lot of hurry up and wait.

Wait for the buns to proof, then wait for them to bake and perfume your apartment with their heavenly scent, and then wait for them to cool before eating.

Though, there are times to play by the rules and there are times to, well, not. And I absolutely positively won’t tell if you totally ignore that last step and dive in headfirst.

So. On your mark, get set.

Let’s do this.


One year ago…Tofu and Sweet Potato Shawarma on Sesame Flatbreads with Homemade Pickles

Two years ago…Roasted Pumpkin Quiche with Caramelized Onions, Gorgonzola and Sage, Maple-Miso Glazed Tofu with Broccoli and Winter Squash

Three years ago…Pork Schnitzel with a Roasted Potato and Brussels Sprout Salad

Four years ago…Macaroni and Cheese with Mushrooms

Sticky Buns
Sticky buns made with homemade brioche and filled with a layer of pastry cream and brown sugar-bourbon-butter schmear are the perfect breakfast treat!
Yield: 12 sticky buns
For the brioche
  • 263 g all purpose flour
  • 6 g instant yeast
  • 31 g sugar
  • 6 g fine sea salt
  • 132 g (about 3) eggs
  • 44 g whole milk
  • 118 g unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
For the pastry cream
  • 132 g egg yolks
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 110 g sugar
  • 83 g custard powder or all-purpose flour (I used Birds Custard Powder
  • 550 g whole milk
  • 27 g unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces, at room temperature
For the sticky buns
  • 255 g light brown sugar
  • 168 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 30 g honey
  • 5 g bourbon
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whole pecans
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  1. To make the brioche, place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix for about 15 seconds. Add the sugar, salt, eggs and milk. Mix on low speed for 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, incorporating each before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and gather all the dough into the center. Mix again on medium speed for 10 minutes.
  2. Place the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Pat the dough into a rectangle. It will stick to your fingers a bit, and that's okay. Stretch the left side of the dough up and out and fold it over two-thirds of the rest of the dough. Then repeat with the right side as if you were folding a letter. Repeat the process with both the top of the dough and then once again with the bottom of the dough. Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 1 hour.
  3. After the hour is up, repeat the patting, stretching and folding. Place the dough back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next morning, make the pastry cream. To do this, put the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the vanilla to the yolks and mix on medium-low for about 30 seconds. Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour in the sugar. Increase speed to medium and whisk for 1.5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium-high and whisk for 3 minutes, until it is pale yellow and thick.
  5. Reduce the speed to low and add in the custard powder. Mix for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the milk. Scrape the bowl again and mix on low until combined, about a minute.
  6. Pour the custard into a large saucepan. Set over medium heat and stir until it begins to thicken. Whisk as it comes to a simmer, making sure to scrape the bottom and edges of the pan to keep from burning. Once bubbles start to appear, cook for about five minutes longer, whisking constantly, until the cream has thickened. Pour into a bowl and whisk for a few more minutes, until cool. Whisk in the butter in two additions. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  7. When you're ready to assemble the sticky buns, heat the oven to 350. Place the brown sugar in a bowl and stir it with a fork a bit to break up any clumps.
  8. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium-low speed until creamed. Add the sugar and mix for 3-4 minutes, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the honey, bourbon, and vanilla. Mix until combined, about 1 minute.
  9. Place 1 tbsp of the brown sugar/butter mix in each of 12 muffin cups (I used these silicone cups). Set the pan in the oven for 2 minutes to melt the schmear. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of pecans into each cup. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.
  10. Release the brioche dough from its bowl and put it onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough into a 16-inch square. Spread 140 g of the pastry cream in an even layer over the dough. Top with the remaining brown sugar/butter blend. Dust with cinnamon and the remaining pecans.
  11. Lift up the side of the dough nearest you and roll up as tightly as possible. Turn the roll seam side down and use a scissor to cut it into 12 equal portions. Tuck the end of each roll underneath itself to keep it from unraveling as it bakes. Put it in a muffin cup. Push the center layers of the roll outward, making a small hole in the center, which will close up as the buns rise. Push the tops of each bun so that they reach the sides of the cup.
  12. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1½ hours.
  13. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the buns are a rich golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert onto a silpat or piece of parchment paper so that the pecans and melted, caramelized schmear are now on top. Let cool completely before serving.
Recipe from Bouchon Bakery
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 sticky bun


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75 Responses to Sticky Buns

  1. You’re killing me! I have a weakness for sticky buns. When I broke up with my first boyfriend, I distinctly remember going to a mall and having Cinnabon and just stuffing my face. This is is a much better gourmet option! TO breakups!

  2. These are PERFECTION. My boyfriend is currently standing over me telling me I have to make these! Now must.find.time.

  3. gloria says:

    I love these buns!!!
    Joanne I have a friend always run (and is sffod blogger) and now she was run to Chicago!
    Have a nice weekend!

  4. These are perfect my dear! I have no endurance but I can see myself training for these lol!

  5. Now this is something I would train for;-) They look SO worth the time!

  6. Victoria says:

    Looks like your pastry cream went to good use!! Just like almost anything from TK, these are a lot of work, but the payoff is totally worth it. Very well done 🙂

  7. patsy says:

    Wow… you are one patient baker! My family found a recipe for the new infamous cronuts on youtube and are wanting me to make them… another recipe that requires a lot of hurry up and wait! This one seems more appealing to me though because I’m all about the cinnamon goodness, and that pastry cream… well, to die for!

  8. Johanna GGG says:

    woah that looks intense but in a good good way – I was hoping training just involved eating lots of these sticky buns because I was going to put up my hand and say yes I am IN

  9. Monica says:

    Oh girl, these look and sound insanely good. Bouchon puts out some incredible stuff and I’m sure you did them proud. Good planning and execution!

  10. Kathryn says:

    Ha, I was looking at this recipe the other day and wondering if I’d ever both to make it! Maybe I should go there with you because these look totally epic.

  11. Perfection, Joanne!! Enjoy your weekend.

  12. daphne says:

    Thos sticky buns are so calling my name. I’m trying to lose my baby weight at the moment but that is definitely WORTH having a treat for.

  13. I have never made sticky buns before. They look fantastic. I love the fact that you made everything from scratch and you didn’t cut any corners getting anything from a box, like the pastry. Great looking sticky buns 🙂

  14. Oh man these look GREAT! I have no idea how you find the time to do all this cooking during the week with a FT job! LOL! I love how the day before we are looking at a super health vegan dish and today bourbon butter, hells yes! YUM!

  15. Nice Joanne! Those look enticing – when I was pregnant with D, I had intense sticky bun cravings. I haven’t had one since but this brings back some good memories 🙂

  16. Abby says:

    Holy sticky buns! speechless….seriously amazing.

  17. I’ve been having overwhelming urges to bake sticky buns. Consider me completely convinced!

  18. i had one of the best in Boston at Flour bakery now this one must be recreated at home ASAP.

  19. These sticky buns are so amazing! Love that they are made with brioche!

  20. Jessie says:

    Oh my goodness. Gimme gimme gimme! Brioche dough with cream and bourbon and just about any amazing ingredient ever?? This is just what I’m looking for right now! I’ve been drizzling bourbon syrup over so many things lately that this would be just perfect for a pastry craving.

    Have a great weekend, Joanne!

  21. *sniffle*…they’re so….beautiful

  22. Karen says:

    The stickier the better!! Yum!

  23. Kate says:

    I usually prefer cinnamon rolls to sticky buns, but I might make an exception for this.

  24. YES. Sign me up!!! Seriously, these are really impressive. Brioche is NOT easy!

  25. KATHY says:

    These look so wonderful, I want to reach into my computer and eat one! Absolutely beautiful! And gorgeous photos! Have a great weekend, Joanne!

  26. Beth says:

    Because what else would you do between marathons?
    No hard feelings for sure.

  27. I sort of blanked out after the first picture. WANT.

  28. Oooh turns out I’ll have some spare time this weekend and I’ll get round to play with yeast. This need to happen in my kitchen asap. Darn, they look sinfully awesome 😉

  29. The stickier and yeastier, the better! Ahhh I could sit and eat sticky bun dough all day… but strangely enough I’ve never attempted them. Perhaps it’s because I know how dangerous it’ll be for myself 😉
    So sorry that we never got around to figuring out a lunch/dinner date that would work for both of us, but Mom’s done visiting so I’m a lot less booked this coming week/weekend. Let me know if you’re still up for Hecho en Dumbo! x

  30. Holy. Moly. I have made a few Thomas Keller recipes so far but nothing even remotely as involved as this. But man, these just look so good, I just have to get my patience in order and make these.

  31. I’ve just died and went to bun heaven. Girl.

  32. Simply Life says:

    Oh WOW! This looks like the best sticky bun I may have ever seen!!!

  33. OH yum! These look amazingly delicious. So sticky and sweet 🙂

  34. Christine says:

    OMG, killer! This is definitely going on the “holidays-coming-up-to-make-on-a-weekend-list”. Unbelievable. Unfair though, you have a marathon to run the calories off!! 😉 xo

  35. Monet says:

    Hi Joanne! I just love that this has pastry cream in it…what a great sticky bun recipe…this might be the very best! Thank you for sharing it. I’m ready for breakfast now!

  36. I think I might put my hand up for spectator duties! But, if there is any need for taste testing, you know who to call on…

  37. I am in the sticky bun heaven! They look crazily comforting and delicious!

  38. Oh my- these look amazing. And I happen to have all the ingredients on hand right now…

  39. Not sure if I could wait for them to cool down!

  40. Sticky buns are my freaking dream! These look awesome friend!

  41. These look amazing. I wish I had one right now.

  42. Wait a minute . . . you actually let these cool before eating them? I’m imagining the awesome factor is increased when they are all hot and gooey out of the oven.

  43. Sticky buns with pastry cream sounds so indulgent but so worth it!

  44. Oh mY , these look so good! They are perfect for our Sunday brunch tomorrow! Thanks for sharing.

  45. Yum! Anything with a pecan in it has my vote!

  46. You’re killin’ me smalls! This looks like THE perfect breakfast, snack, dessert, everything!

  47. Amy Tong says:

    Your sticky buns look amazing. You’ve got me craving for some. I would love to have these for breakfast, afternoon snack and desserts after dinner too! 😛

  48. I have to tell you, I once made pastry cream from scratch, and it was so good, so fresh, so unbelievably tasty that it never made it to it’s original dish. Yup I ate the whole thing.
    Willing to bet you’ve done something similar too?

  49. Megan says:

    I have been thinking about making these. I’ve made the Flour ones a million times and really want to make these and compare. Yours look soooo good!

  50. Yummmm.. love sticky buns and pecans on top. So funny, I was looking for brioche bread for some french toast and I wasn’t able to find it.

  51. Veronica says:

    Ultimate Sticky Buns right there! Over the top girlie, wow. *standing ovation*

  52. Hotly Spiced says:

    I admire you for your commitment to jogging. But when do you find the time? I imagine you have a very full schedule so how you fit it in is beyond me. My friend from swim squads is heading over to you this week. She’s hoping to run the marathon in just under four hours xx

  53. Marygrace says:

    I’ve never seen a sticky bun with pastry cream before. Looks kind of amazing, though!

  54. Wow these look good, not sure I could stop at just one!

  55. I’m impressed! Matt always raves about the sticky buns at Bouchon Bakery, but I’ve never tried them.

  56. Reeni says:

    Custard sticky buns? Where have you been my entire life? These are beyond words. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!

  57. Teffy says:

    Looks absolutely scrumptious! I love love love pecans, I eat a handful of them, toasted, every. single. day!

    { Teffys Perks Blog } X

  58. Wowie, you impress me again. Everything from scratch sounds so great. The pastry cream in it sounds yummy. I love sticky buns and pinning it now to try it later. Love the goey look of the buns.

  59. Tracey says:

    I am all too glad you signed us up for this challenge – I am in! I haven’t baked from Bouchon Bakery nearly enough lately, thanks for the reminder to get this book off the shelf!

  60. Hannah says:

    Finally, I’ve found my sport! That sounds like my kind of triathlon if there ever was one. I want these in my kitchen, right now.

  61. I think I’ll have to skip the last step too. I want these NOW!!

  62. These sticky buns look just glorious, Joanne, and thank you kindly for using pecans and not walnuts (which I think I may be allergic to.. they make my tongue itch a little). Anyway, my boyfriend has been asking me to make some story of sticky bun/cinnamon roll/soft pretzels slathered in cinnamon sugar type thing lately, and this post has just convinced me that I probably have to do it. Mouthwatering!

  63. I was away on Friday and didn’t get to my usual blog reading… But now I’m glad I came back to this post! Holy cow do these sticky buns look perfect! Heavenly 🙂

  64. cquek says:

    Oh my, this looks SO good,

  65. I am so impressed!! I have been wanting to try sticky buns for ages, but I keep putting it off because of the amount of time they take! Yours look absolutely perfect and delicious. This might be the motivation I need to try it out!!

  66. grace says:

    brioche is super tasty on its own and adding caramel and pecans is not necessary but totally welcome. 🙂

  67. Chris says:

    Bourbon butter schmear… that is just sultry! I love it. Well except for the pecans, I’m allergic.

  68. Shannon says:

    hahaha, love your comparison to a tri 🙂 definitely one to add to next season’s events!

  69. Courtney says:

    These are gorgeous, but the thing that really made me love this post is that it cheered me up after a rough week. I love that catching up on your blog makes me feel like we’re sitting down chatting somewhere. 🙂

  70. Ashley says:

    My goodness. I just need to auto-pin everything you post, my dear. These look delightful – definitely worth all the work!

  71. Nutmeg Nanny says:

    Wow. I have no words….this looks so damn tasty!

  72. Lindsey says:

    I am making these right now with the cookbook and you have a typo:
    It should be mix for 30 min, not as you have “30 sec.”

    Thank you for all the visuals!

    • joanne says:

      Hi Lindsey, which step are you referring to? There are a bunch of “30 sec” steps and I can’t find one where it would make sense to mix for 30 minutes. (Also…that’s a lot of mixing. This was a while ago but I don’t recall letting my mixer run for 30 minutes at a stretch.)

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