Eastern North Carolina has plenty of fresh, delicious sweet potatoes and, with the arctic weather we've been having, here's a good way to use some. Sweet potatoes add some extra flavor to this sweet dough. You may be lucky enough to still have some of those $.19/lb. sweet potatoes from Wal-Mart at Thanksgiving time. If not, head to the Farmer's Market next Saturday and get some for $.75/lb.
Pecans have been pricey this year, due to a bad pecan crop. Moore's Produce at the Farmer's Market has 1-lb. bags of large shelled pecans for $10. Considering that they're fresh local pecans and not something that's been sitting in a bag for over a year, $10 is still a good price. Of course, you can substitute walnuts, but they're not a whole lot cheaper. Whatever you decide, these sticky buns will comfort you during the icy-cold weather we're having. (And just because we'll be reaching 80 degrees this week, I'm confident there's more cold weather to come in February.)
If you're out of honey, you can find some very reasonably priced local raw honey at Henry & Shorty's on
Rt. 17 northside, below Moore's BBQ. He also has Amish milk, butter and cheese and a lot of other goodies.
Sweet Potato-Pecan Honey Buns
Adapted from Pillsbury
Rating: 9 out of 10
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Makes 2 dozen medium rolls, or 1 dozen large.
2 packets active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes*
1/4 cup sugar
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, divided + 1/4 cup solid butter for topping
2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt + 1/4 tsp. for topping
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla extract.)
2 large eggs
3-1/4 to 3-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, whisked, then lightly spooned and leveled
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup + 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar divided
3/4 cup toasted chopped pecans (or walnuts), divided
*You may substitute canned sweet potatoes. Drain liquid from can to equal 1/2 cup and use it, warmed, instead of water to soften yeast.
Meanwhile, prepare topping. In saucepan, combine honey, brown sugar, 1/4 cup solid butter and 1/4 tsp. salt. Bring to boil and cook, stirring constantly, until a little syrup dropped in cold water forms a soft ball (234F), about 1-1/2 minutes. Pour into greased 13 x 9 x 2" pan or two 8 or 9" round layer pans. Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 cup pecans.
Toss dough on well-floured surface until coated with flour and no longer sticky. Roll out to 24 x 8-inch rectangle. Brush with remaining 2 Tbsp. melted butter. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar and 1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans. Roll as for jelly roll, starting with 24-inch side. Cut into twenty-four 1", or twelve 2" slices. Place slices cut-sides down over topping. Cover, let rise in warm place until light and doubled in size, 30-45 minutes.
Heat oven to 375F. Bake rolls 25-30 minutes on center rack. Cool 2 minutes, then invert on serving plate or on rack over waxed paper. Let stand 30 seconds before removing pan.
TIP: Bake an extra sweet potato or two when you're having them for dinner. The extra potatoes are great cold, cut up for salads, mashed for soup, muffins, scones or cupcakes, or to use in these sticky buns.