There is very little white sugar in these not-just-for-breakfast buns -- but you won't miss it. Honey imparts its smooth, mellow sweetness to every component: the rich, buttery dough, the tangy creme fraiche filling, and the appealingly sticky topping.
For the Filling and Topping
- 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup honey (any type), plus more for brushing and drizzling
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
For the dough
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 large eggs
- 1/3 cup honey (any type)
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
- Vegetable oil, for bowl
Make the dough: Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Whisk milk, butter, eggs, honey, salt, and vanilla with a mixer on medium speed. Add yeast mixture, and whisk for 1 minute. Switch to dough hook, reduce speed to low, and add 4 cups flour. After flour is incorporated, raise speed to medium, and continue kneading.
Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing until dough no longer sticks to the bowl. Raise speed to medium-high, and knead for 10 minutes. (Alternatively, knead by hand until smooth, 15 to 20 minutes.)
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until dough is very smooth, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic, and set aside in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Make the filling and topping: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in honey, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a gentle simmer, then remove from heat. Let cool. Combine mascarpone and creme fraiche in a bowl.
Punch down dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 3 portions. Roll each into a ball. Freeze 2 for up to 3 months (thaw in the refrigerator before using). Roll remaining dough into a 10-by-13 1/2-inch rectangle. Brush lightly with honey, spread mascarpone mixture evenly on top, leaving a 1-inch border, and sprinkle with pecans. Starting on 1 long side, roll dough into a log. Pinch along seam to seal. Cut into nine 1 1/2-inch-thick slices.
Pour honey mixture into an 8-inch square baking pan. Place buns, cut sides down, in pan, 3 to a row. Let buns rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place oven rack in lower third. Bake buns, rotating halfway through, until brown and bubbling, about 1 hour. (If buns darken too quickly, cover with foil.) Set a wire rack on a baking sheet. Immediately invert buns onto rack. Drizzle with honey, and serve warm.