“My family has made these schnecken for most every holiday for as long as I can remember,” explains Seattle chef Tom Douglas. “Schnecken, which means “snails” in German, are basically pecan cinnamon buns. Once the schnecken were turned out hot from the pan and the top of the buns covered with gooey pecan caramel, the real struggle began—fighting my seven siblings for first crack at our favorite piece. It might have been the first time I realized that my rotundness and arm length gave me a distinct advantage over my sisters as I groped for the warm center of this classic pull-apart bun with cinnamon. After the center pieces were gone, I went for the ultra-caramelized golden brown corners.” We suspect you’ll be fighting for these as well given how tender and fluffy the buns, how ooey and gooey the caramel coating, and how decidedly and devilishly decadent the resulting schnecken or, if you will sticky buns. Trust us when we say you may just be surprised at how your loved ones lose a little of their decorum when going after these. And it’d be understandable.–Renee Schettler

When The Schnecken Beckons…

If you’ve yet to see the comedy flick The Birdcage, the phrase “When the schnecken beckons” will mean nothing to you. If, on the other hand, you’re quite well versed in the cult classic, the following video clip will require no introduction or explanation.

12 schnecken, pecan cinnamon buns, covered with pecan-caramel topping, and chopped pecans on a wire rack

Schnecken ~ Pecan Cinnamon Buns

5 / 9 votes
These schnecken, or pecan cinnamon buns or sticky buns, are ooey and gooey with caramel and chopped pecans. They've been in my family for years and I still make them to this day.
David Leite
CourseBreakfast
CuisineGerman
Servings12 to 14 schnecken
Calories563 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Resting Time3 hours
Total Time4 hours

Ingredients 

For the dough

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for the bowl and pan
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, (or substitute 3/4 teaspoon table salt)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface

For the pecan topping

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

For the cinnamon sugar filling

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Instructions 

Make the dough

  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the milk and sugar and heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, just until the mixture is lukewarm [about 110°F (43°C)]. Pour the warm milk mixture into a bowl and stir in the yeast. Allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Stir the salt into the yeast mixture. Beat the whole egg and egg yolk together and add it to the yeast mixture. Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time, until you have a sticky dough. Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until you have a nice, smooth dough. Butter a large bowl and gently plop the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place to allow the dough to rise for 2 hours, until tripled in volume.
  • Meanwhile, brush a 9-by-13-inch (23-by 33-cm) baking pan with some melted butter.

Make the pecan topping

  • Melt the butter with the brown sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture in the bottom of the pan, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans.

Make the cinnamon sugar filling and assemble the rolls

  • Gently punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead for 1 minute. Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle about 15 by 12 inches (38 by 30 cm) and an 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Let it cool slightly and then brush the butter over the surface of the dough. In a bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle the cinnamon mixture evenly over the melted butter. Roll the rectangle up like a jelly roll, beginning at one long edge.
  • Slice the rolled dough into 1-inch (24-mm) thick slices and arrange them in the prepared pan, laying the slices flat on a cut side. Cover the pan with a piece of plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for about 40 minutes. (To make the rolls ahead of time, place the covered rolls in the refrigerator overnight. Let them set in a warm place for about an hour and then proceed.)
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C).
  • Bake the schnecken until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Check the rolls occasionally during the baking time, and if they seem to be browning too quickly, loosely cover them with aluminum foil.
  • Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. While the rolls are still warm, invert the pan onto a large platter or baking sheet. If any of the ooey gooey pecan caramel topping sticks to the pan, simply scrape it onto the tops of the rolls. Serve warm.
The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

Adapted From

The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 bunCalories: 563 kcalCarbohydrates: 71 gProtein: 6 gFat: 30 gSaturated Fat: 16 gMonounsaturated Fat: 9 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 94 mgSodium: 318 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 42 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2012 Tom Douglas. Photo © 2012 Ed Anderson. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Every now and again you come across a recipe that you know will be with you for life, one to be enjoyed over the years and then taught to your kids before they leave home. These schnecken is just such a recipe. This is a crave-worthy treat.

When the schnecken beckons, this is the recipe I’ll go to. These pecan cinnamon buns are buttery, tender, and very rich and cinnamony—everything one could want in a cinnamon bun. I was transported back to my mum’s own cinnamon raisin buns when eating these (I cheated somewhat and subbed raisins into the filling instead of using pecans in the topping).

The overnight rise in the fridge really helped not only with time, but also with flavor, as the buns had a more complex depth of flavor than buns that are made immediately tend to have. As I eat gluten-free, I used a gluten-free flour blend, and this recipe still worked quite well. I’m planning on making this on Christmas Eve to have for Christmas morning.

I make cinnamon buns quite often in my house, but never with the sugary pecan topping, so I thought I’d make these schnecken (pecan cinnamon buns). That, and the fact that I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to say, “When the schnecken beckons.” The dough is absolutely beautiful. It’s soft and supple and bakes up fluffy and rich. The topping comes together with ease and clings perfectly to the buns when they’re unmolded.

As the recipe suggested, I made the buns and the topping, assembled them all in the pan, and left it in the fridge overnight. The next morning I let it proof on the counter while the oven preheated and with barely any effort we had beautiful, fresh sticky buns.

These are so far superior to anything one could buy. They’re well worth the effort.

These pecan cinnamon buns, as with any yeast product, do require a certain investment of time. However, a lot of that is hands-off time, and if you’ve some experience working with dough, these come together quite easily in between bouts of resting and rising. The end result is *very* gooey and extraordinarily sweet—next time I might knock back the amount of pecan caramel, but that is just my own preference.

We served them warm with cream and ate them with a spoon, which sidelined the problem (benefit?) of getting covered in caramel. This is down to your own discretion.

The next time I make these schnecken, I’m going to try and get some apple in there somewhere—maybe slices in between the rolls, or maybe grated and pressed dry and then rolled right up inside.

At my house, we all love cinnamon buns. Who doesn’t? This recipe for schnecken (pecan cinnamon buns) is another delicious addition to my repertoire. Decidedly buttery, almost brioche-like, the schnecken were as tender as could be, yet rich and substantial enough to hold up to the gooey caramel.

The only slight issue is that they’re best eaten warm, as the caramel got just a little too firm when the schnecken cooled to room temperature. I find that is a common problem with sticky buns; rewarming the schnecken softened it up again. All the neighbors were delighted to taste test this recipe for me. Everyone gave it a thumbs up.

The schnecken beckoned at my house yesterday. It was my mom’s 90th birthday and although most would love a cake filled with frosting, her favorite is a pecan cinnamon bun. These didn’t disappoint.

Everything about this recipe was spot on. I prepared the dough the evening before using instant yeast and my Kitchen Aid for kneading the dough. I left it in the fridge overnight and served them warm for dessert at dinner the following day. The aroma in my house was intoxicating and the results were Instagram-worthy and incredibly delicious.

They came out of the pan perfectly with all of their sticky goodness intact. Twelve hours later, they didn’t have that “right out of the oven taste” as they had when I first served them, but they were still soft and incredible. I stored them overnight wrapped in parchment and then a layer of foil. These appear more challenging to make than they actually are and should be tried by anyone who loves this type of sweet…be forewarned…they serve a crowd!




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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33 Comments

  1. I would like to make these the night before and place them in the refrigerator overnight and then take them out the next morning. Will this work? What other steps do I need to do?

    1. Hi Julie, the author recommends the following steps to make these ahead: “Cover the pan with plastic wrap and store them, unbaked, in the refrigerator overnight. When you’re ready to bake the schnecken, remove the pan from the refrigerator and set it in a warm place for about an hour. Then bake as directed in the recipe.”

    2. Hi Renee,

      Lovely recipe and pictures, can’t wait to try to make them. I was wondering if there is a substitute I can use for the corn syrup? Would the measurement remain the same with the substitute? Thank you in advance.

      1. Hi Irina, trust me when I say these are SOOOO much better than the ones my mom made, and hers were quite irresistible! As for a substitute, although there are many other liquid sweeteners, each has a slightly different sweetness and consistency, and that will affect the resulting taste and texture, so honestly we suggest you stick with corn syrup. (And just to clarify, in case you’re hesitant to use corn syrup because of all the terrible things we know about high-fructose corn syrup, please understand that regular corn syrup that you find on the grocery store shelf is not the same thing and is not nearly as deleterious for your health as the modified high-fructose corn syrup found in manufactured products.) If you were to use anything in place of it, I would try coconut syrup or cassava syrup as they have sorta the same sweetness level and I believe are slightly lower glycemic, although again, they’re runnier than corn syrup so you may run into issues with the stickiness of the final caramel. I hope this helps and I’m sorry I don’t have a more concrete response! I just don’t want to risk you being disappointed…

        1. Thank you Renee for your quick response, I truly appreciate it. I would like to try this recipe with all the ingredients listed but unfortunately the syrup isn’t sold where I live. Don’t worry, I won’t get disappointed. Looking at the pictures is enough for me to drool, I’m afraid if I make them I’ll eat all of them!

          1. Hi David,

            Yes, I can get honey but agave I’m not sure. Would the measurement for the honey still be 1/4 cup? Thank you in advance. I’m sorry for asking so many questions!

          2. Irina, we didn’t test it with anything but corn syrup, but honey is usually a 1-to-1 substitution.

          3. Thank you so much David, I truly appreciate all the help. When I make them, I’ll let you know how they turned out!

  2. 5 stars
    I just made these and they are sooooo good! Bizarrely, I was out of cinnamon. But they still came out amazing! I really enjoyed the dough too, much easier to work with than some others I’ve used.

    1. Wonderful, Gordana! And you know, that’s terrific to hear about the cinnamon. I’m actually not much of a cinnamon person…love it in pho, but often in baked goods it just sorta seems to overwhelm everything else. You can bet I’m going to try these Pecan Buns YOUR way next time. Many thanks for letting us know….

  3. These look aMAZing! Definitely going to try making them this holiday (even though it’s absolutely sweltering outside!). May I ask what you would recommend using as a substitute to corn syrup? We don’t get it here in South Africa and these look just too good not to make! Would golden syrup do?

    1. Lauren O, we haven’t tried them with golden syrup, but that would be my guess. If anything it’ll lend a slightly more complex taste to these already inspired rolls….