Bourbon-Pecan Sticky Buns for Superlative Sunday Mornings

Plus, the crackly moon pies and badass (yes, really) bran muffins from chef Kelly Fields' new book.

November 18, 2020
Photo by Oriana Koren

“I wrote this book to bury y’all in cornbread and biscuits,” cookbook author Kelly Fields writes in the introduction to her recently released cookbook, Good Book of Southern Baking—“the best dang ones you’ve ever had.”

The path to dessert greatness was neither smooth nor easy for Fields. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, Fields lost every notebook and recipe she had saved throughout her career. Notes that she had painstakingly taken from culinary school and her numerous stints in pastry kitchens around the world.

“As soon as I arrived safely at my mom’s house in the days after the storm, I wrote down every single recipe I could recall in a little red notebook,” Fields writes. “I remember sitting in bookstores and coffee shops with that notebook, closing my eyes and literally moving my body as if I were making the things I wanted to recall.”

Armed with that same notebook, Fields opened Willa Jean in New Orleans 10 years later. A restaurant and bakery, Willa Jean’s menu features contemporary, Southern-inspired dishes and treats like sausage, egg, and pimento cheese biscuit sandwiches and toasted pumpkin bread with whipped cranberry cream.

It is also that little notebook that we have to thank for this very aptly titled Good Book of Southern Baking. The stunning tome is filled with recipes for dessert classics—from foolproof caramel sauce to single- and double-crust pie doughs, Blackout Cake to Pumpkin Cheesecake to six types of biscuits—all perfected over Fields' 20 years of trial and error.

On our to-make-now list? Chocolate-coated, soft-bellied moon pies (soft, but weighty enough to be thrown without fear of endangering a Mardi Gras parade-goer, Fields notes); actually good bran muffins—she toasts the bran, which turns the flavor volume up to 11, and loads them with pockets of molten fruit; and last but certainly not least, impossibly glossy bourbon-pecan sticky buns made with her foolproof Danish dough recipe.

I'll let Fields speak to the endless possibilities of her Danish dough recipe, one that is happy to become cinnamon rolls, morning buns, or fruit Danish: "Once you get the hang of the technique and the timing, you can use this dough for just about any deliciousness you can think of. It works really well to form and freeze, too. Just pull out the items from your freezer and let them sit at room temperature until thawed and proofed."

For sticky buns, Fields smears a "book" of the dough with pastry cream and cinnamon sugar (and showers in toasted pecans!) before slicing and baking the rolls, and topping them with a bourbon-spiked glaze. "Adding this Bourbon-y, caramelly, and nutty glaze to a cinnamon roll enhances the textural contrast," Fields writes. "I love to heat these buns and watch the changes in texture as the topping cools." (We do, too!)

3 Recipes to Try

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Coral Lee is an Associate Editor at Food52. Before this, she cooked food solely for photos. Before that, she cooked food solely for customers. And before that, she shot lasers at frescoes in Herculaneum and taught yoga. When she's not writing about or making food, she's thinking about it. Her Heritage Radio Network show, "Meant to be Eaten," explores cross-cultural exchange as afforded by food. You can follow her on Instagram @meanttobeeaten.