Rise and Shine for Joanne Chang’s Honey Cashew Morning Buns

A sticky bun that's less sweet and a whole lot more enjoyable to eat.

A sticky bun that’s less sweet and a whole lot more enjoyable to eat.


I love the idea of sticky buns. But the execution? Not so much.

That’s because the standard avalanche of goopy glaze is more than even my sweet tooth can bear.

So I beamed when I received a review copy of “Baking With Less Sugar” (Chronicle Books) by one of my favorite pastry chefs, Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery + Cafe and Myers + Chang in Massachusetts.

In this day and age, where we’re all trying to eat better, this timely cookbook is all about making sweets — but with only natural sweeteners and little white sugar. Yes, the perfect way to enjoy dessert without your body paying such a high price later.


The book includes more than 60 recipes, both new ones and reformulated ones from Chang’s bakery, that make use of maple syrup, honey, molasses, dates, juice concentrates, coconut, and bananas and other fresh fruit.

After all, as Chang writes, you can’t just eliminate sweeteners because they serve very necessary purposes, including adding moisture, feeding yeast, aiding in browning, tenderizing, adding crispness, stabilizing egg foams, making custards smooth,and lowering the freezing point so ice creams are scoopable.

I was heartened to read that even Chang can usually only eat a few bites of her famed sticky buns, the ones that trounced Bobby Flay’s in one of his Food Network “Throwdown” episodes. Flay, in turn, graciously named Chang’s creation his pick for the show, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” That’s how good they are. But they’re also drenched in brown-sugar honey “goo,” making them exceedingly sweet.

For this book, Chang makes a lighter version of that “goo” and uses it to glaze “Honey Cashew Morning Buns.”

The dough is rolled up around chopped cashews mixed with butter and cinnamon. The soft, naturally sweet nuts lend a nice delicacy.

Spreading the filling over the dough.

Spreading the filling over the dough.

These make any morning better.

These make any morning better.

The cut, shaped buns are laid in a pan over the “goo,” which is made of honey, butter, cream and a little water.

As they bake, the kitchen is enveloped in an enticing warm honey-butter aroma.

Indeed, these buns emerge with an almost focaccia-like fluffy, tender texture with a taste akin to biscuits that have been slathered in honey-butter. They’re not achingly sweet. In fact, the sweetness is quite reserved. What you taste most prominently is the butter.

Thank you, Joanne, for making a sticky bun that I can not only eat, but still feel good about after the last bite is swallowed.

The buns flipped over.

The buns flipped over.

Honey Cashew Morning Buns

(Makes 12 buns)

For bun dough:

1 cup water at body temperature (when you put your finger in it, it should feel neither cold nor hot)

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast or 3 grams (0.1 ounce) fresh cake yeast

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus up to about 1/4 cup more, if needed

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 cup olive oil or other mild vegetable oil

For honey goo:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup water

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For bun filling:

2 cups raw unsalted cashews, chopped

1/2 cup unsalted butter, very soft

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

To make the dough: Lightly oil a large bowl.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the water and yeast and let sit for 20 to 30 seconds to allow the yeast to dissolve and activate. Dump the flour and salt onto the yeast mixture and carefully turn on the mixer on low speed. Let the dough mix for about 10 seconds. (To prevent the flour from flying out of the bowl, turn the mixer on and off several times until the flour is mixed into the liquid, and then keep it on low speed.) When the dough is still shaggy looking, drizzle in the olive oil, aiming it along the sides of the work bowl to keep it from splashing and making a mess.

With the mixer still on low speed, knead the dough for 4 to 5 minutes or until it is smooth and supple. The dough should be somewhat sticky but still smooth, and have an elastic, stretchy consistency. If it is much stiffer than this, mix in 2 to 3 tablespoons water; if it is much looser than this, mix in 2 to 3 tablespoons flour.

Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cloth. Place the bowl in a draft-free, warm place (78 to 82 degree is ideal; and area near the stove or in the oven with only the pilot light on is good) for 2 to 3 hours. The dough should rise until it is about double in bulk.) This is called proofing the dough.)

Meanwhile, make the honey goo: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and let the goo cool for about 30 minutes before using, or until room temperature. The goo can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

To make the filling: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Put the cashews on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Turn off the oven and set the cashews aside to cool.

Punch down the dough to deflate it — literally give it a punch in the center of hte puffy dough, which will allow you to roll it out more easily. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch square about 1/4-inch thick. It will be a bit stretchy and it may spring back, but keep rolling gently until it roughly holds its shape.

In a small bowl, with a wooden spoon, mix together with butter, cinnamon, and cashews. Spread the mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough square.

Using your hands and starting from the top of the square, and working your way down, roll the dough loosely like a jelly roll until the entire sheet is rolled up. Using a sharp knife, trim both edges of the dough roll about 1/4 inch to even out the ends. Using a bench scraper or a chef’s knife, cut the roll into 12 equal pieces, each about 1 inch thick. (At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap — either individually or stack them all and wrap as a tower — and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, remove the buns from the freezer. Leave them wrapped and thaw in the refrigerator over nigh, or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours; proceed as directed.)

Pour the goo into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Place the buns in the pan, evenly spaced. If some of the buns have become oblong or oddly shaped from the cutting and moving around, feel free to arrange them once they are in the pan into round spirals. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let the buns proof at warm room temperature (78 to 82 degrees is ideal; an area near the stove or in the oven with only the pilot light on is good) for 1 to 2 hours, or until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching.

About 15 minutes before the buns are ready to bake, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the buns are pale and light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes.

Using a spatula, invert the buns, one at a time onto a serving platter. Serve warm. (These are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. You could make them one day and serve them the next after warming them in a 300-degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes.)

From “Baking with Less Sugar” by Joanne Chang


More Joanne Chang Recipes to Try: Apple Snacking Spice Cake


And: Big White Chocolate, Almond and Cherry Cookies


And: Chocolate Chunk Cookies


And: Brown Sugar-Oat Cherry Muffins


And: Mama Chang’s Hot and Sour Soup

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  • Love sticky buns! But never made them — always seemed too fussy. Well, and having a whole batch around the house is too tempting! These look much more rationale — really nice recipe. Sounds like a terrific book, too. Thanks!

  • Wow, what a smart idea for a book! I’ve never eaten sticky buns because of that reason of the goo, but I’m always tempted. Now this version sounds perfect!

  • OMG that looks amazing. Now I need to find a bakery nearby to satisfy my sweet tooth…like, NOW.

  • I tried one of her original sticky buns a couple of weeks ago. Delicious, but very sweet, so I only ate half of my portion and saved the rest for later. Love that she has made a less sweet version… now I can enjoy a whole bun in one sitting! Thanks for sharing the recipe! 🙂

  • Fabulous buns! An interesting book. I’m all about natural sweeteners and reducing white sugar…



  • i’m beginning to believe that my sweet tooth is getting out of hand, so this might be precisely the cookbook i need! these look delicious. 🙂

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