Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sourdough Sticky Buns {Or How to Adapt a Recipe to Sourdough}

I'm often asked how to adapt a typical yeast-bread recipe to a sourdough recipe. I could make a guess, - decrease the water, substitute the yeast for sourdough starter, and extend the rising time, but I had not actually tried it. 

But a few weeks ago, I ran out of yeast and didn't want to make a special trip to the store when I was hit with an urge to make sticky buns. I figured this was the perfect opportunity to try adapting my mom's sticky bun recipe to sourdough. 

I can now say with assurance that it works to adapt a yeast bread recipe to sourdough. Works very well.

When I mixed up the dough, I omitted the yeast, added some active sourdough starter, and cut back the water. I placed the dough in the bowl and began to wait. And wait. It took over four hours for the dough to nearly double in size. Sourdough is never  mistaken for the fastest baking method.

After rising, I divided the dough in half, rolled it out, and sprinkled the dough with brown sugar and cinnamon.

I rolled the dough tightly and sliced the dough into fifteen slices and placed it into a 9x13 pan with prepared slurry.

I could have cut them into fewer slices for larger buns, but I knew these will increase in size and be perfect for our family. I did the same with the second half of dough, resulting in two pans of buns.

Again, these took a while to raise (2-3 hours) but eventually they filled the pan and were ready to bake.

After baking, I turned them out onto a pan and let the syrup drip down into the buns.

But the real question - what about the flavor? Do sourdough sticky buns taste sour? 

If you have eaten a San Francisco-type sourdough, you know that sourdough can taste truly sour. But not all breads made with a sourdough starter has that distinctive flavor. I actually wish we would use "wild yeast" or some other term instead of "sourdough."  Bread that is made with a large quantity of starter and risen in warm temperature won't have as strong a flavor, because it will rise quickly and not allow the "sour" flavors to develop. Bread that is made with less starter and risen cold and slow, will have a more developed flavor. 

Your pleasure in more or less flavor will depend upon your goals or your tastes. Our family enjoys sourdough. While my children like if I occasionally make a typical yeast bread, Ed says that the typical yeast bread has no flavor. 

(Warning: get your husband hooked on quality bread, and you'll spoil him for any other bread - for life. Last week, when he was traveling for work, I heard a litany of complaints about the horrid sandwich bun he was forced to eat. But doesn't every wife like to know that her husband likes her cooking best?)

But I wasn't sure if the combination of sour and sweet in these sticky buns would be complementary. 

There IS an undercurrent of a sweet/sour tang in these buns. And we loved it. It reminded me of a citrus tang, like adding a lemon glaze to a sweet cake.

But of course just one attempt wasn't enough. I had to make these buns again to makes sure that the first try wasn't just a lucky success. And this time they were even better. I omitted the slurry or goo, instead making plain cinnamon buns. Then I added a peanut butter fudge frosting. I'm sorry. We were eating the last of the batch when I realized I had not taken a photo. 

Want to try it? Here is the recipe for the sourdough sticky buns adapted from my mom's sticky bun recipe.

Sourdough Sticky Buns

1 cup warm potato water
1 cup mashed potatoes
2 cups active sourdough starter
2/3 cup butter or oil
1/3 cup honey (or 2/3 cup sugar)
2 eggs
2 tsp salt
3 cups white flour
3 cups whole wheat flour (more if needed)

Mix all ingredients together. Add more flour if needed to make a soft dough. Knead for five minutes. Place in greased bowl and raise until doubled (at least 3-4 hours). Divide dough in half and roll half into 12 x 18 inch rectangle. Sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar. Roll up jelly-roll style from long side. Slice in 15 pieces. Place in 9x13 pan. Repeat with the second half of dough. Raise for 2 (or more) hours until doubled. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

Variation: Place slurry (or goo) in pan before placing rolls if you want sticky buns. My mom's recipe is 2 cups brown sugar, 1 cup water, 4 T molasses, 4 T butter. Stir together in pan and bring to boil. Simmer for one minute. Pour in baking pan before placing rolls. Remember to flip out of baking pan immediately after baking.

Second Variation: After shaping buns, wrap pan tightly in plastic wrap and place in fridge. They will rise slowly. One or two days later, remove from fridge. Allow to warm up for 30 minutes then bake them for fresh buns.

I'd love to hear your attempts in adapting recipes for sourdough.


  1. Your sticky buns look very yummy:-)

  2. Thanks for sharing this recipe, Gina! Saving for future reference; I'll let you know how it turns out. :) I love trying family recipes.

  3. I love your sourdough experiments! My sourdough starter is pretty sour and I think it's because I keep it in the fridge and only feed it once a week. But it suits my schedule well. And I do make sticky buns, so my family is happy :)

  4. Is the slurry recipe for the 2 pans?

    1. Yes, it is plenty for two pans. I've actually cut it in half, but of course it isn't as good as using the full recipe!

    2. Thank you, Gina. I've never has a real recipe for the goo, just always improvised. I place a layer of pecans on the goo, under the rolls, for pecan sticky buns. I personally like cinnamon rolls with powders sugar or cream cheese frosting.

  5. Ok, you can just come drop a pan of those off at our house! :-)
    I am sooo grateful for your expertise that enables me to make sourdough 100% spelt bread that we all love. I just think maybe I will make time for these rolls this next week!

  6. Hello, I've just recently started working with sourdough and even more recently found your blog! I'm literally in the middle of making this recipe and wondering, have you have ever tried freezing them immediately after rolling them up? There are only 3 of us in my family and I'd love to have these in the freezer ready to just stick in a pan! I'm thinking I could take a few from the freezer, prep the pan, and put them in the fridge overnight. Then I'd bake them in the morning.

    1. Yes. Freezing immediately works well. You'll just need to allow adequate time to thaw and raise before baking.

  7. Can I make this with all all purpose flour instead of whole wheat, with everything that's going on I can't find whole wheat tight now

    1. Yes. You can use all white flour. I'm having trouble getting whole wheat right now too.

  8. Hi Gina,
    I was glad to find this recipe adaption for yeast. I am unable to find yeast in the store now. I will try this cinnamon roll recipe soon. Thank you!
    I am sorry to read about the loss of your husband last year. In my thoughts.

  9. Can you do these without potatoe? What would you substitute?


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