SALTED CARAMEL APPLE STICKY BUNS
1¼ cups milk
¼ cup sugar
2, ¼ ounce packages active dry yeast (4 ½ teaspoons)
½ cup butter, softened
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup cinnamon
3 cups apples, peeled and chopped into ½” dice
6 tablespoons butter, softened room temperature (very soft)
The Caramel Sauce:
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened and cut into pats
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons sea salt
Heat the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan, whisking to dissolve the sugar, until the temperature reaches 115-120°. Remove from heat and pour this mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast and stir once with the dough hook attachment. Let stand for 5 minutes until yeast becomes foamy on top of the milk mixture.
Add the butter, salt, and half of the flour to the bowl and mix until combined. When blended, add one egg and mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the remaining egg and vanilla and mix well. Add 2 cups of the remaining flour and mix until combined and the dough begins to pull away from the edge of the bowl. Gradually, add the remaining ½ cup of flour and until the dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured countertop and need for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and bounces back when you push your finger into the center of the dough.
Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free, place for 2 hours until doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down, knead briefly, and cut into 2 pieces. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes while you prepare filling.
Whisk the sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon together until well combined. Stir in the apples until they are all coated.
Roll each piece of dough into an 9″ x 13″ rectangle. Spread each rectangle with 2 tablespoons of butter until evenly coated (I use my fingers, but you could use an offset spatula too). Top each rectangle evenly with half of filling ingredients.
Starting on the long side, roll each rectangle tightly, jelly-roll style, pinching the edges across the end of the roll to seal. Cut each roll, crosswise, into 6 even pieces (Cut in half – each half in into 3 pieces).
Grease a 9” x 13” baking dish with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Place each piece of rolled dough, cut-side-up, into the baking dish. Sprinkle the tops with remaining sugar mix from the filling.
Cover and let rise again until double in bulk, about 2 hours. Bake in a preheated 375° oven for 20-25 minutes until browned. Remove, cool for 15-20 minutes.
To make the caramel sauce, heat the sugar in a large saucepan, stirring with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. This process will take about 5 minutes and the sugar will go from chunky to a liquid. When the liquid is golden brown, caramel color, add the butter to the pan. The caramel will bubble up. Keep stirring until the butter is completely melted into the sugar. Slowly add the cream (note the caramel will bubble up again). Keep stirring and let cook for 1 minute more until a rich caramel sauce has formed. Remove from heat.
Drizzle the sticky buns all over with the caramel (to make them sticky!) and sprinkle with the sea salt.