Whole wheat sticky buns

Whole Wheat Old Fashioned Sticky Buns

My first attempt at whole wheat cinnamon rolls went OK, but not well enough for me to make that particular recipe again. Maybe it was because it was my first experience with yeasted sweet dough, but it seemed like a fussy process.

Recently I read At Home on the Range by Margaret Yardley Potter (a delightful peek into life in the kitchen in the early 20th century) and the author made yeasted sweet dough sound like the easiest thing in the world to make and work with. She also included a recipe for cinnamon buns — what she referred to as “real old-time Philadelphia Stickies” — which stood out as something I definitely wanted to try.

After explaining how to make a basic sandwich bread, she describes the simple additions necessary for making a sweet dough. And her enthusiasm for what can be made using this formula was infectious. What else could I be making with this dough??

Using my favorite basic enriched wheat bread recipe, I included her additions. Instead of making 12 rolls like the recipe describes, I used half of the dough for the rolls and set aside the other half for chocolate babka. The dough was pretty great to work with — I made sure not to add too much flour, and increased the yeast to make sure I didn’t encounter the rising problems from my previous cinnamon roll experience.

The syrup for the topping (which bakes underneath the rolls) was quite watery, and it also came up farther than I would have expected in the pan. The rolls rose nicely, but the syrup did have me nervous.

Whole wheat sticky buns rising

Whole wheat sticky buns, rising in pan

After baking and letting the rolls rest in the pan for a few minutes, I turned them out onto a sheet and was happy to see that the syrup had been absorbed and thickened a bit. However, the result was that the (now) top side of the rolls were more mushy than sticky. I didn’t care for the texture, and they were too sweet. I like sweet, but the use of white sugar and water made them more sickly sweet than rich and sweet. The texture actually improved on the second day, when the sticky side firmed up some.

I was happy with the dough and the process overall, so next time I’ll simply find an alternative to the “sticky” part. I have my eye on a technique where some of the filling is sprinkled on top of the rolls before baking, and there’s not a syrup poured into the bottom of the pan.

Whole wheat sticky bun

Whole wheat sticky bun

Whole Wheat Yeasted Sweet Dough

Adapted from At Home on the Range by Margaret Yardley Potter

Makes enough dough for 12 rolls, or 6 rolls and a small babka


  • 350 grams plus 100 grams freshly-milled hard white wheat flour, separated
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk, warm
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon shortening


In a stand mixer bowl, whisk together 350 grams of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.

Add milk, butter, and egg, and mix with paddle attachment on low speed. Once combined, add shortening in small bits until incorporated. Stir with a rubber spatula to make sure there are no ingredients stuck to the bottom. Let rest for 15 minutes to allow the wheat flour to absorb the moisture in the dough.

Switch to the hook attachment and knead on low for 7 minutes, adding flour a tablespoon at a time until it just starts to clear the sides of the bowl. It won’t be a totally cohesive ball like with a sandwich loaf dough.

Place dough in a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic. Let rise for 60 minutes or until doubled. Mine was doubled after 45 minutes so then I put it in the refrigerator, which also helped firm it up for rolling.

Continue with recipe for rolls, babka, etc.