Soft and sweet, these sticky buns are made from an easy enriched dough rolled around a tasty fig filling and topped with a lush caramel glaze. With an overnight option, these vegan fig sticky buns are as perfect for brunch as they are for a make-ahead dessert!
In a large bowl with a wooden spoon (or in the bowl of a stand-mixer with a dough hook attachment), mix the warm milk, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and the yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes - the yeast should have created some foam in the bowl. If it hasn’t, you need new yeast as the ones you used have died/expired.
If the yeast is healthy (foamy), slowly stir in the rest of the granulated sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. Add one cup of flour and mix until incorporated. Add the salt, then the rest of the flour one cup at a time.
If using a stand mixer, run it on a medium-low setting for about 5-8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic with a slight tackiness. If doing it by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and knead it for about 8 minutes. Keep your hands lightly oiled or buttered to prevent the dough from sticking to you. Form the dough into a tight ball.
Lightly grease the bowl you mixed the dough in. Place the dough in the bowl, turning once so the top is lightly oiled, too. Cover lightly with a clean lint-free towel (or foil or plastic wrap) and let rise in a warm spot (away from windows and drafts) for about 1-2 hours or until roughly doubled in size. If your oven has a dough proof setting, you can use this to rise your dough.
For the Fig Filling:
Place the figs, brown sugar, butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon into a food processor. Blitz until the mixture becomes thick and pasty without chunks of figs remaining - only the tiny seeds should remain intact. Set aside. (If you refrigerate the filling ahead of time, it will need to be returned to room temperature so it is spreadable - it will thicken when chilled.)
For the Sticky Topping:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°F/gas mark 4). Line a 13 x 9" (33 x 23 cm) baking dish with parchment paper or lightly oil. See Notes for other baking dish options.
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the brown sugar, butter, maple syrup, and milk. Bring to a simmer for a minute until glossy and well combined. Remove from heat and whisk in the rum (or vanilla). Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Set aside to cool whilst you prepare the rolls.
Assembling the Sticky Fig Buns:
Prepare your work surface for rolling out the dough. Lightly oil or butter the surface and rolling pin (alternatively you can use a dusting of flour, I just find it messier.) Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 20"x14" (51x35 cm). If the dough is resisting and springing back on you, let it rest for 5-10 minutes and then try again.
Spread the fig filling evenly over the dough. With the long end closest to you, roll the dough evenly away from you. Push the roll over so the seam is facing down. Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into 12 even pieces. Place the rolls into the prepared pan cut side down. Cover lightly with a lint free kitchen towel (or foil or plastic wrap) and place in a warm spot for 30-60 minutes, or see Notes for the overnight option.
Uncover the rolls, place them in the preheated oven and bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the middle (go in at an angle between the folds of a roll) comes out clean (180-200°F/82-93°C). Very carefully as the glaze underneath the rolls will be molten, invert the buns onto a heat-safe serving tray or baking sheet. Let the buns cool for about 10 minutes, and serve warm. Once cooled to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container.
When selecting vegan butter to use in baking, use vegan butter sticks, not the tub style vegan butter or spreadable margarine. Sometimes called baking sticks, this product has a higher fat content (and a lower water content) which produces better results in texture and flavor. You can use softened refined coconut oil (refined means the coconut flavor has been removed so it's neutral tasting).
Baking Dish Options:
Don't have a rectangular baking dish? Here are a couple of other options:
10-12" (25-31 cm) oven safe skillet
2x 9”(23cm) round cake or pie pans.
Overnight Make-Ahead Option:
Follow the instructions up to and including placing the assembled rolls on top of the caramel glaze in the baking dish, cover them tightly with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove them about 30 minutes before baking, remove the plastic wrap, cover with a a clean, lint free towel and let the baking dish come to room temperature. Bake in a preheated oven as instructed. Enriched dough left in the fridge for more than 18-48 hours will start to ferment giving it a sour smell and unpleasant flavor. This is called over-proofing - the leavening power of the yeast will be limited or gone, and so the buns will not continue to rise in the oven.