“Hey girl…what’s up with them sticky buns?” That’s me, verbatim, bleary eyed at my neighborhood donut shop on Saturday morning. While I generally will go with more classic raised or old fashioned donuts, when I’m feeling particularly bananas I’ll go for an ooey gooey spiral of decadent richness that will undoubtedly put me back to sleep as soon as I can finish my coffee. Trying to save me the embarrassment of tossing pseudo-pickup lines at the donut ladies, Little G put their own spin on the bad-decision-morning-staple with Sticky Bun, which combines salted caramel ice cream with sticky bun chunks, candied pecans, and cream cheese frosting swirl.
First things first – this is not a salted caramel base, it’s a burnt caramel base, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. The flavor is deep, smoky, and almost astringent with an intensely dark burnt flavor that isn’t salty at all, and actually for a caramel isn’t very sweet either. For my taste I would actually prefer it to be a bit sweeter, but as a burnt caramel it’s pretty damn impressive and wears its rich, roasty, brown colors with pride. While the ice cream itself could be sweeter, it’s a smart move to not make caramel too aggressively sweet in a pint that has so many other predominantly sweet components at play and overall I give this base the skillet seal of approval.
Interestingly, the sticky bun pieces in Sticky Bun aren’t very sticky at all, and in fact they’re dry. While they do have a good eggy slightly cinnamon-y flavor, texturally they remind me of the very outer ring of a cinnamon roll that gets the most direct contact with heat in the oven, and as a result is the least desirable part of the roll. Fortunately this isn’t too big of an issue because of the moist ice cream they’re submerged in, but the pieces are big enough that I notice their lack of moisture and wish they were gooier. When I think of sticky buns I think of something so dense and caramelized that I wouldn’t dare pick it up without a stack of napkins nearby, and these chunks could certainly be taken down sans-napkin, which leads to sans-satisfaction.
The cream cheese frosting swirl is executed absolutely flawlessly, and unlike other times where Little G incorporated cream cheese and veered towards the savory route, this swirl is very sweet like a perfect cheesy frosting. The more pronounced sweetness works very well in tandem with the roasty base and the two combined are sublime and can even temporarily mask the dry-ness in the bun pieces when my spoon gets all the right pieces in harmony.
One of my favorite mix-ins in any ice cream ever are Grace’s candied pecans – this pint is loaded with them and my god they are delicious. The fatty nutty nuances of the pecans remain intact with an insanely perfect cinnamon sugar caramelization on the outside. Despite being dairy dunked and frozen the nuts keep all of their crunch and a bite with the caramel and frosting and a nut is straight up ice cream fireworks. Crunchy, super sweet, and ever so slightly spicy.
As much as I appreciate the intensity of the (burnt) caramel ice cream, I think I would have enjoyed the overall experience even more if I could swap it out with Grace’s incredible cinnamon base to really drive the bun vibes to the next level. A splash of simple syrup or some other kind of baking trick on the pastry pieces before being mixed in could have locked the moisture in and made this one a truly stellar limited batch, but as it stands, it’s just above average. This flavor was a pretty obvious play at Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns, and while I anticipated this one blowing it out of the water, it simply doggy paddled next to its mass produced, much more affordable big brother.
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