Buttermilk Cluster Rolls with Toasted Pecans and Bacon


fresh baked rolls

Here’s my take on a popular recipe for Buttermilk Cluster rolls. These rolls are crusty on the outside, soft and moist on the inside—and dotted with bits of bacon and toasted pecans.

bread with bacon and pecan

When I toasted the pecans, I did it in the pan that I fried the bacon in, so they pick up a little bit of that smokey flavor.

toasted pecans up close

These rolls would be a great addition to a fall or winter feast (I’m thinking alongside a rib roast). That said, The Angry Chef and I ate them for breakfast, toasted and slathered with cold butter, standing up at the kitchen counter.

These rolls are baked in a 9-inch springform pan and you pull them apart once they’re cool.

risen rolls

The original buttermilk cluster recipe

I started with this recipe from The Fresh Loaf that was posted here on Saveur magazine’s website.

The reader reviews on Saveur.com were all over the map. There were arguments about how much flour was correct to use, whether there was enough flavor, etc. The reviews on The Fresh Loaf were consistently much better.

I think Saveur reviewer paranoidtourist put it best: “Relying on the measurements in the recipe for any bread recipe is like getting directions from one place to another using animals as landmarks; you’ll get somewhere, but probably not where you had in mind.”

That’s a longer way of saying: Baking bread is a fickle task.

tear apart rolls

It depends just as much on the temperature in your house, if your yeast is fresh, how humid it is, the moisture content of your flour, as it does on the actual recipe. (If you’re in a really dry climate, you probably have to add more liquid to your dough, etc.)

All that said, the picture was absolutely mouthwatering, so I figured I’d give them a try. I modified the recipe a little and was quite pleased with the results.

Ingredients for buttermilk rolls

I used regular ole lowfat buttermilk. A handful of people on The Fresh Loaf used buttermilk powder. I haven’t tried that, but it looks like it’s an OK option if you don’t have any of the fresh stuff. (I assume you reconstitute it according to the directions on the package.)

Buttermilk carton

For the bacon, I used Black Forest bacon from Whole Foods, which is a little sweeter than regular bacon. This is my favorite bacon of all time, but it can be hard to find. By all means, use what you like.

Black forest bacon

I included pecans in this recipe because I really like them with bacon. Walnuts would be great, too.

Pecan halves

Bake buttermilk rolls in a springform pan

Making these rolls in a springform pan helps keep the dough balls together as they rise and bake, which makes for a really pretty finished bread. It also gives the sides of the rolls a nice crust.

A springform pan is one of these things. It’s the kind of pan you traditionally use to make a cheesecake.

9.5 inch springform pan

The bottom is removable. When you flip open this latch, the sides of the pan expand to make it easier to get your cake (or in this case, your rolls) out. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend one of these.

latch on springform pan

Buttermilk Cluster Rolls with Toasted Pecans and Bacon

Adapted from Saveur and The Fresh Loaf

1 Tbls. active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 ⁄ 2 tsp. sugar
1 3 ⁄ 4 cups buttermilk
3 tbsp. maple syrup or honey
5 cups flour
1 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
4-5 strips of bacon, chopped
1 cup pecans, chopped and toasted

Oil or butter to grease the pan
1 egg, beaten w/1 Tbls. water

Makes 12 rolls in a 9-inch springform pan

Proof the yeast

Toss the yeast and sugar in the bowl of your mixer.

Yeast and sugar

Add the lukewarm water. (Be sure it’s not hot. Hot water can kill the yeast.)

Add the water to the yeast

Whisk the water, sugar, and yeast together. Let this sit on the counter for about 10 minutes.

Whisk the water and yeast together

Make the dough

Add the maple syrup or honey to the bowl. (I used maple syrup.)

Add the maple syrup to the yeast mixture

Add the buttermilk.

Add the buttermilk to the yeast mixture

Whisk the whole business together until it’s uniform. (You want to dissolve the syrup/honey.)

Buttermilk and yeast mixture

Toss in the flour and the salt. I used 5 cups of flour. You might need a little more or less depending on where you are (see note in the intro).

Add the flour to the buttermilk and yeast mixture

Knead the dough by hand or with the dough hook on a stand mixer for about 5 minutes.

Mix the dough

You want the dough to come together in a smooth, not-too-sticky ball like this (depending on where you live, you might need to add a little more flour or buttermilk). Like I said, this is the fickle part of bread baking. You have to play some things by ear.

Ball of bread dough

Let the dough rise for about 2 hours

Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap or a damp tea towel. Set it aside to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until it’s doubled in size.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap

When the dough has just about doubled in size, like this, you’re ready to deal with the bacon and pecans.

dough after first rise

Prep the bacon and the pecans

Dice up the bacon.

Chopped black forest bacon

Put it on the stove in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally. You want to cook it like this until it’s crisp.

Fry the bacon until crisp

While the bacon’s in the pan, chop up the pecans.

cup of pecans

I chopped mine up roughly, because I wanted a rustic bread. If you want to go nuts (har, har), by all means, chop them more evenly.

chop the pecans

When the bacon is crisp, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon. Set it aside in a bowl. (Try not to gobble down too much.)

bowl of crispy bacon

When it’s cool enough to handle, chop the bacon up into smaller pieces. (I do this now, as opposed to when the bacon is raw, because it’s kind of a pain to cut the slippery raw stuff into really small pieces.)

chop the cooked bacon

Pour out most of the bacon fat from the frying pan and discard (or save it for something else).

Toss the chopped pecans into the pan. Saute the pecans in the little bit of bacon fat that’s left in the pan over medium heat. Keep an eye on them and stir frequently, because they can scorch.

toast the pecans in bacon fat

When the pecans are lightly brown and very fragrant, transfer them to the bowl with the chopped bacon. Set that aside for a minute while you deal with the dough.

toasted pecans

Knead the bacon and pecans into the dough

Punch down the dough to smoosh the air out of it.

punch down the dough

Toss the bacon and pecans into the bowl.

knead in the bacon and pecans

Fold the dough over a few times to start to work the bacon and pecans through the dough.

knead the bacon and pecans into the dough

partially kneaded dough

Then start to knead in earnest, until the ingredients are fairly uniformly incorporated through the dough.

keep kneading the dough

Form the buttermilk rolls

Round the dough up into a ball and set it on your counter (it shouldn’t really stick, but if it does, toss a little flour under it).

ball of dough for buttermilk rolls

With a bencher (that’s one of these things, one of my favorite kitchen tools) or a big knife, whack the dough into 12 pieces, just like cutting a pizza. Don’t worry if they’re not all 100% the same size. They’ll be close enough.

cut the dough into 12 pieces

Grab one of the wedges of dough. Roll it into a ball between your palms.

single ball of dough

Spray your springform pan down lightly with a little oil. Set the dough ball in the pan. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

put one ball of dough in the pan

I like to make a circle of dough balls on the outside rim, then fill in the center for an even design. Arrange them however you like.

12 balls of dough in a cake pan

Let the rolls rise for about an hour

Cover the pan with a lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap (so when the rolls rise, they won’t stick to the plastic). Set them in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

When they’re just about there, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

cover the rolls

Mine rose to just above the edge of the pan.

pan of rolls almost ready for the oven

Brush the tops of the rolls with beaten egg

To make the egg wash, beat an egg together with a tablespoon of water.

beaten egg and whisk

Gently brush the beaten egg over the tops of the rolls with a pastry brush (or your fingertips, in a pinch). This makes the top of the bread shiny after it bakes.

Don’t press too hard, or else you can deflate the little guys. Don’t make yourself nuts getting every nook and cranny on the top.

brush the tops of the rolls with egg wash

Bake the buttermilk rolls

Pop the pan into your pre-heated 400-degree oven. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until the rolls are shiny and warm brown on top.

pan of buttermilk rolls

Now, the Saveur and The Fresh Loaf recipes have you test the rolls for doneness by temperature.

I’ll admit that I don’t often do this. A nice brown crust and a good hollow sound when thumped (another sign that bread is baked through) are usually good enough for me.

If you’re so inclined, however, you’re aiming for about 190 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. (Stick the thermometer in the dead center of the loaf, not touching the edges or bottom of the pan.)

When they come out of the oven, let the rolls cool for about 15 minutes in the pan.

brown crust on rolls

Then, slip off the outer ring of the springform pan and let them cool on a rack.

remove the rolls from the pan

cluster of rolls on a baking rack

When you’re ready to serve, rip the rolls apart. Keeps well wrapped on the counter for about 3 days.

hot cluster of buttermilk rolls


interior of roll

Previous articleDrunken Cranberry Orange Compound Butter
Next articleSt. Patrick’s Day Recipes
Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. I love it! fun looking rolls 🙂 I recently got a bread machine for as a birthday gift and it saves so time with the mixing dough and kneading etc, this is one recipe I must try making!

    I do have one question though, are these rolls have a sweet taste to it?

  2. I’m at my Mom and Dad’s stealing internet from someone next door–and voila–I was \this close\ to asking you to email me this recipe, because it sounded so good! Now that I SEE them, they are tempting me even more! BTW-spent considerable time with my server the other day. They are ‘working’ on it. I don’t think they understood the seriousness of me being able to access this website!
    Have a Happy Mouse Day, and skip those candles : )

  3. The photo of this was SO friggin’ appealing that I just had to try it. I used turkey bacon instead of pork but the result was still super yummy!!!

  4. Thank you for the step by step instruction on how to do your recipe! And I was amazed, so amazed that when I finish reading your blog, I end up smiling, because the outcome was awesome! It just takes a little time to prepare so I have to devote a day for this! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Wow, that looks delicious! I’m not normally a fan of bread but I do love anything with bacon in it. I think I’ll talk my girlfriend into baking this for Sunday’s beunch instead of the oatmeal muffins se was planning to make. Thanks for the recipe.

  6. This recipe looks fantastic. The black forest dry rubbed bacon is my all time favorite and I try to use it in everything. Sometimes I can get the guy behind the counter at Whole Foods to sell me a 3# package!