Paola Velez, founder of La Bodega Bakery, executive pastry chef of Maydan in D.C., and co-founder of Bakers Against Racism, has a sticky bun recipe that ties together many important parts of her life.

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With just fifty cents in my pocket, I still remember the freedom I had when I was a young girl and first allowed to walk to La Bodega on my own. Growing up in the Bronx, I lived just a few blocks from a big industrial bakery. You could smell it in the streets. But it was the neighborhood La Bodega where I’d eye the baked goods and count my coins until I had enough to get what I wanted. I remember heading in there on a mission. I bought a juice jug and a magical treat called a honeybun. That sticky-sweet treat floored me. It was over the top, and from that day on it was always my go-to. It became my ritual after school. Every time, I felt like I won a prize when I was able to sneak off into La Bodega without my mom's watchful eyes behind me.  

Years later, I was visiting my mom in Florida. We share a love of watching Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. On one episode, we watched as they ate a Philly-style sticky bun. My mom mentioned how I should put a pecan bun on the menu. I was so inspired by her words, and it got me thinking. That very night I got to work on making a pecan bun in honor of my mother. I thought about how much she loves plantains, sweet or fried, but especially when they are overripe. There is just something about that sweetness intensified by time you can’t find in anything but a plantain. She loves to bake them with brown sugar and warm spices as a special treat.   

That’s when I knew I had it. I married my love of Guy Fieri and my mom to make one of my all-time favorite desserts: my Plantain-Pecan Sticky Buns. The trick to making this recipe just right is a little bit of patience and extremely overripe plantains. With those two things, mom says you never go wrong. 

Get the Recipe: Plantain-Pecan Sticky Buns