These knotted buns feature a soft dough with a sweet, nutty layer twisted through them, and a topping of maple icing and a candied bacon crumb.
Make the dough. In a small pan, gently warm the milk to just above room temperature.
Meanwhile, add the flour to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other and make a well in the centre. Pour the warm milk into the well and add the vanilla extract. Sprinkle the sugar on top of the milk, then finally crack the eggs into the well.
Mix on low speed until the dough comes together as a ball, then increase the speed to medium and knead for 5–6 minutes, until the dough is smooth.
With the mixer still running on medium speed, add the butter, a few pieces at a time. Once all the butter has been incorporated, increase the speed to high and mix for another 3–5 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave the dough to rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6. Tip the pecans onto the unlined baking tray and place them in the oven to toast for 8 minutes, until coloured. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Leave the oven on.
Tip the cooled pecans and the sugar and butter into a food processor and blitz to a smooth and spreadable paste. Set aside until ready to use.
Once the dough has risen, tip it out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll it out to form a large, approximately 30 x 40cm rectangle. Turn the dough so that one long edge is closest to you.
Spread the filling all over the surface of the dough. Then, using a sharp knife, cut the dough vertically in half and then horizontally in thirds, to give you 6 equal-sized, smaller rectangles of dough.
One by one, starting with a long edge closest to you, roll up each rectangle away from you to create 6, small logs of dough. Cut each log in half lengthways to make 12 strips.
Strip by strip, take one end in each hand and make two twists, turning one hand clockwise and the other anticlockwise. Then, knot the twisted strip by tucking one end up through the middle and the other down through the middle.
Place 6 knots on each of the lined baking trays. Slide the baking trays each into a proving bag (or use any clean plastic bag) and leave in a warm place to prove for 45 minutes, until risen.
While your knots are proving, line the third baking tray (the one you used for the nuts) with baking paper. Toss the streaky bacon in the brown sugar to coat, then lie each strip flat on the baking paper and bake the bacon for 15 minutes, until darkened and crispy. Remove from the oven and leave the bacon to cool completely.
Once cooled, use a food processor to blitz the bacon to a crumb. Set aside until ready to use.
Reheat your oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6 if you need to. Bake the proved knots for 20 minutes, until deep golden, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the buns are cooling, make the icing. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the maple syrup and, a little at a time, add 1–2 tablespoons of water, mixing until the icing is thick. Add a few more drops of water if you need to.
Dip the top of each cooled bun in the icing and use a moistened finger to help spread the icing to a smooth coating. Return the buns to the wire rack as you go. Before the icing sets, sprinkle the buns with the candied bacon crumb, then leave until set before serving.