In a small mixing bowl, stir together the yeast, a pinch of the sugar, and the warm milk. Allow the yeast to bloom for five minutes. The mixture should begin foaming and smell like bread. If it doesn't foam after 5 minutes, your yeast is dead and you'll need to restart with new yeast.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, the pumpkin pie spice blend, and the salt. Set this bowl aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, and using the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl and using an electric hand mixer), beat the granulated sugar, butter, and the egg on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, or for 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and paddle midway during the mixing.
Once the mixture appears light in color, add the pumpkin puree. After the pumpkin has been added, mix the butter-pumpkin mixture on medium speed for another minute. The mixture may look slightly curdled at this point.
Add 1 cup of the spiced flour and all of the warm milk-yeast mixture to the bowl. Mix until a thick paste forms, then, with the mixer on low speed, continue adding the remaining flour mixture.Once the dough becomes too stiff to mix with the paddle, switch to the dough hook attachment (or turn it out onto a lightly floured surface). Knead the dough on second speed for 5-6 minutes (or knead with your hands for a full 10 minutes), or until the dough climbs up the hook, is slightly elastic, and feels tacky to the touch.The dough should not stick to your fingers, instead it should feel clammy and supple. If it does stick to your fingers or to the bottom of the bowl, knead in more of the flour- a tablespoon at a time. The amount of flour you use will depend on how humid the environment is.
After the dough has reached the proper consistency, remove it from the bowl. Lightly grease the mixing bowl with butter or non-stick spray before returning the dough to the bowl. Turn the dough over so the oiled part is on top. This step lubricates the surface of the dough, which keeps it from drying out and cracking.Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place it in the warmest area of your kitchen- a microwave or cool oven works best. Allow the dough to rise for an hour or until it has doubled in bulk.
Prepare the Pumpkin Pie Spice Schmear
In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, light brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. Beat on medium-high for 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture goes from a dark to a very light-brown in appearance. Scrape down the bowl and beaters a couple of times while mixing.
After mixing, the schmear will be light and fluffy. Set this aside while you prepare the caramel pan glaze.Don't put the schmear in the fridge, you're going to use it and you don't want the butter to get hard.
Prepare the Caramel Pan Glaze
In a saucepan, combine the unsalted butter, brown sugar, Karo Syrup, and the water. Bring the mixture up to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture boils, allow it to cook it for 30 seconds.
Remove the pot from the stove and allow the caramel to cool for 1-2 minutes to allow it to thicken slightly. While the caramel cools, sprinkle the chopped pecans onto the bottom of a 9"x13" baking pan in an even layer. After scattering the nuts, pour the caramel syrup over them. Make sure the caramel coats the pecans and pan evenly.Set the pan aside while you roll the pumpkin dough.
Roll, Fill, and Cut the Pumpkin Sticky Buns Dough
After the pumpkin dough has finished rising, punch it down to expel the gases which have built up. Allow the dough to rest on the counter for 15 minutes (flip the bowl upside down over the dough to keep it from drying out) while you gather what you'll need to roll it out.
Lightly flour your work surface and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 17"x 14" rectangle. The dough should be an 1/8" thick. Use an off-set spatula to spread the pumpkin pie spice schmear over the surface of the dough. Leave a 1" margin on one of the long (17") sides for sealing the roll.
Roll over a 1/4" of dough on the schmear-covered long side. Continue rolling the dough tightly towards the un-schmeared end, pinching the seam against the roll to seal it once you've reached the end. Roll the dough so the pinched seam is on the bottom.
Use a very sharp knife to cut the pumpkin dough log into 12 equal portions. Nestle the rolls in the caramel-pecan syrup in the bottom of the pan. Be sure to place the rolls where you want them the first time. The caramel is sticky and the rolls will be difficult to move once they touch the caramel.
Cover the pan with a piece of plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, then put the pan in a warm area to rise for 30 minutes. The dough will rise slightly, but won't double in size.
Bake, Cool Slightly, and Unveil the Pumpkin Caramel Sticky Buns
While the rolled dough is rising for a second time, preheat your oven to 350°F. After the buns have risen for 30 minutes, pop the pan into the pre-heated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the sticky buns are golden brown and have risen.
Because the caramel will be hot when you remove the pan from the oven, allow the sticky buns to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving them (I recommend 20 minutes for little ones or the elderly). Alternatively, you can flip the sticky buns onto a large platter 10 minutes after they come out of the oven. Serve the Pumpkin Caramel Sticky Buns while they are warm.
Nut-Free Option: Omit the pecans from the caramel glaze. Make Ahead Instructions:
In lieu of the second rise, arrange the sliced dough in the caramel-filled baking dish, then cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the unbaked dough overnight.
In the morning, put the unwrapped pan in your cold oven for 10 minutes before heating the oven to 350°F.
Once the oven reaches temperature, set your timer for 20 minutes. Check the buns after 20 minutes. If they're brown, remove them from the oven; if not, allow them to bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.
Cool, then serve as instructed.
Any leftover buns should be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for 2 days.
Storing the buns in the refrigerator is not recommended because it causes the buns to go stale faster.
The rolls are best enjoyed within 48 hours of baking, but leftover buns can get a quick zap in the microwave, which restore them to their "freshly baked" glory.
Freezer Storage (only recommend after baking):
If you plan the freeze any leftovers, cool the buns completely.
Once cool, transfer the buns to a freezer-safe storage bag and freeze for 2 months.
To thaw the buns, place them on the countertop. Once thawed completely, pop them into the microwave to warm them.
Bake the cinnamon rolls as instructed. Cool the rolls to room temperature.
Transfer the rolls to a freezer bag and freeze for 2 months.
Thaw the rolls at room temperature before icing as instructed.