These lemon morning buns are a bright and buttery take on a breakfast pastry. The brioche dough provides a rich and tender crumb is rolled up with lemony sugar for and crunchy, citrusy, caramelized result. Brioche dough is a special animal in the baking world. It has one of the fluffiest, softest, richest crumbs and a reputation that keeps people from ever attempting to make it at home. The reputation is somewhat warranted if you’re doing it by hand because it’s a greasy mess that always seems to get worse before it gets better. While making it by hand is doable, and eventually very satisfying, for me it’s one of those “drop $400 on a mixer to make next time” recipes. With a stand mixer, it’s easier than cookie dough. You literally dump everything in a bowl, turn it on, and come back in 15 minutes to find a perfect ball of satiny dough. The best flavor develops after an overnight rise in the refrigerator, which also happens to make the dough easier to work with, then the real fun begins. I coat the dough with melted butter, a layer of fresh lemon zest and granulated sugar, then roll it up and braid it for a beautiful set of braided buns.
These lemon sweet buns are soft, buttery, and laced with sweet, fragrant lemon zest. And I can’t think of a better aroma on a crisp spring morning. Enjoy!
notes on the sweet buns:
- in the initial stages, the dough will look like a wet and hopeless mess. Don't stress about it or throw in the towel, just give the dough a full 15- 20 minutes to come together! Sometimes it may need a little longer to fully clean up the bowl, but if it still isn't coming together after 25 minutes, sprinkle a little more flour in to help it along.
- the dough is easiest to work with, and has the best flavor, if it rises in the refrigerator overnight. It'll be rock hard when you take it out but will soften quickly once you start working with it.
- this also makes a gorgeous giant braided sweet bun, so if you're short on time simply roll the whole piece of dough out to 16"x 24" rectangle and proceed with the rest of step 4.
lemon sweet buns
makes 6 buns | brioche dough recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour
sweet bun brioche dough
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp instant yeast
3 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk, room temperature
10 tbsp butter, sliced into 10 pieces, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of 2 lemons
3 tbsp melted butter
In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine dry ingredients and whisk by hand to briefly mix. Pour in the milk, eggs and butter and mix on low speed for about 1 minute until dry ingredients are moistened. Increase speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth, shiny, and passes the windowpane test, 15- 20 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball (it'll be very soft), place it in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour. Refrigerate for several hours, or overnight, until well chilled.
In a small bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest and mash together with the back of a spoon until fully mixed. Set aside.
Cut the dough into 6 pieces of equal size. Working one piece at a time, roll out the dough to a 7" x 10" rectangle, using a light dusting of flour if needed. Brush surface with melted butter, leaving 1/2” border, and sprinkle with 2 tbsp of sugar-zest mixture. Roll up dough lengthwise to form a 10" long cigar, seal long edge with water, then place on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of dough.
Place sheet pan in freezer for 2-3 minutes so dough is firm and easier to shape. Working one at a time, use a sharp knife to cut the cigar in half lengthwise, leaving 1/2" attached at one end, and gently rotate halves so the cut sides face up. Cross the right strand over the left and repeat to form a twisted log, leaving cut sides exposed, then pinch the loose ends together. Shape braided dough into a loop, with the ends overlapping, then tuck ends under the loop and pinch to secure, if needed. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet with at least 2 inches of space on all sides. Repeat braiding and shaping the remaining dough pieces, returning the cigars to the freezer to firm up as necessary.
Cover braided buns lightly and let rise for about 1 1/2 hours, until puffy and slightly larger (the dough won't double in size). Preheat to oven to 375°F towards the end of the rising time.
Bake buns for 25- 30 minutes. Check after 10 minutes and tent with aluminum foil if browning too quickly. Buns are done when skewer inserted into center of braid comes out clean and the exposed layers are firm to the touch. Transfer buns to a rack, cool slightly, and enjoy!