These sweet rolls are light as a feather and full of lemon flavour. The lemon glaze adds a lovely touch of sweetness. Don't fuss too much about shaping. They'll be pretty and tasty, no matter what. These buns freeze well.
For the sweet dough:
2 3/4cupsall-purpose flour
1/4cupwhite granulated sugar
2 1/4teaspoonsinstant yeast (Can also use active dry yeast. See *note below)
1 1/2tsp.vanilla I used the same amount of vanilla bean paste
Make the sweet dough: Stir together 2 cups (9 oz.) of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the water, and set aside until cooled to just warm (120 to 130°F), about 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract.
Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula or the paddle attachment, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing just until incorporated after each addition. Stop the mixer, add the remaining 1/2 cup (2 1/4 oz.) flour. Resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds. Note that the dough at this point will be very loose. Don't fret. It will come together.
Sprinkle a work surface with flour and turn the dough onto the flour (a silicone bowl scraper comes in handy here). Knead gently until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute, adding an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons flour only if the dough is unworkably sticky. Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes.
Make the lemon filling: Meanwhile, while the dough is rising, in a small bowl, mix together the sugar and lemon zest. Set aside. The sugar draws out moisture from the zests to create a wet sand consistency, so don’t be alarmed when you see this.
Assemble the sweet rolls: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with the rack in the centre of the oven. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
Gently deflate the dough, on a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough in half, setting aside one half and covering with plastic wrap. Using a sharp knife or a bench scraper, cut the portion of dough into thin (3/4-inch) pieces. You should have 15-18 pieces. Using a rolling pin (and extra flour as necessary to prevent sticking), roll each piece of dough into a thin, oblong oval shape (they will be approximately 6 inches long and 3-4 inches wide). Don't worry about making each one exactly the same size and shape. It's fine if they are a mix of shapes and sizes.
Using a pastry brush, spread the melted butter generously over each piece of dough. Using no more than half the sugar/zest mixture, sprinkle some of the zest-sugar mixture over all the buttered ovals. To form the rolls, take one piece of dough and lay it long side towards you. Place 4 more pieces directly on top (or 5, if you have 18 pieces to start with). Cut the dough stack in half width-wise, making two stacks roughly 3 inches by 3 inches. Gently pinch together the edges that were closest to you a little bit towards the centre- not all the way, causing the top layers to open up a bit. This will be the bottom of your roll. Place into a greased muffin cup. Once in the muffin cup, you can adjust the shaping a bit, pulling the layers apart slightly on the top.Repeat this shaping with the remaining prepared pieces and then repeat all these steps with the remaining reserved half of the dough. Sprinkle the tops of the rolls with any extra sugar/zest mixture.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 60 minutes.
Bake the rolls until the top is golden brown and they sound hollow when tapped, 18 to 22 minutes. Transfer muffin tins to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with lemon glaze. To re-warm simply pop in the microwave for 15 seconds or pop back into the muffin tins and re-heat in a 350° oven loosely covered with foil for 5 minutes or so. These freeze well.
Make the lemon glaze: In a medium bowl combine the icing sugar with the milk and lemon juice until the mixture is smooth and desired thickness (you can add more liquid or sugar, as needed).
*For active dry yeast: Cool the milk to 100-110° F. then proof yeast in milk mixture for 5 minutes before adding to flour mixture.