Easter dinner, for me, isn't complete without some kind of sweet, tasty bread to go with it. Usually I love to have hot cross buns on the table, but this Easter I tried some really tasty vanilla buns. I'm a sucker for anything vanilla, so these were an obvious choice. If you don't have a vanilla bean handy, vanilla bean paste is a tasty option. This recipe is different from most bread recipes I've ever made, but if you follow the directions, you are rewarded with delicious results. These tend to be best eaten the same day they are made, as they tend to be drier as they sit. You can also make the dough the night before, then shape and allow them to rise in the morning before baking for Easter dinner. Look for the bold make ahead hint in the recipe below for instructions.
Adapted from Bon Appetit
2/3 cup whole milk
5 tbsp sugar, divided
1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 3/4 cups flour
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1 inch pieces
Heat the milk on your stove until it's about 110-115 F. Pour into a 2 cup measuring cup, and stir in 1 tbsp sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over top and allow to sit for about 5 minutes until foamy. Whisk in the eggs.
Measure out the flour, remaining 4 tbsp sugar and salt into the bowl of your mixture. With the dough hook attachment, stir it together and then add the milk/egg mixture and scraped vanilla bean seeds with the motor running. Continuing to run the motor, add the pieces of butter, one at a time, mixing well after each. Mix it on medium high for 1 minute, then on medium for about 5 minutes.
Don't worry that the dough seems really sticky, wet, and unlike bread dough you've seen before. It should be sticky, but not greasy. If the dough seems greasy, knead it with the machine about another 2-3 minutes longer.
Brush a large bowl with melted butter. Put the dough in the bowl, and brush the top of the dough with a little more melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a draft free area for 1 1/2 hours.
Make ahead: Instead of putting the dough on the counter to rise, put it in the fridge to chill overnight. Pull out in the morning and allow to rise for 2-2 1/2 hours before continuing with the recipe.
Brush a muffin tin with melted unsalted butter.
Punch down the dough on a lightly floured counter. Divide the dough in half, then each half into six equal pieces. Taking a piece at a time, break into three equal pieces. Roll each into a ball and fit the three balls of dough in each muffin tin. Continue with the remaining half of the dough.
Cover the buns with a clean tea towel and set in a draft free place to rise for 1 or 1 1/2 hours, until the dough rises about an inch above the top of the pan. Gently brush each bun with milk and sprinkle each with 1/2 tsp sugar.
Bake at 375 F for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cook completely.
You can make these ahead and then freeze in an airtight container for up to a month. Thaw, and then reheat by placing on a baking sheet and placing in a 350 F oven for about 5-10 minutes.
Makes 1 dozen.