A sticky date paste fills these flaky morning buns, and a blood orange-infused honey butter drizzle takes them over the top. The easy overnight rise helps the dough develop flavor and a fluffy texture, so plan to start a day ahead. If blood oranges are not available, use Navel instead.
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk, divided
- 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar, divided
- 2 large eggs, separated, plus 1 large egg yolk
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting
- Finely grated zest from 2 good-sized blood oranges (purchase an extra or two, if small) or 1 large Navel orange (reserve oranges for drizzle)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
Filling and Drizzle
- 1 cup packed Medjool dates, pitted
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey, divided
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, divided
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar, divided
- Scant 1 cup chopped pistachios, walnuts, or pecans
- Neutral oil, such as canola, for greasing
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed blood orange or Navel orange juice
- Granulated sugar (for rolling)
For the dough: In a small saucepan, warm ½ cup of the milk over medium-low heat to 110-115ºF. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the warmed milk, yeast, and 1/2 teaspoon of the brown sugar. Let mixture stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Fit mixer with paddle attachment. Add the 2 egg whites, 1 cup of the flour, and remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar to yeast mixture. Beat with paddle on medium-high speed until mixture is light and thick, about 3 minutes. Remove paddle, scrape mixture from sides of bowl back into mixture, then sprinkle with remaining 1 1/4 cups flour (do not stir). Let bowl stand at warm room temperature, uncovered, until mixture bubbles up over the flour, 30-45 minutes.
Add zest, vanilla, and salt, 3 egg yolks, and remaining 2 tablespoons cold milk to yeast mixture. Fit mixer with dough hook and mix on low speed until dough forms. Increase speed to medium and work dough until smooth, soft, and elastic, 8-10 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and add butter pieces, one at a time, letting each piece absorb into dough completely before mixing in the next. Dough will be smooth, stretchy, soft and tacky. If dough is very sticky, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until tacky. Remove bowl from mixer and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. (Dough will rise.)
For the filling: Place dates in a small bowl, cover with hot tap water by 1 inch, and let stand until well-softened, 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, warm 2 tablespoons of the honey and 2 tablespoons of the butter, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and mixture is combined; remove from heat and set aside.
Drain dates and place in the bowl of a food processor; discard soaking liquid. Add cinnamon, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar to the bowl with dates. With the machine running, drizzle in the honey mixture. Puree 3 to 4 minutes to form a smooth paste.
Punch down dough and turn onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape into a rectangle with hands, then roll out to roughly a 16 x 12” rectangle. Spread date paste evenly over the dough, then sprinkle with nuts and 1/4 cup of the cup brown sugar. Roll dough into a tight log, place on a baking sheet, seam side down, and chill until firm, about 20 minutes.
Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with oil. Heat oven to 350ºF with rack in middle position.
Trim 1/2” from both ends of dough log, then cut log crosswise into 12 pieces. Place pieces, cut side up in prepared muffin pan and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let stand at warm room temperature until dough is puffed and expanded to edges, and springs back slowly when pressed, 30-45 minutes.
Bake buns until golden brown on top, 25-30 minutes.
While buns are baking, in a small saucepan, bring orange juice to a simmer over medium heat; simmer until reduced by half, 5 to 7 minutes (you should have about 2 1/2 tablespoons). Add remaining 4 tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup honey, remaining teaspoon brown sugar, and small pinch salt, and simmer, stirring, until syrupy and well-combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. (The glaze will thicken as it sits.)
Remove buns from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place granulated sugar in a shallow bowl.
Carefully remove each bun from the muffin tin to a large plate or rimmed baking sheet, rolling the tops of the buns in sugar to coat as you go.
Gently warm the glaze just enough to slightly loosen it, then, using a small spoon or the tines of a fork, drizzle the glaze over the tops of the buns. Let the buns cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
(Buns can be made in advance and kept refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days or wrapped in heavy-duty foil and frozen for up to 2 months. Warm gently in a low oven before serving, if desired.)
Recipe & photos by Mindy Fox