Lemon Pistachio Sweet Rolls

Easter approaches! Have you planned your Easter breakfast and/or brunch menu yet?

If not, may I make a small suggestion? - You include these tangy, sweet rolls.

We've taken your classic cinnamon roll and spruced it up for spring with the sweet lightness of citrus and earthiness of pistachio. Honestly, what two flavors capture the spring aesthetic better?

These rolls, adapted from Joy's recipe, are the quintessence of the sweet roll. Gigantic, soft, chewy, so sugary your teeth might hurt - but only until you wash them down with a big cup of coffee. It doesn't really get better than this, as far as sweet holiday breakfasts go.

I love this close-up because you can see the sugar granules, the yellow zest flecks, and the gooey brown butter baked into the bottom. I may or may not be salivating as I write.

Whatever you're celebrating this weekend - Easter, or just the little green buds finally poking their heads above ground in your garden - I think these rolls will catch the spirit and whisk it straight to heaven!

- Molly

Lemon Pistachio Rolls

For the dough:

1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus about 3/4 cup more for kneading

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

For the filling:

1 cup granulated sugar

Zest of two lemons

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup pistachios, chopped

To make the dough:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of the granulated sugar. Heat 1/4 cup water to 115 degrees F. The water will feel just warm to the touch. Add to the yeast mixture, stir to combine, and let sit until frothy and foamy, about 10 minutes. If the yeast does not foam and froth, start over with new yeast.

Add remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat with a wire whisk until well combined. Fit the bowl onto the mixer along with a dough hook. Add the 2 3/4 cups flour and the salt and mix on medium speed until the dough just begins to come together. Turn the mixer to medium-high and knead the dough for 4 minutes.

Add the softened butter and continue to knead for 6 minutes. The dough will be wet and sticky. Place the dough on a well-floured surface and knead 1/3 to 1/2 cup flour into the dough. The dough will still be just slightly sticky. That's okay. Set dough to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in size.

While the dough rises, make the filling.

To make the filling:

In a medium bowl, combine sugar, zest, and salt. Stir in the lemon juice and set aside.

When the dough has doubled in size, dump it out of the bowl onto a heavily floured work surface. Gently knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, adding about 3 tablespoons of flour as needed. Knead the dough for about 2 minutes. Place a clean kitchen towel over the dough and let it rest on the counter for 5 minutes.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10x20-inch square. Turn the dough so that the short sides are parallel to you. You're going to roll from the short side of the dough.

Brush the dough with 1/4 cup of the melted butter. You'll use the rest of the butter after the rolls are baked. Pour all of the filling onto the dough. Spread evenly, leaving a 1-inch border at one of the short edges of the dough so the roll can be properly sealed. Lightly press the filling into the dough. Sprinkle pistachios evenly across surface of dough on top of filling.

Roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch all along the edge to seal. Place dough, seam side down, on a cutting board. Cut roll into 8 equal slices.

Arrange the slices, cut side up, in a greased 9x13-inch baking pan. Each roll will have a few inches of space on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in a warm place for 2 hours. You can also refrigerate the rolls overnight. Just be sure to bring them to room temperature before baking the next morning.

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Drizzle with the remaining 1/4 cup melted butter just after the rolls come out of the oven.

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze:

4 oz cream cheese, softened
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Whip the cream cheese (using a mixer or even by hand with a whisk) until light and fluffy.  Add the lemon juice and blend until well combined.  Mix in the powdered sugar until the glaze is smooth and creamy.

Pour glaze over rolls warm from the oven.