Fragrant and fluffy on the inside with a sticky walnut streusel, these heavenly sweet rolls are my take on traditional hot cross buns with a carrot cake twist.
This recipe was originally published on Apr 14, 2019 and updated on 28 March, 2023 will step-by-step images, ingredients substitutions and a revised recipe.
OK, let's get straight to it. These sweet buns are easy, delicious, sticky, sweet and moreish. They also take a little bit of time to make just like my pretzel buns and the charcoal bun that goes with my portobello mushroom burger.
It's just proofing the dough, nothing scary - but we need to get to it.
Why You'll Love These Rolls
Ingredients & Substitutions
All-purpose flour. Nothing fancy here, just plain old flour
Active dry yeast. We are going to bloom the yeast in warmish milk so just use active dry yeast.
Dairy-free milk. I usually use soy milk but oat or almond milk will work too.
Dairy-free butter and olive oil. I am really enjoying Naturli (not a sponsored link) but you can use your favourite vegan butter. Olive oil lends a little fruity flavour.
Sugar. I always use raw caster sugar for baking but regular granulated sugar will do.
Carrots. Any carrot you like - you'll need about a hundred grams.
Sultanas. Providing little burst of sweetness, I love sultanas in these sweet buns but you can omit them or swap them for chopped dried apple or currants.
Walnuts. You could swap these for pecans or even chopped almonds but I love walnuts with my carrot cake.
Vegan cream cheese. I like Tofutti cream cheese but you use what you have or you can replace the measurement with butter if you don't like cream cheese.
Confectioner's sugar (icing sugar). We don't add bone char to icing sugar in Australia but if you live in a country where it is added, just make sure to buy a vegan brand.
You'll find full instructions and measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
Making sweet rolls is super easy. Let's do it.
Step 1 and 2. Prepare the wet ingredients. In a jug or bowl, combine the luke-warm milk with the yeast and the tablespoon of sugar and set aside for 5-10 minutes or until the mixture is foamy and frothy. After it's all frothy, stir in the remaining half-cup of sugar, butter and olive oil. Whisk together.
Whisk the dry ingredients together in the large bowl of your stand mixer. If you are making these sweet buns by hand, the instructions are in the recipe card below.
Step 3. Kneading. Add the yeast/sugar/oil mixture to the dry ingredients. Turn your stand mixer on to low and work until the dough begins to come together. It will look dry but don't worry, the carrots will add more moisture. Stop the mixer and add the grated carrots and then continue the machine on medium for around 5 minutes or until the dough is soft and elastic.
Step 4. Add the sultanas. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and add the sultanas. Knead for another minute - incorporating the sultanas as you go - by hand until the dough is smooth and dimple-free (besides the lumps made by the sultanas).
Step 5. First proof. Form it into a ball and place in a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl with clingfilm or a wet cloth and leave in a warm place to proof until double in size. This will be 1-2 hours, depending on how cool or warm your house is.
Step 6. Form the rolls and second proof. Line a slice tray with baking paper and punch down the proofed dough .
You're going to go ahead and divide the dough into 12 portions and roll each into a ball. I find weighing each one easier (weigh the entire dough ball and divide it by 12 to get the weight of each bun) but you can just eyeball it if you like.
Cover the tray with clingfilm and leave for 30-45 minutes to increase in size by half.
While your sweet rolls are proofing, chop up the walnuts and add them to a bowl with the remaining streusel ingredients. Using your fingertips, work the mixture together until you get a textured crumble.
Also, combine the glaze ingredients in a small bowl to brush on the proofed buns
Step 7. Dressing the buns and baking. Preheat the oven to 200° C (390° F). Brush the proofed buns with the glaze and then sprinkle on the streusel. I am completely messy with this and it doesn't matter a fig. The buns will rise again in the oven and those nutty bits will bake in. it's so good!
Throw that tray in the oven (don't really throw it, please) and bake for around 25 minutes until dark golden. Remove from the oven and carefully brush on any remaining glaze to make the buns all glossy and delicious.
A Little Bit About Yeast
Baking with yeast is simple and as long as you keep these yeast truths in mind, you're golden.
- Use live or active yeast. Yeast can die or become inactive. Test your yeast by combining 2 teaspoons of yeast with ½ cup of lukewarm water and a ½ teaspoon of sugar. After 5-7 minutes, your mixture should have a thick foamy surface. If not, your yeast has met its maker and it's time to buy a new batch.
- Only combine yeast with lukewarm liquid. Too hot and the yeast will die (that's dramatic); too cold and it won't activate. Luke warm simply means blood temperature. You know you have lukewarm water when you run it over your hand and you can't feel it; the temperature is so close to your own. Nothing technical, just a feeling. If in doubt, lukewarm is around 36.5 to 40 degrees C (100 - 110 degrees F)
- Salt is not yeast's friend. When salt is in a yeast bread recipe, combine it well with the flour before adding your yeast mixture.
The Poke Test
The poke test is an easy way to tell whether a yeasted dough is ready for baking.
Lightly flour a finger or knuckle and give the dough an assertive poke, as though you are trying to wake it up. If the dough springs back right away (it’s saying, “Hey, what the heck!”), let it rise for another 5-10 minutes.
If the dough springs back slowly, like a cat waking from a long nap, and your poke leaves a small indentation, it’s ready to go.
You can make the recipe up to Step 6 - preparing the buns for the second proof - and pop the tray, covered, in the fridge. The next day, remove the tray from the fridge and let the buns sit until they get to room temperature (they'll puff up some more too) Continue on from the recipe from there.
You can make these with Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour. You'll need it for the buns and the streusel.
More Easter Treats
Want more plant-based goodness?
Sweet Rolls with Walnut Streusel
- 1 Stand mixer optional
- 1 baking tray
- 1 pastry brush
- 1 large mixing bowls
- 3 smaller bowls
For the rolls
- 1 cup / 250ml dairy-free milk luke-warm
- 2½ tsp / 9g active dry yeast 1¼ packets
- ½ cup ( 110g) + 1 tbsp raw caster sugar
- ¼ cup / 50g olive oil
- ¼ cup / 60g vegan butter melted and cooled slightly
- 4 cups / 600g all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoon ground all-spice
- ¾ cup finely grated carrots about 100g
- ½ cup / 80g sultanas
For the streusel
- ½ cup / around 45g raw walnuts chopped
- 3 tbsp / 55g brown sugar
- 4 tbsp / 60g all-purpose flour
- 1½ tbsp / 30g vegan butter
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch sea salt
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 teaspoon dairy freemilk or water
Cream Cheese Drizzle (optional but so freaking awesome)
- 55 g / 2oz vegan cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon vegan butter softened
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup / 50g powdered sugar
- In a jug or bowl, combine the luke-warm milk with the yeast and the tablespoon of sugar set aside for 5-10 minutes or until the mixture is foamy and frothy. After it's all frothy, stir in the remaining half-cup of sugar, butter and olive oil. Whisk together.
Preparing the Dough with a Stand Mixer
- If you're using a stand mixer, pop on the hook attachment and add the flour, cinnamon, all-spice and salt to the bowl and combine. Add the yeast/sugar/oil mixture to the dry ingredients. Turn the machine onto low and work until the dough begins to come together. It will look dry but don't worry, the carrots will add more moisture. Stop the mixer and add the grated carrots and then continue the machine on medium for around 5 minutes or until the dough is soft and elastic. Tip - if you turn the machine up to high for a few seconds, the dough will slap against the sides of the bowl when it's ready.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and add the sultanas. Knead for another minute or so by hand until the dough is smooth and dimple-free (besides the lumps made by the sultanas). Form it into a ball and place in a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl with clingfilm or a wet cloth and leave in a warm place to proof until double in size. This will be 1-2 hours, depending on how cool or warm your house is.
Preparing the Dough by Hand
- If you are working by hand, combine your bloomed yeast/sugar/oil mixture with the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Do this part with a spoon until it begins to come together and then continue with your hands working the dough until it comes together in a large mass. At this point, add the grated carrots and work them into the dough.
- Lightly dust your counter top with flour and turn the dough out on to it. Knead the dough, adding a touch of flour at a time if its too sticky (I usually end up adding up to 2 tablespoons) for around 8 minutes or until the dough is soft and smooth. Fold in the sultanas and continue kneading to work them in until the dough is smooth and dimple-free.
- Form it into a ball and place in a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl with clingfilm or a wet cloth and leave in a warm place to proof until double in size. This will be 1-2 hours, depending on how cool or warm your house is.
To Make the Buns
- Line a slice tray with baking paper and punch down the proofed dough . To achieve similar size buns, weigh the dough and divide the weight by 12 to get an individual weight (it's usually around 100 grams each) or just cut the dough into 12 portions the best you can if you're not too fussing. Roll each portion in to a ball and place them on the baking tray with a small space between each ball. Cover the tray with clingfilm and leave for 30-45 minutes to increase in size by half.
- Meanwhile, place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse to a rough crumb. Transfer the crumb to a bowl and add the remaining streusel ingredients. Using your fingers, rub the mixture together to a wet but textured sand consistency. You want smaller crumbs and bigger ones (the size of a pea).
- In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup and butter to create a glaze.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200° C (390° F).
- After increasing by half, brush each bun with a good amount of the maple glaze. Follow with a good sprinkle of the walnut streusel on each bun. Place the buns in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until a deep golden.
- Remove from the oven and carefully add more glaze to the buns.
To Add the Cream Cheese Drizzle
- Allow the buns to cool.
- Combine the ingredients together and mix until smooth. Gently heat the drizzle in 10-seconds increments in the microwave until pourable. You can also do this over really low heat in a small saucepan. Gently drizzle the frosting over the top of the buns with a spoon. Add as much as you like .