Hot from the oven and slathered with orange-scented frosting, Sunday morning doesn’t get any better than when you serve these beautiful sweet rolls. When I first met The Artist one of our favorite treats were the orange rolls you buy in the refrigerated section and pop open to bake. I would make them for us for Sunday breakfasts and then we would go out and enjoy our weekend. The only problem was that they made The Artist not feel well. He suffered in silence for a long time before he finally told me. It took me awhile, but I made up this recipe so we could once again enjoy our weekly treat.
Baking rolls from scratch can be intimidating for even seasoned cooks and bakers. But they are much easier than you think and with a little practice you will be turning them out like a pro. Pastries are not as tricky as biscuits and actually benefit from strong kneading. You want gluten to develop in any yeast-risen dough so don’t hold back.
There is little in this life that is more satisfying than seeing your own yeast dough rising. Lifting the kitchen towel draped over the bowl and seeing it grow and grow. I loved it as a child when I baked cinnamon rolls with my grandmother, as a teenager when I taught myself to make bread, and I love it today.
Yeast is a fascinating ingredient. It is made of dormant little bacteria that come back to life when you add water, sort of like sea-monkeys, LOL. The yeast eats sugar and produce gasses which in turn lift the dough creating the rise we pray will happen. The number one reason that breads don’t rise is that the yeast were killed. This can happen because the water was too hot or the package was too old. Keep your yeast in the refrigerator and use well before the use-by-date on the package. If in doubt, buy new packages.
Making yeast dough is a give and take process. You give the dough a beating (kneading) and the you let it take a rest. You develop the gluten and then let it relax and rise. The yeast needs time to work on the dough so that it rises tall and gorgeous. There is an art to the feel of dough that you will learn with time and practice. Soon you will know just by the feel of the dough whether it will rise as you want it to and become the baked goods people dream about.
When you are looking for a citrus flavoring in baked goods, please don’t buy the fake stuff. Go out and buy the real fruit and zest it yourself. If you don’t already own one, buy a Microplane zester – it makes zesting a dream instead of a chore. The zest of citrus fruits is just the colored part and is filled with incredible oils that are what you want to capture. The white part beneath the zest is the pith and is very bitter. Make sure you zest only the colored part.
If you can’t find fresh citrus, there is one product that I think is nearly as good and will bail you out in a pinch. It is orange oil (not extract) from Boyajian. They make a whole line of oils including lemon and lime. Their quality is very high, they have a long shelf life, and when you need a little boost of flavor, they are the perfect ingredient. However, a little goes a long way and it is really easy to go overboard with the oils. So what I did was go to Whole Foods and buy a bunch of little bottles with eye dropper tops. I transferred the oils to these bottles, labeled them, and I keep them in the refrigerator. When I need a few drops, I literally can add drops one at a time. That is a secret worth its weight in gold!
In addition to their citrus oils, Boyajian produces a broad spectrum of other products as well. From infused oils like Rosemary or Habanero, to pomegranate or sweet plum vinegar, to maple or cherry flavorings, when you buy Boyajian you know you are buying quality ingredients guaranteed to make your cooking and baking the best it can be. Check here for a list of their recipes.
When I was young, sweets couldn’t be sweet enough for me. The more sugar the better. As I’ve gotten older I have learned to appreciate a more subtle sweetness. These rolls are not overly sweet and by using sour cream in the frosting glaze, it has a touch of sourness that highlights the rolls nicely. You can add more sugar if your little ones demand it, but try it this way first and let me know what you think!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Yeast is easy to kill with overly warm water. The best way is to have an instant read thermometer to judge it, but if you don’t have one, you can use the trick all mother’s know. Just like when you are heating a bottle of milk for your baby, use the inside of your wrist to judge the temperature. It should feel slightly warmer than skin temperature.
Kitchen Skill: How to Knead Dough
This recipe is designed to be made with a heavy-duty stand mixer. If you don’t have one you can do the kneading by hand. Place dough on a well-floured surface and sprinkle the top with more flour. Using a rocking motion, with the heels of your hands in the middle of the dough, extend your arms and push the dough away from you. Fold it over onto itself (toward you), spin it a quarter turn and repeat. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and stretchy and it doesn’t stick to your hands, adding more flour as needed. Form into a smooth ball and continue as directed in the recipe.
- 4 oz butter (1 stick)
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp dry yeast
- 1 cup water
- 3 eggs
- 5 to 6 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Canola oil
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 to 3 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice
- Grated zest from 1/2 orange
- Frosting Glaze
- 1 cup low-fat sour cream
- About 3/4 cup powdered sugar, to taste
- Grated zest from 1/2 orange
- 3 to 4 drops orange oil, such as Boyajian brand
- 1 to 2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice, or as needed
- Make Dough: Heat butter, milk, and sugar until butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm (mixture should feel slightly warmer than normal skin temperature.)
- Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Combine cooled butter, yeast, water, and eggs in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Using the paddle attachment, slowly add the flour mixture to the liquids. Change to the dough hook. Mix for 4 to 6 minutes or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and crawls up the hook. Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turning to oil all sides, cover with a towel, and place in a warm, draft free spot for the first rise.
- Wait until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour. NOTE: This can vary widely depending on the strength/age of yeast and the temperature of the room. Judge this more on volume than timing.
- While dough is rising, make filling. Combine butter, sugar, orange juice and zest. Mix until smooth. Taste and add a couple drops of orange oil if you want a stronger orange flavor.
- Butter a baking sheet; set aside.
- Transfer risen dough to a lightly floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a rectangle about 12×9-inches for 3-inch rolls. Using a clean, dry pastry brush, brush off any excess flour. Top with filling mixture, leaving a clean 1/2-inch edge around the sides.
- Starting at the long edge, roll tightly into a log. Using a very sharp knife, trim off the ends and cut log into 12 equal pieces for large rolls, or 24 pieces for smaller portions. Place rolls cut-side up on prepared baking sheet with edges touching. Press the top of each roll down to flatten slightly and spread the tops to partially expose the filling. Cover and set rolls aside to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
- If you want a slow rise in the refrigerator, roll dough into log and cut as directed above. Place on baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator. Let rise 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Place on the counter and let warm up about 30 minutes before continuing.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- When dough has risen, bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown, spinning the pan halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to a cooling rack. Cool slightly.
- Make Frosting Glaze: Place the icing ingredients in a bowl. Beat until smooth. While the rolls are still warm, drizzle glaze over the top. Separate rolls and serve warm or at room temperature.
- If you have any icing left over, pass it at the table. Your guests may want to slather extra on their rolls!
- Yield: 12 to 24 servings