Gratitude + Orange Rolls

First, some gratitude: Thanks to everyone who sent their good thoughts about Bryan’s grandma. The whole family was comforted by your kind words and warm wishes.

You also helped get me nominated for one of Saveur’s annual Best Food Blog Awards. For the second year in a row (amazing!) I am nominated for best cooking blog. I don’t normally go in for competitions like this—they just aren’t my thing. Everyone wants bloggers to enter competitions so that we send our readers to their website and they make money (sorry! I am getting old and cynical). Saveur very smartly subverts this (sort of) by getting the editors involved. The nominations are not just a popularity contest, the editors hand-selected the finalists. It is why I enjoy these awards and really value being nominated. I already feel like I won. All sorts of sites are finalists, both small and large. It is another instance of Saveur taking food, bloggers and writing more seriously than their peers. I love them for it. And yes, in the end we will encourage our readers to visit their site so they can make money—but at least they worked for it! I hope you will check out all of the blogs that have been nominated and vote for the ones you like best.

In honor of the nomination, I bring you another fantastic recipe from the pages of Saveur. Like many of you, when I saw the photo of these Sweet Orange Buns (what a name!) a few months back, I knew I would make them. It took me a while, but this past weekend I finally gave it a go and was totally delighted with the results. I love them. LOVE. I will make them again soon.

They are not unlike the Pillsbury orange sweet rolls that come out of the tube. You know, the tube that pops open filling the kitchen with anxiety. Those industrially produced sweet rolls were good and an important part of my youth. I can honestly say that I have not popped open a can of pastry in many years and I am sure I wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about it now (maybe I would). This is the wholesome version of those rolls and you need to make them.

My dear mother believes in the power of the freezer. She freezes everything. Leftover paczki? Throw them in the freezer! Leftover cream pie. Throw it in the freezer! She also claims it tastes just the same after defrosting. Well, let me tell you, a frozen and thawed jelly doughnut does not taste just the same. But I should listen to her more often and since it would not be safe for Bryan and I to eat an entire pan of orange rolls, I (say it with me): Threw them in the freezer! I wrapped them individually in aluminum foil and reheated them in a 325° oven for about 12 minutes and you know what? They were just the same. They were perfect. So, long story short (too late?), you can freeze the baked and frosted rolls, which is good news if you don’t have 12 people to feed.

Sweet Orange Buns (adapted slightly from Saveur)

  • 1 1/4 cups milk, heated to 115°
  • 1 (1/4-oz.) package active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 16 tablespoons, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup orange zest (from about 4 oranges)
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract (not optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

Make the dough: Combine the milk and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in sugar, melted butter, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and egg; add flour, and mix on low speed until dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high; knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let sit until dough doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, beat softened butter, brown sugar, and zest in a bowl (you’ll need to clean the bowl of your mixer before starting this step) on high speed of a mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add remaining salt, confectioners’ sugar, and extracts; beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer 1/4 cup of the filling to a bowl; stir in orange juice to make an icing. I had trouble with this step, the icing “broke”, but it didn’t matter because it melted on the warm rolls anyway. Set filling and icing aside.

Transfer dough to a work surface; using a rolling pin, roll dough into an 18″ × 10″ rectangle, and spread filling evenly over dough. Lift up bottom edge of dough and roll it into a log; trim ends and cut log into 12 rounds. Transfer rounds cut side up to a greased 9″ × 13″ baking dish; cover with plastic wrap. Chill 6 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 375°. Uncover rolls and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Drizzle icing over rolls before serving.

57 comments to “Gratitude + Orange Rolls”

  1. Hi!
    I’m going to make these on Saturday. Would red orange juice work? Since it’s only a tablespoon then maybe, right? I mean it still tastes orangy! Thanks for an awesome, inspiring food blog!
    From a Norwegian fan!

  2. Hi Mai! Hi Norway!
    Hmmm….is red orange juice blood orange juice? It wouldn’t be my first choice, but it would be okay for the tablespoon of juice. Don’t use the zest, though. Blood oranges are a different flavor and I don’t think will work as well in this recipe. Happy baking!

  3. KentuckyKate says:

    November 20th, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Hmmm, Delicious! Just finished taste-testing my first batch and they are very nice, indeed. Thank you, Tim. And so much better than the Pillsbury rolls, though those certainly were delightful in my childhood. However, I made a couple of modifications in my first batch and will probably try a couple more in the next… 1. I rolled the dough out to be more like 20-22 inches and ended up with about 20 rolls, though used the 9×13 pan. So these are a little smaller and, honestly, more appropriate for those of us who are no longer 20 something. 2. I made only about 2/3 of the filling. Having made cinnamon rolls most of my life, I was shocked by 16 Tbsp of butter. And I didn’t end up using even all of that. So these are probably not as juicy as Tim’s, but they are very good, indeed.
    Next time? I would try without the orange extract. I think these have just a touch of that flavor one gets in commercial lemon-meringue pies, one of the reasons they can’t compare with home-made. It’s somehow just a slightly false note in the orange flavor. I’m also thinking I would like something like cinnamon-though probably not cinnamon- cloves? nutmeg? to set off the sweetness. Finally, I remember some fabulous dinner rolls from a country club in, I think, Birmingham, that had a slight orange flavor. I would like to try these as more of a dinner roll, with a lot less sweet and shaped like Parker House or crescent rolls. Lots of opportunities!

  4. I have now made these orange rolls twice and the second time I made a few changes. I cut the butter in the filling and icing down by 1/4 and we cut the powdered sugar by 1/3. The first time they were a bit too buttery and sweet for us, but this Christmas they were perfect.
    We are in a vacation rental this Christmas so didn’t have my usual kitchen tools. The recipe was easy to make with spoons and bowls and I enjoyed kneading the dough.
    The orange zest really makes these rolls special!
    Thanks for the delicious, inspiring recipe!

  5. Hi Tim,
    Absolutely love your blog- it’s just full of passion and love and all things yummy!
    Chanced on this recipe while looking for recipe for rolls. But I don’t own a bread machine and was wondering if working the dough by hand would achieve the same fluffiness and texture?

  6. Hi Cherie- You’ll be fine making it by hand, it will just be more work. Also, just to be clear- this uses a stand mixer, not a bread machine…just wanted to clarify in case there was a misunderstanding. Happy baking!

  7. I made these for Christmas morning and my family loved them! It will be our Christmas breakfast tradition from now on. Thank you!