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. That’s good to know. I couldn’t have a whole tray of these sitting around either, and I’m more likely to make them knowing I can freeze and save them for later. Sometimes it’s annoying when moms are always right. This time, awesome!

    Congrats on the Saveur nom!

  2. Loved your little talk on Saveur’s food blog nominations, even the cynical part (and I voted for you)!

    And these rolls look delicious! I haven’t had sweet orange rolls since I was maybe 9–though I guess I was pretty lucky because those ones were homemade and not from the bang-bang can. Haha, anyway I’ll try these out and let you know. Thanks!

  3. Your last post really moved me…I hope everyone is doing all right.

    Pillsbury orange rolls made my LIFE when I was a kid! I’ve been meaning to make some forever, this might be my necessary nudge.

  4. These look lovely, and, by the way, I voted for you. Congratulations!

  5. This has been on my to make list for a while – glad you made it first. The Pillsbury orange rolls were big for me too – comfort!

  6. Tim, these look gorgeous, and I see you’re making good use of your enamelware! (Do you think it performs comparably to the heavy-gauge Chicago-Metallic-type bakeware? It’s way prettier for sure, but I’m curious about performance.)

    I’m a bit of a freezer-enthusiast like your mom, admittedly. I don’t insist on tucking away everything into the freezer, but it is a good way to stretch out a batch of scones or danishes when you live in a household of two, and your partner is enthusiastic about everything hot from the oven.

  7. Katie- it is too early to give a full report, but so far I love the enamelware. I think it baked the rolls really well, and the bottom was just the right amount of brown. Also, surprisingly easy to clean. I’ll try to remember to keep you posted.

  8. Congratulations on the nomination! I voted for you on Saveur.

  9. My mom made something similar whenever we had company for breakfast where biscuit dough was dredged in butter, sugar, and orange zest, baked in a bundt pan, and served with icing made from oj, cream cheese, and powdered sugar. Think more crunchy, sugary biscuits than monkey bread :) Your adaptation sounds/looks (and I’m sure tastes!) wonderful! Harking back to your spring acquisitions post and your wonderful comment/suggestion, I hit up Marion Street Cheese Market last weekend and snatched up 2 jars of Rare Bird…I now blame you for my cherry/lime obsession :) Thanks for store suggestion!

  10. My grandma had been making these orange rolls for about 50 years out of her tiny apartment kitchen in Oak Park! (We wanted her to enter them in the Pillsbury bake-off but she never did!) Did you peek in her window and grab the recipe? (haha)! Or did you see me carry a batch to NU when I was there… or see the batch I sent to my daughter at NU? The tradition has been passed down to me and I am eager to try your version. Go Cats!

  11. Kit- No stealing, I promise! (and yay Northwestern!)

    Molly- So glad to be a part of your Rare Bird problem, it is a good problem to have. Your mom’s recipe sounds delicious.

    Thanks to everyone who voted for me!

  12. These look/sound awesome! You have perfect sweet orange buns! :)

  13. I admit that I popped open a package of those Orange Pillsbury rolls this Thanksgiving. The smell was a heavenly morsel of nostalgic, yeasty, sweet orange childhood bliss. And the taste? Plastic. I am quite happily looking forward to making, freezing and eating these. Thanks for the recipe and congrats!

  14. …Ah, these sound delish and need I say I now have a bad case of enamelware pan envy! ;o)

    …Thank you so much for the recipe!

    …Have a lovely evening & btw, you got my vote! :o)


  15. I remember those Pillsbury orange rolls fondly from Christmas mornings past…but now I really notice the chemical aftertaste. I can’t wait to try this recipe–maybe this weekend! We still have half a crate of oranges to work through!

  16. I don’t know anything about Pillsbury Orange Rolls, but these look great, especially in your new enamelware. You have my vote too.

  17. these rolls look beautiful…i particularly like the way they swirl off to one side (on the top)!
    thanks for yet another wonderful post with stunning photography & my best “savuer” wishes for your win this year!

  18. These look delicious. And my grandma pulled half and half out of her freezer last time I visited, based on that same faulty reasoning. I started drinking my coffee black.

  19. Congratulations on your second nomination for best food blog award! You deserve it! And the buns…well, they’re just fantastic. I want one right NOW! Best wishes, Assia

  20. I laughed out loud at your description of what I used to call “synthetic biscuits”–they were anxiety-provoking with that impending explosion of bad taste.

  21. Huge congratulations on the Saveur nomination. Awards may not be everything, but if I hadn’t seen your name on their website I would never have discovered this gorgeous blog so I’m definitely pleased you’ve been shortlisted :-) Those rolls look delicious – the perfect celebration!

  22. Congratulations on your nomination! Very well deserved. For what it’s worth, _Saveur_ is one of the few food magazines I receive every month and actually keep filed away. I think you’re right that the publication takes food a bit more seriously, and the writing is far better! I need to take a lesson from your mother and pop things in the freezer as well. I usually go the “unsafe” route and finish things sitting on the counter or in the fridge because they are too delicious to resist and ultimately, after a couple of days, because I feel bad wasting food. You’ve made *my* mother’s day by posting this recipe. She was addicted to those horrible orange rolls in a can when I was growing up, and I always refused to eat them. I sent her your link, and now she’s asking if I will make these for her birthday in May! At least I know they’re going to be way, way better than the ones I remember from the can… :-)

  23. I am delighted for you to be nominated for the Saveur Award. I simply love your blog and all your fabulous recipes.
    I know what you mean about the voting thing but you seem to have got the perfect balance of being brilliant but not commercial and brash.
    Many congrats and your buns look wow!!

  24. I loved those pop-the-can rolls when I was little. Especially the icing. Excited about these.

    “at least they worked for it!” Yup.

  25. congratulations on the nomination! I’m definitely making these this weekend. Perfect to enjoy on a sunday afternoon with a cup of tea.

  26. Another recipe that I can’t wait to make. These buns look sooo yummy. Perhaps I’ll make them for queens day, for orange is the royal color and flavor on queens day. And your nomination for the Saveur Award is very well deserved. So I voted for your blog, because your recipes are inspiring and much loved by my family.

  27. Tim!!! Just voted for you on Saveur! So exciting! I’ve been MIA in baby land but am slowly getting my groove back…and in LA for ’12. Let me know if you come through–we can eat together! xxx Elizabeth

  28. If I may ask such a silly question, just before one pops these in the oven – should the chilled rolls have been left out to reach room temperature? Or straight from fridge to hot oven?

  29. the pillsbury pop is quite the anxious moment, isn’t it! (that made me lol.) at first glance they look moist in the tin, like a bread pudding! (future adaptation?) huge high five for being nominated again.

  30. Elizabeth- Yes! xo
    Tash- Straight to the oven, couldn’t be easier.
    Marissa- They are not like bread pudding. During baking, the filling melts and forms a delicious orange syrup–similar to the caramel formed during the baking of cinnamon rolls.

  31. Congratulations on the nomination! You certainly deserve it.

    I’m spending this weekend at home, and my dad brought me breakfast in bed with a peeled clementine accompanying poached eggs. It made me think of your post and appreciate an already amazing gesture even more. I hope you and your family are doing well.

  32. Congratulations on the nomination! These rolls look delicious too!

  33. Congratulations on the nomination! That’s fabulous!

    And these sweet rolls are something I am definitely going to have to try in the near future because we had orange sweet rolls almost every weekend growing up. The canned kind. (My sister and I still shudder at the thought of that.) However, I love the idea of having fresh, homemade ones! Thanks for sharing this!

  34. These rolls look sublime! Congratulations on your award nomination…well deserved!

  35. WOW… this reminds me of the flavor profile in the Morning Buns at Tartine Bakery in SF. Sweet and comforting with a punch of orange to brighten it up!

  36. Congratulations on your nomination — well deserved.

    My mom, like yours, is a freezer queen. I use mine sparingly, but can’t really resist the idea of a warm orange roll whenever I want one. Freeze away.

  37. Congratulations- I feel so similarly about awards- though I love the Saveur ones- it’s so nice to have been given a nod by the editors (for me it was best culinary travel…) but even more so, it’s been so lovely to discover beautiful blogs like yours…

  38. These look absolutely amazing. I am so going to have to make them soon!

    As a newcomer who loves your blog and all your recipes, I am passing along the Versatile Blogger Award to you! Please come by my blog and check out your award!

  39. Would this work with replacing the instances of orange with lemon? I don’t usually prefer orange zest/orange extract, but these buns look incredible and I’m compelled to make them.

  40. Hi Jill,
    I might be the wrong person to ask because I don’t love lemon-flavored sweets, but my suggestion would be to play around. You probably do not wan to use as much lemon because it is more tart and might be overwhelming. But I bet you can come up with something you like. Let us know if you do…

  41. Tim, do you need to take them out of the fridge for a while before baking them the next day…

  42. Hi Tess- No need to take them out early. They can go directly from fridge to oven.

  43. trollgerl says:

    June 3rd, 2012 at 4:02 am

    Made these this weekend and despite my usual inability yo work with yeast they were fantastic. One qu. how long can these be kept in the fridge. I.e. if I split it into 2 batches and kept one in the fridge for several days would they still rise?

  44. Making these right now and so excited :) Made the icing and mine broke as well but I just stuck it in the microwave for 11 seconds and now it’s nice and liquid-y and unseperated :)

  45. Hey Tim – this may be obvious, but when you roll up the dough, do you roll it from the long or short end of the rectangle? I’m going to try these next week; they look great!

  46. Just made these for a New Years brunch, and they were a huge hit. I added some cardamom to the filling/frosting, which I really enjoyed. I also cut down the filling sugar a bit based on Saveur reviews, and definitely wouldn’t want them sweeter. But they absolutely recreate the Pillsbury rolls I grew up with in a more wholesome way. Thanks for the recipe, Tim. These are keepers!

  47. Anne Harper says:

    February 9th, 2013 at 7:26 am

    I thought this would make a good blizzard recipe. My family was not disappointed– amazing!

  48. Sounds perfect, Anne!

  49. KatieWisdm says:

    March 2nd, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Is chilling in the fridge for six hours mandatory? I tried making cinnamon rolls one time and the recipe said we could totally put the cut rolls in the fridge to cook later if we wanted, but all of the buttery-brown sugary goodness ended up oozing out. :( Definitely don’t want a repeat of that!

    PS: Pillsbury orange rolls were me and my dad’s FAVORITE when I was growing up– thanks for this recipe!

  50. Hi Katie- I’ve only tried the recipe as is, and it worked. The oozing is just a part of cinnamon rolls, i think, it doesn’t have anything to do with the fridge. Happy baking!

  51. 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!

  52. 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!

  53. 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!

  54. 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!

  55. 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?

  56. 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!

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

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