Citrus Sweet Rolls (our Christmas recipe)

Oh.  My.  GOSH.  When my husband and I first bit into these rolls we were absolutely blown away.  Better than my wildest dreams, these rolls had it all:  Moist, stretchy dough texture – even on the outside of the roll, sweet citrus zing, and a hint of savory (if you do the cream cheese frosting – I now prefer a citrus glaze, details below!).

I love how citrus in seasonal in the winter – really brightens it up!

I wrote in an old blog entry that one of my goals is to try as many recipes as possible so that I can find THE best recipes to be the seasonal staples of my children’s childhoods. Devouring my first roll I knew: I had arrived.  I’d found THE #1 Christmas morning recipe for my family.  For us, there can be no more important recipe. Of course, it’ll be awhile before I’m hosting my own Christmases.  But for now, I’m thinking our tree-decorating day and whatever day we celebrate Christmas in Boston will include this recipe… and I’ll make it at NO other time of the year, to preserve its magic.

Here it is, with pics. I tweaked and combined two different recipes to arrive at our final creation.

For the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
pinch of salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly whisked

For the filling:
1 stick butter, softened
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp orange extract
3/4 cup brown sugar (I used dark)

If you like cream cheese icing – leave butter and cream cheese out in advance!:
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1.5 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
1 teaspoons orange extract

If you prefer a citrus glaze:
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups confectioners (powedered) sugar)
pinch salt
2-3 tbsp milk or cream, as preferred for consistency
Zest of 1 orange

Directions (takes a little time, but not at all difficult):

Place the flour sugar, yeast, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the buttermilk – this should bring it to a little warmer than room temp (too hot will kill the yeast), swish it around in the pan and add it to the bowl of dry ingredients.  Lightly whisk the eggs – just use the same pan you used for the butter/milk mixture, and add those too.  Mix in mixer a little until it comes together – use a dough hook attachment if you have one – then knead with your hands for about 7 minutes.  Place in a lightly greased or oiled bowl and flip it over so the top of the dough is also greased.  Cover (I use a wet dishcloth for moisture) and let rise in a warm place (I turn my oven on and off briefly so that the oven is slightly warm) for 2.5 hours or until doubled.

You should definitely invest in these baking mats, it is practically miraculous how the dough does not stick to them at all even without flouring them!  Check it out:

While dough rises, prepare the filling.  Simply mix everything together.  Then grease or butter a 9 x 12 inch baking pan.

Punch dough down, and again turn it out on lightly floured surface or baking mat.  Roll until it’s about 18 inches by 12ish (doesn’t have to be perfect).  Spread the filling evenly all over.

Spreading the filling is a great time for kids to help!

Roll up, starting at one of the longer (18″) sides.  Once rolled, slice it into about 12 slices (so, 1.5 inches each to make 18 inches) – doesn’t have to be perfect!!  By the way, I’m told unwaxed floss is great for the slicing, but I use this dough cutter by OXO – it’s cheap and it’s also really handy for scraping flour off surfaces and into the trash.  Place the slices as evenly as you can in the prepared baking dish.  At this point, you can cover and refrigerate overnight if you prefer!

Cover (I used the same moist dishcloth but you could use plastic wrap, you may want to grease it a little because it’ll stick a little bit) and let rise again, again in a warm place, for about an hour, until rolls are all touching each other and appear to be the proper size.  If you refrigerated overnight, you may need to let them rise an extra 30 mins or so.

Fully risen, ready for the oven!

Then bake at 375 for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden on top.  Do not overcook!!!!  Or undercook.  It’s worth it to test a roll with a knife, you can just eat that one later.  While it cooks and cools a bit, prepare the glaze OR the cream cheese frosting.  Just add everything in and stir (glaze) or mix in mixer (frosting).

Cover with the glaze (or frosting).  Serve.  Heavenly!!!!

Frosted.  PERFECT December morning.
And here’s the final product with the citrus glaze.  I really can’t pick a winner!!!