Happy first week of spring! With how mild our winter has been this year, it doesn’t feel real that it should be spring already, but here we are. (And it’s supposed to be sunshine-y and 70 degrees today!) Still, for the lingering blustery days we’ve been having here and there, I thought one more batch of soft, squishy sweet rolls, maybe for an Easter brunch or two, was in order before all the fresh, springy produce and summer baking to come. Because, you know, it’s not difficult for me to feel that squishy sweet rolls are in order. (Just see these and these!)
I think right around now is usually (in harsher winters than this, anyway) when I start craving sunshine the most, but when it’s not quite here yet — and then I’m always thankful for the lingering bags of cheerfully bright clementines and fat navel oranges still piled on the shelves for a couple more weeks. So I thought orange sweet rolls would be the perfect embodiment of that citrus-y stand-in for sunshine. They’re warm and decadent, perfect for the chilly mornings we’ve been having lately, but filled with sweet-tart, slightly bitter marmalade and made with a little bit of Simply Orange juice for a livelier brightness than my usual winter cinnamon roll stand-by. With a layer of almond paste tucked inside, and topped with basil glaze for the summery herb season to come (I couldn’t resist going out-of-season, sorry!), it feels like a comforting breakfast that brings a little bit of the springy outdoors inside until picnic weather is ready for us. (Maybe today?!) Happy spring, friends!
Thank you to Simply Orange for sponsoring this post, and for providing OJ that’s not-from-concentrate, never sweetened or frozen, and just plain delicious. As always, all opinions are my own. For any New York friends, you can hop over to gothamtogrove.com for more Simply ideas and coupons, or their Facebook page for more recipes too.
Orange-almond sweet rolls with basil glaze
- for the dough:
- 1/4 cup Simply Orange juice (milk would also work fine here)
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 cups (250 g) flour, plus more for rolling out
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1–2 tbsp orange zest (optional)
- 1/4 cup Greek yogurt (alternatively, you can use 1/2 cup buttermilk in place of the orange juice and Greek yogurt)
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 3 tbsp (1.5 oz) unsalted butter, melted
- for the filling:
- 1/2 cup almond paste (optional)
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup homemade or storebought marmalade (or more, as desired)
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted (optional)
- 2 tbsp brown sugar (optional)
- for the glaze:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2–3 tbsp cream or whole milk, or more, to desired consistency
- 1 tsp finely chopped basil
- The night before: For the dough, heat the orange juice in a medium bowl or a Pyrex measuring cup to just warm to the touch, and sprinkle the yeast over top. Set aside for about five minutes, or until foamy on top.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. If you like, you can add a tablespoon or two of orange zest for a stronger orange flavor. When the yeast is foamy, add the yogurt, egg, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and melted butter to the yeast-milk mixture and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, then mix until all the flour is incorporated and a wet, sticky dough forms. Knead in the bowl for 5-6 minutes. The dough will be very wet — if kneading with your hands, you can add a bit of flour as necessary to keep from sticking, but I just kneaded it by folding it in on itself with a large rubber spatula, which did the trick just fine and kept things from getting frustrating. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and place it in the refrigerator to rise overnight. (Alternatively, you can let the dough rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until well-doubled — I prefer overnight to allow the flavor to develop more fully, and because a cold dough is much easier to work with, especially a delicate one like this.)
- The day of: If using almond paste in your filling, roll it out to about 9”x11” between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap until very thin, about 1/16” or less. (Too thick, and the filling may be too gooey, although you might like that!) You may want to roll out smaller pieces, one at a time. Set aside.
- Next, generously flour a work surface and scrape the still-cold dough onto it. Working with the dough straight out of the fridge is best, since I find that a cold dough is much easier to roll and work with, and your second rise will give it plenty of time to come to room temperature. Roll the dough out to a large rectangle, about 10”x13” or thereabouts, and about 1/4″ in thickness. Peel the parchment paper off the almond paste layer and place the almond paste over the dough. Next, spread marmalade generously and evenly across the dough, leaving a 1/2″ border around the edges. Finally, if you like (and especially if you’re not using almond paste), you can mix together 2 tbsp melted butter and 2 tbsp brown sugar, and pour it evenly across the dough.
- Gently but tightly roll the rectangle into a log. Rolling the rectangle width-wise will give you larger cinnamon rolls with more swirls; length-wise, smaller. Either way, pinch the seam shut and place the log seam-side down. Using unflavored dental floss or a serrated knife, gently slice the log into about 8 to 10 rolls, a little more than an inch in width. If using a knife, cut by gently moving the knife back and forth in a sawing motion to avoid pressing down on the dough — that should help it keep its shape. It’s important to use a serrated knife rather than a smooth-edged one.
- Place the rolls, cut-side down, into a 9-inch pie plate or cast-iron skillet, or an 8×8-inch square baking dish. Leave some space for them to expand; if you run out of room, bake the extras in individual ramekins or free-form on a baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until rolls are almost doubled again. If you like, you can do an overnight rise in the refrigerator at this point as well, or even freeze the rolls, well-wrapped. Either way, just bring the rolls to room temperature before baking.
- About 30 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F. When the rolls are nearly doubled, bake about 18-22 minutes, or until rolls are just barely golden in spots — this will ensure that they’re still nice and soft in the center. If using a cast-iron pan, you may want to take them out when they’re still fairly pale on top, since the pan retains heat so well and will continue to cook the rolls for a bit afterwards. If you like, brush the rolls with extra marmalade while still warm from the oven.
- Finally, make the glaze, which is simple — just whisk together the powdered sugar, cream or milk, and chopped basil until it reaches your desired consistency. Add more cream if the glaze is too thick, or more powdered sugar if too thin. I prefer cream because I find it cuts the sharp powderiness of the sugar better, but milk, or more Simply Orange juice, would work well too. Pour the glaze over the rolls and enjoy! Add extra orange zest if desired.