It’s funny how food can evoke such strong memories and nostalgic feelings, both through aroma and taste. We all have at least one or two guilty food pleasures – many from our childhood. And when we encounter them again we are instantly transported back. One of mine happens to be orange rolls that stir sweet memories of my Mom.
Mom was a great cook but in her early fifties found herself single and starting over. Like many working women finding free time for cooking was and still is a challenge. But when it came to Emily she would always find even a tiny bit of time to cook with her. Enter those sweet orange rolls and another generation of memories. In a pinch for time Mom did a throw back to a convenience item and pulled out those pre-packaged orange danish rolls- they did the trick!
Emily and I have talked about them fondly through the years and it’s been a very long time since I had one. I felt certain I could recreate a version from scratch. I started by pulling out the recipe for the sweet dough we use for our cinnamon rolls.
The recipe for the sweet dough is a favorite and one my dear friend Jane and I used when we were catering. The addition of mashed potatoes to the dough keeps the rolls soft and tender making it possible to bake these rolls a day in advance.
The filling was the tricky part. Cinnamon could easily overpower the citrus and I wanted a pure orange flavor. After searching through volumes of recipes I found several that offered variations of a butter-based sweet filling loaded with fresh orange zest. And best of all, the warm rolls are frosted with the same citrus-infused confection.
A combination of butter, powdered sugar, a bit of orange juice and a lot of orange zest makes the perfect filling and topping for these tender rolls.
The orange-sugar mixture is very soft and part of this filling will make its way to the bottom of the rolls creating a sweet, citrus-infused layer. Rolling up the dough and cutting the rolls can be a bit messy but it’s worth it!
A quick tip – if you’re new to making yeast bread having an instant-read thermometer on hand is extremely valuable. All-Clad makes a great digital version. Checking the temperature of liquids is important to yeast. Liquids that are too hot will kill the yeast but you need some heat for the yeast to grow.
This recipe makes a lot of rolls – at least 24-30 and the recipe for the filling makes an ample amount for filling and topping the rolls. If you want a variety, cut the recipe for the filling/topping in half and divide the dough. You can make cinnamon rolls from the other half. (Our recipe for cinnamon rolls is posted on our blog under breads in the Recipe Index.) Either the dough or prepared rolls can also be refrigerated for a day or two.
The scent and bright flavor of oranges are nestled into the layers of warm, sweet dough with a dollop of orange sweetness spread across the top… Delicious memories.
For the dough:
2 packages dry yeast, ¼ ounce each (I use rapid rise yeast)
½ cup warm water, 110-115 degrees
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 medium potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed as smooth as possible; measure out 1 cup
2 cups scalded milk (heated until steaming and foamy, just below boiling)
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons kosher salt
7 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the yeast, the warm water and the sugar; set aside to proof, about 5-10 minutes. Make sure the container is large enough for the yeast to expand.
In a large mixing bowl pour the scalded milk over the shortening then mix on low-speed using the heat from the milk to dissolve the shortening. Cool to lukewarm, about 110-115 degrees.
Slowing stir in 4 cups of the flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup of the mashed potatoes, the eggs, kosher salt and dissolved yeast.
Add the remaining 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time mixing well after each addition.
The dough will be very soft and slightly sticky.
Place the dough in a large bowl, that has been lightly sprayed with a cooking spray, turning the dough once to coat.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in a warm spot to rise until it is doubled in volume, about an hour.
For the filling and topping:
6 cups powdered sugar, sifted to remove any lumps
12 tablespoons butter, room temperature
8 tablespoons orange zest, about 6-8 oranges
6-8 tablespoons orange juice
Combine the powdered sugar, the softened butter, orange zest and 6 tablespoons of the orange juice, adding more if needed to just bring the filling together.
This makes a large batch, enough to easily cover 30+ orange rolls.
To make the rolls:
Pull out half of the sweet dough and place it on a surface dusted with flour, tossing to coat so that it is easy to handle.
Roll the dough into a rectangle.
Spread about a quarter of the filling over the dough, spreading to the edges on the narrow side of the dough.
Gently roll the dough working from one end to the other. Some of the filling might come out and it’s a bit messy, but it’s okay! Keeping the seam on top helps keep it in place. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into slices that are about ¾” thick.
Place the rolls in a baking pan that has been sprayed with a cooking spray making sure the bottom is well coated. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Cover and let rise until doubled in size about 45 minutes.
Once the dough has risen, bake in a 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden.
Let the rolls cool until slightly warm and spread the remaining powdered sugar mixture over the tops.