My great-grandmother's recipe for melt-in-your mouth orange sweet rolls with hints of cinnamon and cardamom.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza, this is the time of year we celebrate the circles of family, friendship, and community. We revisit childhood memories and Christmases passed, and create new ones to treasure. We exchange gifts with people close to us, to thank them for being in our lives and contributing to who we are, and who we are becoming.
For that reason, I like to reach back in time to make traditional dishes that have stood the test of time. Like this Boston Brown Bread Recipe, which dates back to the early 1800's and was steamed in cans. I've updated it to bake it in a Steamed Pudding Mold. And cinnamon rolls have been a favorite for a very long time. And these soft tangzhong cinnamon rolls are the softest ones I've ever made, thanks to the tangzhong method.
A few generations ago, my family all lived in Alabama, a comfortable distance from each other so they could be a part of everyone's everyday life. I think that's true for most of our families - things weren't so mobile then. Living near each other, it was easy to create and hold family traditions close, and pass them onto the next generation; and I imagine it was important to all of them, particularly this time of year. Today with everyone scattered across the country, it can be easy to lose track of these touchstones in our lives, but I would argue the distance makes them even more important as a way to connect us to each other and to our family heritage. And for me, that begins with food.
My great-grandmother, Mamma, was known for hosting lots of family holidays and reunions at her home. I first had these little orange rolls at one of her family brunches, and they remain to this day one of my earliest food memories. I was in her kitchen, and must have been young, because I can remember having to look up at the kitchen counter. People were bustling all around me, and I wasn't sure where to stand so I could be out of the way, but still part of the love being passed around. Someone, one of my relatives, crouched down to offer me one of these soft little rolls still warm from the oven. The drizzle was sticky and a little messy, and I remember being not so sure about that. But their aroma and softness convinced me to try them, and as they melted in my mouth, my world was transformed. I'm sure my mom eventually got me into the dining room and maybe got something else into my tummy besides these orange rolls, but I have no memory of any of that. I only remember standing in Mamma's kitchen eating these rolls, and being amazed that something could taste this good.
I confess I don't make these tender morsels every year, and don't honestly know if Mamma did either, but I find myself yearning for more tradition in my life, a deeper connection to my family, and have decided that making these sweet-roll puffs over the holidays will be our newest family tradition to pass onto future generations with love.
A few baking notes:
- If you've never made bread before, and have a Kitchen Aid or other standing mixer that came with a dough hook, this is a great, easy recipe to experiment with. There's next to no kneading by hand, and sits overnight in the refrigerator for its first rise.
- This is considered a sweet yeasted dough, and can be sticky if you're kneading by hand. If I'm not using a dough hook, I need to use more flour to make it manageable, which will change the texture slightly.
- My best success for light texture in these rolls have come from kneading the dough with the hook for 15 minutes. It's very smooth and silky by then.
- You may not see a large rise of the dough as it comes out of the refrigerator, but trust me, this will be a light, airy sweet roll. The slow overnight rise builds a lot of great flavor into the rolls.
- As an alternative, depending on your schedule you can opt for the first rise in a warm draft-free area of your kitchen, shape the rolls, place them in a baking dish, and then move them into the refrigerator for an overnight rise for the second rise. If you don't bring them to room temp before baking off, your baking time will be a little longer than that suggested in the recipe.
- On a cold winter morning, I do the second rise in my microwave oven. I first heat up a cup of water to boiling in the microwave, put it to the side, slide the dish with the rolls in, and close the door. The hot water will keep the interior of the microwave slightly warm for the yeast to expand and grow. If you decide to put them in a warm oven, make sure it's not too warm or the butter filling will melt and pool around the rolls, which can hinder how much they rise.
Mamma's Orange Refrigerator Rolls
Orange Refrigerator Rolls
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup butter ½ stick
- ¼ coconut oil the original recipe calls for shortening
- 3 ounces sugar
- ¾ teaspoons salt
- 1 packages dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water 105 - 110 degrees F
- 1 large egg slightly beaten
- 3 cups 13.5 ounces all-purpose flour
Cinnamon - Orange Filling
- 6-8 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon orange zest
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/16 teaspoon ground cardamom
Orange Glaze (Optional)
- 1 cups confectioners sugar
- 2 ½ tablespoons orange juice
- 1 tablespoon crème fraîche
Refrigerator Rolls and Assembly
- Bring ½ cup of water to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the butter and coconut oil, and stir until melted. Add the sugar and salt, and continue to stir until the sugar dissolves. Cool to lukewarm.
- Pour the warmed ½ cup water into a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over it, and stir to dissolve. Allow to sit until the yeast begins to expand and billow. Add the butter / sugar mixture and stir to mix.
- Add 3 cups flour or enough to make a thick dough and mix thoroughly. In my great grandmother's day, this likely meant a lot of kneading. For me, I put everything into the bowl of my Kitchen Aid, fitted it with the hook attachment and let it knead the dough for 15 minutes on the lowest speed, until the dough is silky and stretchy. The best way to check the stretchiness (glutenous) of this dough is to dig the hook in and pull a piece of dough up. If it quickly tears, keep kneading.
- Cover and put in the refrigerator overnight.
- About 2 - 2 ½ hours before serving the rolls, turn the dough out onto a floured workspace, divide in half and roll out each portion into a 12" X 8" rectangle.
- Spread the Cinnamon Orange Filling (recipe below) on the dough, dividing it between the two rectangles. Roll up each rectangle like a jelly roll and slice into 18 equal slices for small rolls, or into 12 slices for larger rolls
- Place the rolls in 3 greased 8" or 9" square baking pans. Let rolls rise for 1 ½ hours.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the rolls for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Drizzle the Orange Glaze over the warm rolls and serve.
- Combine the sugar and orange zest in a bowl, and rub between your fingers until the sugar has absorbed all the zest. It will be damp. Add the spices and rub into the sugar mixture.
- Place the softened butter and the sugar mixture in the bowl of a mixer and beat together until it's completely mixed.
- Spread on the rolled out dough rectangles using a knife.
Orange Glaze (Optional)
- Mix together the confectioners sugar and orange juice until the sugar liquifies. Mix in the crème fraîche.
- Drizzle over warm rolls fresh from the oven.
What a great breakfast dish! Beautiful, and delicious at the same time. Thank you for sharing!
The Ninja Baker
The magic of Southern gentility and close-knit family seems to be woven into your luscious looking orange rolls, Susan.
Love to give them a try!
P.s. Appreciate the substitution of coconut oil for the original shortening.
Susan, my hubby loves (and begs for) orange rolls! So glad to have a new recipe to try! Happy holidays and happy Sunday Supper!!! xo
Can I please come to your house to Christmas Breakfast? Merry Christmas and thank you for being such a big part of #SundaySupper this past year!
I'll be making these for Christmas morning, these remind me of the recipe I tested on food52. The orange and cinnamon are heavenly. Happy Holidays!
I'm so excited to try these orange rolls! Merry Christmas!
I love your story and these rolls look beautiful and delectable! Happy holidays!
Lane @ Supper for a Steal
These rolls look amazing! My family would love them.
Paula @ Vintage Kitchen
I think I like orange rolls more than cinnamon. And fresh out of the oven, that´s an incredible experience! Love your holiday tradition! Have a wonderful Christmas Susan!
These sound wonderful! Thanks for sharing the story and the recipe!
Nancy @ gottagetbaked
Susan, this is such a lovely post! I can't wait to try these rolls - they've got everything: carbs, orange, and icing. YUM! And I loved reading about your first experience tasting them. To this day, I can remember magic moments like that from my childhood and I know how special it is to treasure memories (and food) like this. Thankfully both my family and my Husband's all live in town so that we can celebrate the holidays together. Regardless of where your family is, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!
A beautiful recipe and family story...And one of your best shots of 2012! Can I join #SundaySupper? Email me in the New Year if I can? Thanks!
These sound like they are bursting with citrus flavor. Perfect for a holiday breakfast.
What a wonderful post. Family traditions are so important and I think they are slowly being forgotten by so many families. This recipe looks amazing. My mom just looked over my shoulder and drooled at your photos. I think we might try to make them while I am here visiting.
Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious
Amazing! I could seriously clean off the pan myself!
Martin D. Redmond
This looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!
These look delicious. I can't wait to make!!
Love your story! I don't make enough homemade rolls, so I'm bookmarking these.
Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts
I have a English part to my family as well. Love these rolls!
I loved reading your post today, Susan. Family and heritage are so important to me. This is such a great recipe! I'm so glad you shared this story with us!
These look fantastic! I love making sweet rolls, and the overnight kind make for a great morning 🙂
Orange and cinnamon work so good together!
Yosef @ This American Bite
Looks delicious... and I love the high yield of this recipe.
Megan @ I Run For Wine
I love this recipe! I hope you and your family have a wonderful Holiday!
What lovely memories you have with these rolls. So great how food can help us recall the details of family events from the past. It is magical and shows how much more food plays a part in our lives.
I'm loving the orange filling! Very unexpected but completely refreshing too!
Loving the new design! Your blog looks great. I hope you enjoyed your Holidays. The rolls look beautiful and I bet the orange filling made it even better.
This would be perfect for breakfast any day. I love it!
mmm... Orange rolls! I made this last week. I must say it is beyond wonderful. Mine even turned out as pretty as yours. Thanks for the great recipe!
The Wimpy Vegetarian
I'm so happy you made these rolls. They're such a favorite of mine that I grew up with. And so so glad you liked them too! Thanks for letting me know how it worked for you!!
I have made twice and they are fabulous! Don't hesitate to try these. I used all butter, as I do not buy shortening. The second time I made them, I prepared all the way to cutting and putting in the pan and THEN refrigerated them over night. next morning, let come to room temp and rise (about one hour total) and then bake. Worked very well both ways!
The Wimpy Vegetarian
Thanks so much for letting me know! I'm so glad you made them and loved them!!!!