Have you ever wondered what cinnamon-less cinnamon rolls would taste like? Why aren't there more recipes for sticky, gooey, sweet breakfast rolls without cinnamon or caramel? After all, there are so many other good options!
I was craving a buttery, flaky breakfast bun and the sweet, tangy, taste of lemon, so I made one up. The results were amazing, if I do say so myself! It was a first run of a recipe, and I got lucky: I won't ever change a thing about it.
The rolls are modeled after the classic cinnamon roll, with a buttery yeast dough flecked with nutmeg and lemon. But inside each roll is a rich filling of sugar and lemon that bakes into gooey, oozy sweet-tart deliciousness. The cream cheese glaze puts it over the top, with more lemon tartness and not too much sweetness.
The recipe is not difficult, and like other breakfast rolls these can be made at night and put in the refrigerator overnight for easy and quick baking come morning.
These rolls also make a nice brunch treat or any special occasion treat.
Sticky lemon rolls with lemon cream cheese glaze
Makes 12 large breakfast rolls
Lemon roll dough:
1 envelope (0.25 ounces, or 2 1/2 teaspoons) active yeast
3/4 cup milk, warmed to about 100 F (warm but not hot on your wrist)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Sticky lemon filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
Lemon cream cheese glaze:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
Make the dough:
1. Zest and juice the lemons. Divide the zest into three parts. Divide the juice into two parts, and set aside. (Half of the lemon juice will be used in the lemon-sugar filling for the rolls. The other half will be used in the glaze.)
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a few minutes. With the mixer paddle, stir in the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour. Stir in the salt, nutmeg and one part (1/3) of the lemon zest. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough.
3. Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable. (If you do not have a stand mixer, stir together the ingredients by hand, then turn the soft dough out onto a lightly floured countertop. Knead the dough by hand for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, pliable and stretchy.)
4. Spray the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled -- about an hour.
In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the second part of the lemon zest (1/3) with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles soft sand. Slowly pour in one part of the lemon juice, stirring. Stop when the sugar and lemon juice form a wet, clumpy mixture. (You may use all of the reserved half of the lemon juice; you may stop before completely adding that half of the lemon juice.)
Assemble the rolls:
1. Lightly grease a 13- by 9-inch baking dish with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface, pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle -- about 10 by 15 inches.
2. Spread the dough evenly with the 3 tablespoons of softened butter, then pour and spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Stretch and pull the dough taut as you roll, to keep the lemon sugar firm inside. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls. Pinch the bottom of each roll closed and place each one, open and cut side up, in the prepared baking dish.
3. Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise for an hour.)
4. Heat the oven to 350 F. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into a center roll reads 190 F.
While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small food processor (or with a mixer, or a sturdy whisk), whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the remaining lemon juice and blend until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.
Finish the rolls:
When the rolls are done, smear them with the cream cheese glaze, and sprinkle the final remaining lemon zest over top to garnish. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving, but do serve while still warm.
Faith Durand is managing editor of TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, Inc.