Last Thursday, we government employees had a blissfully free day off work. (And a few other people, I guess, but not many because our voicemail was full to bursting when we got back!) I did a lot of lollygagging and a little bit of laundry, but I also mustered up the energy to make these amazing, orangey cinnamon rolls.
I stumbled across a recipe for basic cinnamon rolls in some junk mail. I subscribe to Bon Appetit, so every cooking or baking magazine or mail order service ever wants me to subscribe. If I’m lucky, some of them include samples (sadly just recipes and not actual food) that I can snag before tossing them in the recycling bin. Hey, I already have piles of cookbooks that never get opened because I always make my favorite handful of things!
Anyway, these were perfect because they were small. I love a good cinnamon roll, but sometimes after one of those enormous ones the size of my head, I feel like drifting into a sugar coma for the rest of the afternoon. These ones are about three or four bites worth, just enough to satisfy a craving for something sweet, but not so much that you feel like all of your healthy eating efforts were for naught. I also had a juicy Valencia orange in my fridge just waiting for a good use to come along, so I modified the basic recipe a to add a hint of orange flavor. It was bursting with deliciousness.
SO! Enough talk. Time to tell you how it’s done.
4 1/4 – 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp yeast
3/4 cup (ish) milk
one whole, juicy orange
1/3 cup + 3 Tbsp butter
1 cup sugar, divided
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cup(s) powdered sugar
So here’s what you need to do to make these delicious, delicious orange cinnamon rolls.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups for the flour with the yeast, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt. Zest the peel of the orange, and add that to the bowl as well.
Juice the orange, then add enough milk so that you have about a cup of liquid. (When I made these, it was around 1/4 cup orange juice, 3/4 cup milk, which turned out to be just the right blend of orange taste.) Heat that in a saucepan with 1/3 cup butter until it’s melted but not boiling.
Add the hot liquid to the flour mixture and beat on low speed with a hand mixer for about a minute and and a half. Beat in the eggs and another 1 1/2 to 2 cups of flour well for about five minutes. Add any more flour that the dough needs to not be quite so sticky. Knead it on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes until it’s smooth.
Lightly coat a bowl with oil, and place the dough into the bowl (turning once, so it’s all oiled as well). Cover the bowl with a damp towel and keep in a warm place to rise for at least an hour.
After it has had time to rise, separate the dough into two equal portions, then let it rest for 10 minutes.
Roll out one of the sections of dough into a large rectangle. The recipe says 12×9, but I just went with what felt about right in length and thickness, without pushing the dough too far.
Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter, and mix it with the cinnamon and remaining sugar. (I used this amazing Vietnamese Cinnamon from Penzey’s Spices that added an extra little kick to it.) With a big spoon or a pastry brush, spread about half the butter/sugar mixture over the top of the dough rectangle. Then, roll it up the long way and seal the ends with water, milk, or egg whites, whatever tickles your fancy. Cut the tube into 12 slices. Repeat for the second section of dough.
Place the cinnamon rolls on greased cookie sheets, and cook at 375 degrees (F) for 15-20 minutes or until a nice, golden brown. Because they are kind of small and there’s all that sugar, they will burn in a snap, so keep an eye on them once it gets closer to being done. You can spread out some aluminum foil over top of them after 10 minutes or so if you want to protect them from burning.
Once they’re out of the oven, mix the powdered sugar (it works best if you have time to sift it) with enough hot/boiling water for it to get icing-like, but not so much that it’s very runny. I realize that’s not a helpful direction for the newbie baker, but you’ll know it when you see it. You know what icing feels like! Just do it a little bit at a time. Drizzle the icing over top of the rolls, and try not to inhale all of them at once.
What I love about this recipe is that there’s just a hint of orange to add a little something different, but it’s not overpowering. And they’re small, so you can have a sweet snack without feeling like it was too much. The recipe makes about 24, so it’s good for a staff meeting surprise or if you’re bringing something to a party (especially if you know there will already be lots of sweets). Unfortunately, these were all gone before I even remembered to take a photo of them. Next time, I suppose. They will definitely be added to our Christmas morning rotation this year, that’s for sure!
Tip: When you’re eating them longer than a couple of hours after baking, it’s worth it to pop it in the microwave for 15 seconds if you can. They are best warm and gooey!