We should make ‘brunch for dinner’ menus an absolute, certifiable thing. Because if brunch means mimosas and cinnamon rolls, I really don’t think they, or you, should be restricted by timing. And if said cinnamon rolls are spiked with orange juice and zest, I say we eat them for every single meal of the day.
I give you the softest, tenderest, orange-est, cinnamon rolls you ever tasted. I left out the glaze because the rolls pack in so much sweetness and flavour without it, that I think they deserve the hog the limelight a bit. Also, I made them without eggs so that more of us can enjoy them. No one should be left out of the cinnamon roll party.
I’ve made cinnamon rolls earlier, but with eggs, a glaze and a little less butter because I was feeling slightly guilty that day. But, hey, if we’re doing brunch, we do it properly. I adapted these from Sally’s Baking Addiction, swapped out the egg for milk and it worked like a charm.
The dough is easy to put together, rises well (even though the yeast I had was an already opened pack and I had a bit of a panic attack about it), rolls easily and even in a humid kitchen, these are not a nightmare to make. They do take a few hours and need two rises to get done (pictured below), but that’s mostly letting the yeast do its job while you make the mimosas or coffee. Both go great with the rolls.
What takes these cinnamon rolls many, many notches ahead of the average ones, is the orange. The fresh, tangy flavour is perfect with warming cinnamon and gives the rolls very obvious facelift. I loved loved loved it and I don’t think I’m going back to regular cinnamon rolls ever again.
By all means, douse them in your favourite sugary glaze or frosting, maybe even cream cheese? I found they were soft and delicious enough without it, but that’s just me. So super fluffy too!! All that butter in the dough and then more butter spread over it just before you roll. They better be super fluffy. Warm from the oven, they taste like the best thing on the planet and you’re going to want to make these all day, every day.
Let’s make some cinnamon rolls!
- For the dough
- 2 and ¼ tsp active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water
- Zest from 1 orange
- ½ cup orange juice (preferably fresh juice since you will already have an orange for zesting)
- ¼ cup caster sugar
- 2 tbsps butter, at room temperature
- 1 tsp salt if using unsalted butter
- ½ cup whole milk
- 3 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
- For the filling
- ¼ cup caster sugar
- 2 tsps cinnamon powder
- ¼ cup butter, at room temperature
- In a small bowl, mix the yeast and warm water. Cover and set aside for a few minutes till dissolved and slightly frothy.
- To make the dough, first combine the orange juice, zest, sugar, butter, salt (if using) and milk in a large bowl. Mix well. A stand mixer with the dough hook is useful here, but a sturdy bowl and hand mixer, also preferably with a dough hook, is fine too.
- Pour in the yeast mixture and beat for a few seconds till everything is well combined. Now add 3 cups of flour and beat on low speed. Gradually add the remaining half cup of flour, a little at a time and continue beating. If you don't use the entire remaining amount, that's fine. You need a dough that is soft and pliable. It might be a little sticky if your kitchen is warm, but do not be tempted to add more than a total of 3 and a half cups of flour.
- If using a stand mixer, beat for at least 5 minutes after adding all the flour and a couple more minutes if needed, to bring the dough together. Doing this by hand may take a little longer. Either way, the dough should spring back when poked with a finger, if not entirely, then at least a little. This is the point at which the dough is ready to rise so the poke test is important.
- Finally, knead the dough lightly with your hands for a few seconds, till you get the desired texture and 'springing back' action. Kneading by hand is more crucial if not using a stand mixer which does the work for you.
- Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled, large bowl. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm area for 2 to 3 hours, until doubled. If needed, turn your oven on to about 50 C, switch it off, then place the bowl in it.
- When the dough is ready, lightly flour your kitchen counter or a silicone mat which is more convenient.
- Turn the puffy, risen dough out onto this surface, and punch down lightly to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle a little flour on top and roll it out into a roughly 10x15 rectangle, give or take.
- In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar. Now spread the butter onto the rolled out dough, making sure it reaches every inch of it. Sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar, covering the dough entirely.
- Slowly roll the dough up tightly, flouring your fingertips if needed. Slice into 12 to 16 even pieces.
- Place each roll, cut side up in a lightly greased 8x8 baking pan. Leave a little gap between each roll because they're going to rise further and stick to each other. Cover with clingfilm and let rise again for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until puffy.
- Preheat the oven to 190 C, then remove the clingfilm from the dish and lightly cover it with aluminium foil. This prevents excessively quick browning.
- Bake the covered rolls for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through. The butter will be bubbling away on the surface but will get absorbed.
- Allow the rolls to cool slightly, before using a sharp knife to take each one out. Eat warm!
*You can also let the sliced dough rise overnight in the refrigerator, making sure the dish is tightly covered with clingfilm. The next morning, allow the rolls to rise at room temperature for about an hour and then bake.
*Make sure you're always measuring your flour with the 'spoon and level' method: fluff up the flour with a spoon in the container itself, then scoop and lightly fill the measuring cup up to the top without shaking or tapping the cup, then using the back of a knife, scrape the top of the cup to remove any excess flour. Repeat for as many cups as the recipe calls for.