Glazed Orange Sweet Rolls
These Glazed Orange Sweet Rolls make an absolutely beautiful breakfast treat. The soft, citrus-infused dough, buttery filling laced with brown sugar, cinnamon, and more orange zest, and sticky orange glaze are perfect together, while the method is an upside-down cake effect that’s easy and fun.
These rolls are a treasured spring tradition in our family. My husband’s mother made glazed orange rolls as an occasional breakfast treat for him and his three siblings, and the love for them is still going strong here. They’re our must-have for Easter morning, and equally fitting for any special breakfast or brunch.
It’s hard to say which part is most appealing: the tender, enriched dough; the buttery filling sprinkled with a rich concoction of brown sugar, cinnamon, and orange zest; or the sweet, sticky orange glaze that literally drips from the pan to coat the just-baked rolls.
My mother-in-law made orange sweet rolls with the same bread dough she used for homemade hamburger buns. I use her same glaze recipe and technique, and over the years have adapted the dough and filling based on what I use for caramel pecan and apple butter cinnamon rolls at other times of the year.
How To Make Orange Sweet Rolls
There are three parts to these rolls, and each gets its own citrus treatment so these have an undeniable orange flavor layered throughout:
- The dough, which has gorgeous flakes of orange zest worked right in.
- The filling, which is your typical butter + sugar + cinnamon filling but with more flakes of orange zest, because why not?
- The glaze, which is what makes this orange roll recipe unique!
You’ll begin by making a traditional enriched bread dough and setting it to rise until doubled in size. This typically takes 1-2 hours for me at room temperature, and goes most quickly if I cover the bowl in plastic wrap.
If you care to be precise, water between 105-110 degrees F is the perfect temperature to quickly and fully activate yeast without any risk of killing it off.
You’ll transfer the risen dough to a well-floured work surface and roll it out into a large rectangle.
See those little orange flakes in the photo on the right? The trick to incorporating them perfectly into the dough is in the very first step: before adding the water, yeast, or any other ingredients, take a bit of granulated sugar, add orange zest, and rub the mixture together between your fingers for about 60 seconds. This infuses the citrus zest into the sugar, and enhances its aroma and flavor. Such a simple step with such a big pay-off.
Spread the rolled-out dough generously with softened butter, then sprinkle with a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, and more orange zest. Roll up tightly into a log and cut evenly.
You’ll make the glaze separately in a small saucepan by boiling sugar, orange juice, butter, and a bit of corn syrup.
Why corn syrup?
You may not love adding corn syrup, but a very small amount helps ensure the glaze does not burn, has the proper consistency, and does not stick the pan after baking.
Pour the glaze into a 9″ or 10″ pie plate or cake pan, then arrange the cut rolls on top of the glaze.
Set aside for a second rise at this point, just 45 minutes or so this time, until the rolls are puffy and fill out the whole pan, as shown.
Now bake until golden on top, but not very dark — I’d say the batch in these photos is even slightly darker than I would have wanted!
How to tell when cinnamon rolls are done baking?
If you have an instant-read thermometer, you may be most accustomed to using it for meat, but it’s a great asset when baking bread and rolls, also! Test the middle of a roll — it should be between 180-190 degrees F for the rolls to be perfectly baked.
Upside-Down Glaze Technique
After removing the rolls from the oven, you’ll want to turn the pie plate over onto a serving plate. The best way to do this is to place the serving plate upside-down on top of the rolls, then, using oven mitts, turn the pie plate and serving plate over together, so that the rolls and the glaze slide out. Leave the pie plate upside down like that for 5-10 minutes, then remove.
Sprinkle with a little orange zest, if desired, for looks. And dig in!
Can I make homemade rolls without a stand mixer?
Yes! You can make these without a stand mixer, just be prepared to put in a little elbow grease when making the dough, and knead it very well by hand before setting aside for the first rise.
Can I make these ahead?
Yes! The day or night before you want to bake and enjoy these orange rolls, make the dough, complete the first rise, fill it, make the glaze, and arrange the rolls over the glaze in a pie plate or cake pan as shown. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight. Remove and complete the second rise at room temperature the following morning, then bake as directed.
Other Favorite Sweet Breads and Muffins
If you love making sweet breads and breakfast treats, don’t miss these other favorites:
- The Ultimate Five Banana Banana Bread
- Lemon Olive Oil Zucchini Muffins
- Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
- One-Bowl Blueberry Almond Muffins
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Orange Sweet Rolls
For the dough:
- 1/2 cup warm water between 105-110 degrees F
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon orange zest from 1 medium-large Navel orange
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 3 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter very soft
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1-2 teaspoons orange zest
For the glaze:
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons orange juice
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- Make the dough. Measure warm water into a small liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle yeast over the top and set aside briefly.
- In a large bowl, combine sugar and orange zest. Rub the mixture between your fingers for about 1 minute to infuse the sugar with orange flavor. Add the yeast and water, followed by the orange juice, egg, butter or coconut oil, and salt. Add 2 cups of the flour and beat well with either an electric mixer or by hand until the mixture is smooth.
- Add the remaining 1 and 1/4 cups flour. Switch to the dough hook, if using a stand mixer, and knead the mixture until a dough pulls together, then becomes smooth and elastic. Add up to 1/4 cup more flour if necessary. The dough should cleanly clear the sides of the bowl and come together into a ball that is slightly tacky to the touch, but does not adhere to your fingers.
- First rise. When the dough is ready, lightly coat a large bowl with cooking spray or oil. Place the dough in the bowl, and turn it to coat with the spray or oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. This usually takes 1-2 hours, depending on how warm your environment is.
- Prep filling and glaze. While the dough rises, prepare your filling ingredients and the glaze. Set out butter to soften, and combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and zest in a small bowl; set aside.
- Coat a 9” round pie plate or cake pan lightly with cooking spray.
- To make the glaze, combine sugar, orange juice, butter, and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and let the mixture bubble rapidly for 60-90 seconds, then remove from the heat and pour into the prepared pie plate or cake pan. Tilt the pan gently so the glaze spreads evenly across the bottom.
- Make the rolls. When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll it out into a large rectangle, approximately 12”x16”. Spread evenly with butter, then sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar.
- Starting with the long side, roll the dough rectangle up into a tight log. Using a very sharp knife, slice the log cleanly into about 10 rolls of the same width. Arrange them over the glaze in the cake pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes, until they are puffy and fill the entire pan.
- (You can also wrap the pan tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to bake, remove rolls from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature to rise again. After 30-45 minutes, they should appear puffy and fill the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bake rolls for 25-30 minutes, until lightly golden on top. (You can use an instant read thermometer, if you have one, to verify that they are baked through; the rolls should be approximately 190 degrees F.) If necessary, cover the pans with aluminum foil toward the end of the baking time to reduce browning.
- Remove from the oven. Immediately turn the pan over onto a serving plate, one with a rim larger than the edge of the pan. Leave the pan upside-down on top of the plate for 5-10 minutes, then gently lift the pan. The rolls should fall out onto the plate, with the orange glaze right on top.
- Serve warm, garnished with a final sprinkling of zest, if desired.