My subtly sweet, citrus-y, soft & fluffy orange rolls can be made in a stand mixer or by hand and includes plenty of notes, pictures, and a how-to video!
Homemade Orange Sweet Rolls
While I understand that working with yeast can sometimes feel intimidating, especially to the beginner baker (been there myself), I just want to reassure you that you can do this. I’ll be walking you through all the steps with plenty of pictures, notes, and a how-to video.
As always, I’ve included plenty of notes for my fellow recipe nerds so you can see what it is that really makes this orange roll recipe work. Let’s get to it, starting with the ingredients…
What You Need
- Yeast. I prefer to use active dry and recommend this, but have included notes in the recipe if you would like to use rapid rise/instant yeast.
- Flour. You can use bread flour (which yields a slightly chewier roll) or all-purpose flour.
- Sugar. Granulated sugar sweetens and flavors the dough, while powdered is used to make the citrusy glaze on top.
- Oranges. The zest of an orange (or two) is what gives the orange rolls their distinct flavor. After zesting, save the orange to squeeze fresh juice from it for the glaze. All of the citrus flavor comes from the zest you use and the juice used in the glaze. It’s subtle, but present. If you’d like a more distinct flavor you can add a splash of orange extract when you add the butter to the dough. I purposely do not use orange juice in the dough as it can inhibit the growth of your yeast (and therefore inhibit a soft and fluffy texture).
- Unsalted butter. If you only have salted butter on hand, reduce the salt in the recipe to 1 ½ teaspoon.
SAM’S TIP: Make sure when zesting your oranges you avoid the papery white layer, or “pith”. The pith is bitter and doesn’t have the same orange flavor the bumpy orange surface does.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Dough for Orange Rolls
- Carefully proof the yeast by mixing with warm water and milk and a pinch of sugar. After 5-10 minutes, you should have a foamy cap on the surface.
- Add flour gradually, a scoop at a time, until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
- Your dough is ready when it is tacky but not sticking to the bowl.
- Transfer the dough to a stand mixer or place on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic and form a smooth ball when you’re finished.
At this point you need to let the orange rolls dough rise until doubled in size. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl (I use olive, canola, or vegetable oil and just smear a small bit all over the inside) and turn to coat. Cover tightly.
In my kitchen, doubling usually takes about 1 hour, but it may take as long as 2 hours or even longer.
Assembling Orange Rolls
- Punch down the dough once it has risen. Punching it down helps remove any gas bubbles and helps the ingredients to work together properly.
- Roll out dough into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface.
- Spread softened butter over the surface and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over the surface and roll the dough into a tight log.
- Cut the log into 12 even pieces and place, spacing evenly into a greased 9×13 pan. Cover with a towel and allow to rise in pan for about 30 minutes, or until the rolls are puffed and touching.
Once the orange rolls have risen for a second time, bake them until golden brown. Always take care to not over-bake orange rolls (or any bread of any kind) or they will be dense and dry rather than fluffy and moist.
SAM’S TIPS: The best way to tell if any bread is baked to perfection is to use an instant read thermometer (I use a meat thermometer). Insert it into the thickest part of a center roll and look for a temperature no higher than 190F (88C)
Finally, don’t forget the glaze. You can make this thin enough to drizzle over the orange rolls or you can leave it thicker and spread it over the tops. For the photos I used a thin glaze (it showcases the beautiful swirls better) but in reality (and in the video below) I like to spread a thick layer on top.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can make these orange rolls a day in advance. Prepare according to instructions and arrange in the baking sheet. Cover very tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge.
The next day, remove the pan from the fridge and cover with a clean towel. Let them sit while the oven comes to temperature, then bake as instructed.
Absolutely! Simply substitute the orange zest for lemon zest and the juice for lemon juice.
Yes! When your orange sweet rolls are completely cooled you can put them in a Ziploc bag or wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze for several months. When you are ready to enjoy, let them thaw in the fridge overnight.
More Recipes To Try:
Let’s bake together! Make sure to check out the how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!
- 1 cup (236 ml) whole milk
- ⅓ cup (78 ml) water
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast¹ 1 packet
- 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted but not too hot
- 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk room temperature preferred
- ⅓ cup (70 g) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 5 cups (625 g) all-purpose plain flour divided, plus additional as needed
- 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest ²
- ⅓ cup (70 g) granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 6 Tablespoons butter softened/nearly melted, divided
- 1 ½ cups (190 g) powdered sugar
- 2 Tablespoons melted butter
- 2-4 Tablespoons orange juice
- Combine milk and water in a heatproof dish and warm in the microwave until 105-115F (40-46C) (stir before checking temperature).1 cup (236 ml) whole milk, ⅓ cup (78 ml) water
- Pour the milk mixture into a large bowl (you could also use a stand mixer for this recipe) and sprinkle in a generous pinch (about 1 teaspoon) of granulated sugar. Stir and allow to sit for about 5-10 minutes until yeast is foamy (if yeast does not foam see my FAQ section, you will need to start over).2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast¹ 1 packet, ⅓ cup (70 g) granulated sugar
- Once yeast is foamy, add ⅓ cup granulated sugar, melted butter, eggs, salt, 2 cups (250g) of flour, and orange zest. Stir well until ingredients are well-combined.5 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted, 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, 2 teaspoons salt, 5 cups (625 g) all-purpose plain flour, 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest ²
- Gradually add additional flour (if using a stand mixer use the dough hook attachment and low-speed) until the dough clings to itself and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add flour until the dough is slightly tacky to the touch. If making by hand, transfer to a clean, lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic (if using stand mixer, mix on low/medium speed for 3-5 minutes). Add more flour as needed.
- Transfer to a large lightly oiled bowl and turn the dough to lightly coat the entire surface with oil. Cover and allow it to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size (about 1-2 hours).
Filling & Assembly
- Meanwhile, prepare your filling by whisking together ⅓ cup granulated sugar and ground cinnamon. If your butter for the filling is not easily spreadable, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds until slightly melty. Use 2 tablespoons of butter to generously grease the sides and bottom of a 9×13 baking dish and set aside.⅓ cup (70 g) granulated sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, 6 Tablespoons butter
- Once dough has risen, punch down and transfer to a clean lightly floured surface. Roll to a 10×20” (25x50cm) rectangle.
- Spread 4 tablespoons of butter (reserve 2 tablespoons for greasing pan) evenly across the surface of the dough, leaving a ¼” (½ cm) perimeter of the dough unbuttered. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon/sugar.
- Starting with one 20” (50cm) end, roll dough tightly into a log. Cut into 12 even pieces and space them evenly in greased pan. Cover with a clean towel and allow to rise until the gaps between the rolls have been mostly filled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F (190C).
- Once rolls have risen and oven is preheated, remove towel and bake in 350F (175C) oven for 25 minutes (if using a glass baking dish you may need longer) or until cooked through (I use a knife to check if the cinnamon rolls are cooked through or still gooey inside).
- While rolls are cooling, prepare your glaze by whisking together sugar, butter,and orange juice. Drizzle or spread over rolls while still warm. Enjoy!1 ½ cups (190 g) powdered sugar, 2 Tablespoons melted butter, 2-4 Tablespoons orange juice
¹YeastYou may substitute instant yeast. To do so combine yeast, sugar, salt, and half the flour and then add the warmed milk and water and stir well. Stir in butter, eggs, and then add remaining flour as needed and proceed with the recipe as written.
²Orange zestMake sure when zesting your orange you don’t go too deep; avoid the papery white “pith” layer as this is bitter and does not have the orange flavor you need.
StoringStore in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
Originally published March 25th, 2014