Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It’s Not Ree Drummond’s Fault

I love to bake, and when it comes to cakes, cookies, and quick breads, I do a pretty good job. I’m even getting better at making pies. Yeast breads are more of a challenge, but ever since a Kitchen Aid mixer made its way into my kitchen, I have mastered things like pizza crust and simple breads.

However, there is one recipe I’ve never gotten right—cinnamon rolls. They are the bane of my baking existence. The dough is too tough, or it doesn’t rise. You name it and it goes wrong. So I decided to never make them again. And I don’t need to! There are so many local bakeries and restaurants that do it so well.

And then I got a copy of the new Ree Drummond cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier. I love her recipes. Her first cookbook is full of ones even my husband, Michael, enjoys. In fact, it is where I start whenever I need to create something for dinner. (Read more of my thoughts on Ree here.)

You can see from all of the orange Post-it tags there are many recipes I want to try.

One of those recipes is Orange Sweet Rolls. It instantly brought back memories of the Pillsbury’s Orange Sweet Rolls I enjoyed as a child, teenager, young adult, adult, etc. (Do they make them anymore? I couldn’t find them on their website.) When I mentioned the recipe to Michael, he thought of the same thing. Turns out they are one of the few sweet treats he likes!

So I put aside my fear of sweet rolls and decided to give the recipe a try. The dough came together very easily. I did deviate from the recipe a little. First, I used rapid-rise yeast instead of active dry yeast. And I used my mixer, pouring the wet ingredients into the dry. The dough proofed just as it should. (I also used the trick of preheating my oven at 450 degrees for 1 minute and then turning it off. That gave me a warm place to let the dough rise.)

Then it came time to roll out the dough. I sprinkled flour over the counter where I do my rolling, and then got out the measuring tape to be sure I got the dough into the correct 30- by 10-inch shape.

My counter was too short.

The only other option was the dinning room table. So I sprinkled out the flour, trying desperately to not get any on the carpet, and started to roll. I was so focused on getting the dough to the proper length that I didn’t pay attention to the width. My final dough was 30- by 14-inches. No big deal, right?

It was a big deal. Once I got the filling spread onto the dough, I started to roll it up. Not only did the dough stick to the table, but it was almost too thin to roll! I kept flopping it over and using my bench scraper to un-stick the dough—all the while hoping I wouldn’t scratch the surface of the table that was Michael’s before I came along and he loves very much.

Once I got it somewhat into a long roll (and kept the filling from oozing onto the carpet), it was time to cut. Ree’s recipe said it made 48 rolls, which in the photo looked like they were pretty small. I decided to go with the directions from her website and cut them into 1-inch wide pieces. Turns out, I had too. Otherwise I would have never gotten them into the pans.

The result was two of the saddest pans of orange sweet rolls you have ever seen. I crossed my fingers and allowed the biggest one to rise and bake, while I put the smaller one into the freezer to bake (or throw out) at another time.

The rolls looked better after they baked.

And they tasted delicious! I ate two. (Well, I think it was two. I had to use a knife to cut them into squares.)

In fact, these rolls are so good I think I’ll have to try making them again.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Orange Sweet Rolls
From The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier by Ree Drummond
[My comments are in these brackets.]

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 rounded teaspoon baking powder
1/2 rounded teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
8 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Zest and juice of 2 oranges
1 cup powdered sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 cup of whole milk, more if needed for a pourable consistency
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

In a large saucepan over low heat, heat the milk, granulated sugar, and oil until warm but not hot. Add the yeast and 4 cups of flour, then mix and transfer to a bowl. Cover and let rise for at least an hour. [I heated the milk, oil and sugar until they were 110 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. I put the flour and yeast into the mixer. (Rapid-rise yeast doesn’t need to bloom in a warm liquid before being mixed with flour.) Then I turned on the mixer and poured in the warm liquid.]

Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 30 inches wide by 10 inches deep. You’ll want it to be as thin as you can get it so that you can add plenty of goo. [But trust me, not too thin!]

Drizzle the melted butter all over the surface of the dough. Use your fingers to smear it all around so that it coats evenly. Spread the orange marmalade all over the buttered dough, distributing it as evenly as you can. Sprinkle plenty of brown sugar all over the marmalade and finish with a light sprinkling of salt to offset the sweetness.

Using both hands in a back-and-forth motion, gradually roll the dough toward you into one long log. Pinch the seam to seal it. Then slice the log-o’-dough into 1/2-inch pieces. [I did 1-inch slices—sort of.]

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the rolls in a buttered baking dish and allow them to rise for 20 minutes. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes.

While the rolls are baking, make the icing. Add the zest and juice of 2 oranges to a bowl. Add the powdered sugar, salt, whole milk, and melted butter. Whisk it together until it’s nice and smooth and lovely. Your kitchen smells like oranges!

Pull the rolls out of the oven when they’re golden brown and drizzle on the icing right off the bat. The piping hot rolls will suck that gorgeous icing right down into their crevices and the whole thing pretty much becomes a miracle.

[It sure was a miracle for me!]


  1. Personally, I like their funky shapes!! :)

  2. These sound delicious. I'm so glad I saw this because it reminds me of a recipe I haven't made in a while that definitely needs to come out of hiding!

    I have had my ups and downs with sweet rolls in the past as well.

    One thing is for certain: when they do turn out just right, very few things in life are better!

  3. I was at your house the first time I ever had orange sweet rolls...your mum served 'em! These will be even better, as the orange frosting always tasted a weebit of chemicals (I'm even more sensitive to the taste of artificial flavours now). Thanks for the wonderful memory of sitting in your kitchen with your family. <3

    Remember the teeny tiny pancake your mum made for me when I asked for a small one? lololol! The size of a quarter, maybe.

  4. Tee, thank you for the memories! I agree, these taste much better than the commercial ones, but you just don't know that until you have them! LOL

  5. Taste is the only test that counts. It is a shame you had so many problems but you pulled it off. Bravo! Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  6. Whoa! Those are some decadent looking sweet rolls! I loved those Pillsbury Doughboy rolls from my teen and college years! And yup ... they still sell them! Yours look better!

  7. Orange Rolls are a favorite of everyone in our house...I've had Ree's recipe marked to try for a while now. Looks like I'd better make some soon...yum! I think they look great...perfection is relative. ;)

    I hope you'll bring these by and share them with BYOB - Bake Your Own Bread this month (http://www.girlichef.com/2012/08/byob-bakeyourownbread-august-12.html)!