I freely confess that I am a big fan of the Pillsbury orange sticky rolls that come in the cardboard tube at the grocery store. As a kid we were not allowed junk food except a box of any cereal we wanted around our birthdays, Hostess ding dongs when we went sailing, and these orange sticky rolls around the holidays.
As an adult, naturally, I felt the wild rush of freedom and indulged myself frequently in these rolls and then felt quite guilty for consuming a product full of trans fats and who knows what else.
This weekend I deliberately did not book anything for Saturday so that I could have a rest day at home. I planned to knit and recreate my childhood favorite holiday treat but in a healthier fashion. It worked for the most part but I learned an important lesson.
The recipe I concocted for the sweet roll dough was quite healthy, it is a yeast risen dough similar to that used for cinnamon rolls but instead of egg yolks and lashings of butter I used fruity olive oil from Lodi.
The dough rose in my giant Wovo salad bowl for 90 minutes while I watched scifi shows on Netflix, knitted a shawl and sipped lungo shots of espresso.
For the filling I zested some citrus – oranges and a grapefruit – with a microplane grater and mixed this into sugar, then added some juice to make a slurry to spread over the dough.
I used a few tablespoons of the fruit juice to make a paste, then sprinkled over walnuts from Sonoma County that I toasted in a skillet.
This filling was inspired by some random food show I saw where a diner chef made enormous sweet rolls well sanded with sugar and butter. In trying to make these healthier I omitted the butter entirely.
I rolled out the dough to a large rectangle, applied the filling and then rolled up the dough on the long edge to form a log about 16″ long. I cut the log into about 12 even pieces and filled up a buttered pyrex baker.
You can see how generous the citrus-sugar filling was and there were plenty of walnuts to go around. I think perhaps I should have put fewer rolls in the pan though.
I had too many to fit so I made up an extra pan in a tin pie plate. Lagniappe for the chef!
My apartment was nice and warm on this very foggy, dark day, and after about 45 minutes the rolls were puffed and yeasty and looking pleasantly plump – ready for the oven.
After baking I made up a quick frosting with more of the citrus juice and powdered sugar. Despite using almost a full box of confectioners sugar there was barely enough icing to cover the rolls in both pans.
The aroma from the oven was mouth-watering. A whiff of orange with a hint of grapefruit, the sweet sugar icing melting in between the rolls, citrus sugar caramelizing the walnuts, the yeasty baked rolls with a tang of rich, fruity olive oil, they smelled just like Christmas in my childhood home.
The citrus sticky rolls were best eaten warm out right out of the oven, but truthfully I think they would be much improved with some melted butter in the filling. The icing wasn’t quite what I wanted either, I need to tinker with that a bit I think.
I won’t admit how quickly this pan of rolls disappeared and will firmly disavow any knowledge of my actions. They needed to be reheated if you don’t eat them right away. Despite the liberal buttering of the baking pan they were hard to remove because of the caramelized sugar on the bottom. They were not as tender the next day either and this is where I think the butter is essential.
The recipe includes the addition of butter but you can omit as your conscience dictates. They were really wonderful and toothsome as is, but next time I make them I will use butter.