festive holiday recipe #14: cranberry orange breakfast rolls

cranberry orange rolls

Cranberry Orange Rolls, you guys. Make them. No, really, do it. Throw the dough together the night before you want them. Get them all set up, stick them in the fridge, and then bake them off in the morning. Everyone will think you got up 4 hours early to work your butt off in the kitchen. Reality: you got up an hour early, let them sit out for 30 minutes, and stuck them in the oven for another 30 minutes. Easy-peasy, right?

On a side note, see that roll up in the top right corner? Brandon called that one “Princess Leia.”  We don’t typically go around naming food, but it was pretty hilarious looking.

These really are awesome. The cranberry is tart and beautifully colored, the brown sugar makes the filling perfectly gooey, and the orange zest is like a little punch of sunshine. Punches of sunshine are necessary right now, particularly as my phone tells me it “feels like 5 degrees” outside.

cranberry orange rolls

I used far less brown sugar in the filling here than the original recipe suggests, and only drizzled a minimal amount of icing on top of each individual roll. The beauty in doing so was this: I was able to eat one (…or two) without feeling like I had just consumed a giant bowl full of bread-flavored sugar. The recipe below is written the way I made them — if you’d like yours a bit sweeter, add up to 1 cup of brown sugar to the filling. You can put as much icing as you’d like on top, of course. 🙂

cranberry orange roll

Cranberry Orange Breakfast Rolls
recipe, slightly adapted,  from Smitten Kitchen

for the dough:
4 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
6 TB (85 grams) butter, melted, plus additional to grease pan
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated (to be used in dough AND filling)
3 3/4 cups (470 grams) all-purpose flour
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) instant dry yeast
1 1/4 tsp coarse or kosher salt, or more to taste
1 tsp oil for bowl

1 1/2 TB unsalted butter
1/2 cup  packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh cranberries
Orange zest leftover from above

3 1/2 TB orange juice
2 cups powdered sugar


  1. Make the dough: In the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, buttermilk and 3/4 of the orange zest together (saving the rest for the filling).
  2. Add 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; stir until evenly moistened.
  3. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour and let the dough hook knead the mixture on low speed for 5 to 7 minutes. The dough should be soft and moist, but not overly sticky.
  4. Scrape the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled, which will take between 2 and 2 1/2 hours.
  5. Prepare the filling: Melt the butter and set it aside. In a food processor, pulse the whole cranberries until they’re ground to a coarse rubble, but not fully pureed. Set them aside. [Don’t have a food processor? Just hand chop them very well, as if to coarsely mince them.]
  6. Assemble the buns: Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish, a heavier ceramic or glass dish is ideal here. Turn the risen dough out onto a floured work surface and roll it into a rectangle that is 18 inches wide (the side nearest to you) and 12 or so inches long. (It’s okay if it goes longer/thinner.)
  7. Brush the dough with the melted butter. Sprinkle it with the brown sugar. Scatter the ground cranberries over it, then the remaining orange zest.
  8. Roll the dough into a tight, 18-inch long spiral. Using a sharp serrated knife, very, very gently saw the log into 1 1/2-inch sections; you should get 12. Arrange the rolls evenly spread out in your baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or up to 16 hours.
  9. The next morning, bake the buns: Take your rolls out of the fridge 30 minutes before you’d like to bake them, to allow them to warm up slightly. Heat your oven to 350F. Bake your rolls until they’re puffed and golden (the internal temperature should read 190 degrees F), approximately 30 minutes.
  10. Transfer pan to a cooling rack and let cool slightly. Make the icing by whisking the orange juice and powdered sugar together. Spread a little on each bun, or drizzle it over the whole pan. Serve immediately.
  11. For the extras: If you’ve got extras that you won’t eat til the next day, refrigerate them with or without glaze. Warm them up in the microwave or toaster oven, or just eat them cold. They’re good no matter what.

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