When I was a little girl, I used to beg my mom to bake me pie for my birthday. I am a self-confessed fruit junkie. My opinion is, and always has been, that the sweet stuff is always approximately waywayway better with something tart and tangy to go with it. Texture is also essential, which is how I have since come to love buttercream (provided there’s a hearty pinch of salt).
When it comes to cinnamon rolls, I’m a traditional girl. Cream cheese cuts that brown-sugar filling just right. But when you lace your dough with lemon, stir some zest into your sugar, and stud your buns with fresh, tongue-tingling blueberries, well I figure you’ve earned yourself an indulgent drizzle of unadulterated sweet, sweet glaze.
This glaze is what I call “magic.” Not only is it delicious (when paired with appropriately zingy breakfasts), it has the best mouthfeel. The secret ingredient: baking soda! It effervesces (think champagne) which I think is positively apropos for something as sassy as lemon + blueberry. If you give it a chance to cool a bit, it will get that crackling texture of donut glaze. In fact, it is a donut glaze. Requisitioned and reimagined for some seriously deserving sweet rolls.
This recipe makes a double batch of rolls. For a large family (or anyone with teenagers), polishing off 16 rolls in a sitting is no problem. For those with smaller households (and smaller children), have no fear! You can keep the dough refrigerated for up to four days. You can also freeze the rolls, already formed and save them for a rainy day. Just pop them in the fridge the night before and they’ll be ready for baking by morning.
We enjoyed a batch of these beauties for the Solemnity of the Assumption last Saturday – and we’ll be enjoying the frozen batch we saved for the Queenship of Mary (August 22nd). They are perfect for Marian feast days! Blueberries represent Mary’s fruitfulness and virginity (the ancient color of virginity is blue, hence why she’s always pictured in those beautiful blue gowns), rising dough is a symbol of her assumption into heaven, sweetness because who is sweeter than Mary? And the lemon?
It reminds me that Mama Mary is no saccharine sweetheart. She is strong, bright, and bold: the irascible prayer warrior who sang in the streets, our savior in her swelling belly: “My soul magnifies the Lord!” Oh, yeah…Mary knew how to cut the sweetness and wake the world up wide-eyed and wonderful.
Lemon-Blueberry Sweet Rolls
The Humble Baker @www.bakinghumblepie.com
This is my favorite breakfast for Marian feast days. It might seem intimidating if you’re not used to making yeasted dough recipes, but this method is really very simple (no kneading needed) – and when you realize you can make it all up ahead of time and then start your day with something this yummy, well, it doesn’t seem so bad. Trust me. Take a delicious leap of faith. Be like Mary: say, “Yes!” to the sweet unknown.
for the dough:
6 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
5 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup mild vegetable oil (coconut oil is fantastic if you like coconut!)
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon lemon extract
for the filling:
zest of one lemon
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (half stick) salted butter, softened + more for buttering pie dish
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over for stems
for the glaze:
3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
whole milk (about 1/4-1/2 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Combine the flour, 6 tablespoons sugar, yeast, salt, vegetable oil, 2 1/2 cups milk, and lemon extract in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a hook attachment. Combine at low speed for two minutes until flour is incorporated. Turn up the speed to medium and allow to mix for 6 minutes. Dough should be firm, slightly silky (shiny), and not very sticky to the touch. Remove from the bowl, taking care to scrape all the little bits off the sides. Oil the bowl, return the dough to it, turning to coat all sides of the dough ball, and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise for approximately 2 hours, until almost doubled. (You may also store the dough, unrisen, in the refrigerator for up to four days. You will need to remove it to room temperature for three house before beginning the next step.)
Combine the lemon zest and 3/4 cup sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
Divide the risen dough in half. Put one half back in the bowl. Working with the other half of the dough, roll out to about the size of a 9×13” baking pan. Slather all the way to the edges with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Sprinkle with half the sugar-zest mixture, leaving 1” gap on the long sides (go all the way up to the short edges). Scatter blueberries over the sugar, leaving a 2” gap on the long sides (go all the way up to the short edges, but concentrate the blueberries in the center; they’ll squeeze to the sides when you roll).
Starting from one of the long ends, roll toward the other long end, trying to keep the blueberries evenly distributed. Stretch and pinch the edge around the roll to seal. Pat the short ends toward the center so the whole roll is about the same thickness (diameter) throughout. Slice the whole roll in half with a paring knife. Then continue halfing halves until you’ve got 8 rolls.
Butter a 9” pie dish. Place one roll in the center and the other 7 around it in a circle. Scatter any fallen blueberries or lemon-sugar over the top. Cover the pie dish with plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough, 2 tablespoons softened butter, (From this point, you can either let the rolls rise for half an hour before baking OR just pop them in the refrigerator overnight. You will not need to let them rise in the morning, but your baking time will be slightly longer; see below. You may also freeze one batch for later use; see below.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have refrigerated your rolls, let them rest, uncovered, on the counter while the oven is preheating.
Place pie dish or dishes (sans plastic wrap!) on center rack of preheated oven. (If you are baking the full batch and cannot fit both pie plates side-by-side in your oven, you will need to swap them halfway through baking, and they may require less baking time.) For fresh rolls (not refrigerated), bake 20-25 minutes, until tops are golden brown. For refrigerated rolls, you will need to bake for 35-40 minutes to get the same result.
Remove rolls from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla in a bowl or small pitcher. Dribble in just enough milk (approximately 1/4-1/2 cup) to make it runny, the consistency of corn syrup or molasses. Stir in the baking soda. Allow to rest one minute.
You can pour the glaze over the whole batch of rolls, but I prefer to serve it alongside and let everyone pour their own. That way everyone gets just the right amount of sweetness to temper their tang.