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Irene's Orange Rolls

Irene's Orange Rolls

I never had the opportunity to meet my Grandmother Irene. She died before I was born, fighting a cancer that eventually took her life. She was a strong woman, raising my mother and her two sons on a farm in small town America. There are a few anecdotes my mother likes to share with my sister and me, both humorous and sad, so we can hope to know her too, if only in a small way.

Though I never had the chance to meet my grandmother, I feel as if I have gotten to know her most through her cooking. Over the years, my mother has shared her recipes with me, whether it was a meal she served on our dining room table, stories about the food she created, or a recipe card handwritten by her mother. Each recipe, big and small, allows me a small window to see into the person she was.

Irene's Orange Rolls

Her everyday food was simple, but no less delicious because of it. For breakfast, she would serve pancakes with a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar, using a swirl of cream instead of maple syrup to bring in a little decadence. During the long days of summer, she'd serve up peaches and cream, taking advantage of seasonal fruits.

It was the holidays, however, where she showed the true love for her family to the extent she was willing to go with her food. During Christmas, she'd be up to her elbows in holiday treats. My grandfather fell head over heels for her signature honey cookies. For as long as she lived, she made sure he never went a winter without them. On Easter Sunday, she served up these bright orange rolls for a sweet breakfast. My mother tells me they grew to be quite famous around town. After tasting them for myself, it doesn't take much imagination to understand why.

Irene's Orange Rolls

My grandmother's photograph is proudly displayed in the kitchen; a felicitous reminder of where my relationship with the grandmother I never knew began. The picture is slightly faded, in sepia tones, but she's sitting tall, with a humble smile dancing across her lips. My mother looks just like her, from her eyes and her cheeks to her nose; sometimes I wonder if I do too, in a more subtle way.

I never imagined food would become the connection between myself and my heritage. I've learned the past and present can be connected by food and a simple recipe can reveal the heart and soul of its creator. As food was an expression of love for my grandmother, so it has become for me.

Irene's Orange Rolls

Irene's Orange Rolls have a bright, sweet citrus flavor. The dough is reminiscent of a brioche, made with sour cream and butter, and is an absolute dream to work with. The dough is rolled out and filled with a sweet mixture of orange zest and coconut before being rolled back up like little croissants. After coming out of the oven, golden and warm, an orange glaze is poured over top, which soaks deep into the rolls. These little gems keep for several days at room temperature and make for a wonderful breakfast for holidays and weekdays alike.

One Year Ago: Thin Mint Brownies

Irene's Orange Rolls

Yields 24 rolls

Bread Dough
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1/4 cup barely warm water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 3/4 to 3 cups bread flour (all purpose will work)

Dissolve the yeast in the barely warm water and allow to sit about 5 minutes until activated (looks frothy). Stir in sugar, butter, eggs, and sour cream. Gradually add 2 3/4 cups flour, mixing well. If dough appears too sticky, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Cover dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in a warm place, about 2 hours. Punch down dough and allow to rise a second time until doubled, about 1 hour.

Divide dough in half and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out each half into a 12-inch circle.

1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 2 oranges (about 2 tablespoons)
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut

In a small bowl, rub together the sugar and orange zest with your hands until fragrant. Stir in the sweetened coconut.

Sprinkle 1/2 of the filling on each rolled out dough circle. Using a pizza cutter, cut the circle into 12 equal slices. Starting on the wide end, roll up each slice like a croissant. In a greased 9x13-inch baking pan, lay the rolls pointed end down (3 width-wise, 8 length-wise). Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Alternatively, cover with foil and allow to rise in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden.

Orange Glaze
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter

In a small saucepan, heat all ingredients on medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour over rolls as soon as they are out from the oven.

Allow rolls to soak in the glaze and cool before serving.

Reader Comments (34)

I'm sorry you never got to meet your grandmother but it's really awesome that you get to know her through these handwritten recipe cards. Her recipe for these orange rolls sound amazing, and I'll be sure to give it a try soon.
I just woke up and have yet to eat breakfast. Reading this post while hungry makes me want to bake these rolls right now! They look delicious!
04.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarieke
these look fantastic, I must try them this weekend!!
04.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLouisa
Oh yummy looks delicious!
04.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterWhileHeWasOut
Orange rolls sound dreamy!
This is such a beautiful post. It sort of reminds me of my grandma (who is still very much alive) and how much food she cooks. She makes sure there is enough food on the table to feed an army, even when it's just a few people showing up at her house.

These rolls look absolutely amazing. And considering I haven't had breakfast yet, I would loveto have these for breakfast. If only I didn't have to go to school :)
What a great story. I hope when I have kids I can convey to them how great their grandma was and what a shame it is they never got to meet her. These rolls look absolutely scrumptious too!
These rock my world!! I'm sooooo trying these this weekend!
Your grandmother was actually my aunt. I had the privilege to eat from her table many times. My memories of her center around food because that is just what our families did when we got I remember eating the great homemade rolls and buns she made. They were always light and would just melt in my mouth. I enjoy reading your posts and this tribute to your grandmother is beautiful and heartwarming. She would be proud of your ability to write and bake and share your results with others. Your writing and photos really showcase your talent.
04.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
What a marvelous ode to your grandmother! The orange rolls ar a spring delight!
04.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeb
These pictures are making me SO hungry! I love family recipes, too.
04.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
These look amazing. I am so exited to try them. Do you have any suggestions for making them ahead of time and then baking them in the morning? Could I have then rise once, then put them in the refrigerator overnight for the second rise? Thank you!!!
04.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristy
Hi Christy-- The day before I suggest making them to the point where you have them filled, rolled, and placed in the 9x13 inch pan. Instead of allowing them to double in size on the counter before baking, cover them with foil and place in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning pull them out, let them come back up to room temperature, and bake as directed. This way there is hardly any work the next morning.
04.6.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Your post today really touched me, my fanastic cooking grandma was also called Irene, she passed away just over a year ago. I spent so many happy hours in her kitchen with her, baking, cooking, making jam. Whatever was in season in my grandparents garden came into my grandma's kitchen. She taught me so much about using the best fresh ingredients and the sheer joy of cooking for those you love. I will always miss her, but I will always have such happy memories. And for the future I have shared all that she taught me with my daughter.
thank you for such a lovely foodie blog your grandmother would be very proud!
04.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSallyAnne
These look wonderful! Going to try them this weekend as well!
04.6.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAllison
I love that you've got to know your granny through her recipes - what a wonderful way for her memory to live on. These rolls look sticky and sweet and absolutely delicious - I'm sure she would have been so happy that you're sharing them here today :-)
04.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenterthelittleloaf
My mom made this same recipe that she got from a magazine after seeing it which was a runner up in the Pillsbury Cookoff, it was always a family favorite!! She had awesome luck with yeast products, I recently started trying to make yeast products and I know she would have been proud of me that I have followed in her footsteps and have mastered this recipe
04.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue L.
Wow!! Love your grandmother's recipe!! The rolls look perfect, hope to try them soon! I also recently made the garlic pull apart bread using your idea, turned out great!! Thanks for sharing wonderful recipes Kristin!!
04.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmbika
Great recipe! The filling is amazing!
04.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMedeja
What a lovely post! I am honored that you shared your grandmother's special recipe. Yes, she truly was a remarkable woman. I was the lucky one to call her "mom." She would be so proud of you and your accomplishments. Brings a smile to my face. By the way...these orange rolls are like a blast from my childhood. Simply delicious and good! Thanks!
04.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMama Rose
Your grandmother seems like she was a well liked person, and her memory lives on in everyone of her recipes that you make. That's incredibly touching.
I love the rolls! Recipes involving oranges are always a delight to me, though that may just be due to my heritage. Born in Florida, I love oranges. I always love to stop at the welcome center and drink their orange juice. Now that I live in the north I find less variety of oranges and, where I live, less variety of fruits and vegetables all around.

I have a question. Is there anything I can replace the coconut with? I don't favor the consistency. I was thinking cream cheese, like in danishes or something along the lines. But, if you could think of something better, I'd be happy to try that instead. =)

Thank you for sharing such a lovely recipe and allowing the memory of your grandmother to live on.
04.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIvy
Hi Ivy! You could certainly spread the rolls with cream cheese instead of butter and sprinkle the filling (sugar and orange zest) without the coconut. Alternatively, you could simply eliminate the coconut and just use the orange scented sugar instead. Thanks for the lovely comment!
04.8.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Hi Kristin,
I made these for Easter breakfast! They turned out exactly like your pics! Thanks for the super recipe!
04.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGretchen
My mom used to make something similar...can't wait to try them!
04.11.2012 | Unregistered Commentermamawolfe
I made this for breakfast this morning and they were wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe. My rolls turned out exactly like your pictures. I impressed even myself.
04.14.2012 | Unregistered Commenterstephanie
What beautiful writing. And photos. And the recipe? Oh my, it will be made!
04.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJo
That was a nice story about your grandmother. I'm sorry you never got to meet her.

These rolls look like the most perfect rolls ever. I love how gooey they look at the ends! Your pictures are absolutely stunning, as always.
These sure look quiet delicious recipes i wish i could also bake like you. Thanks for the recipes.
Thank you sharing this recipe, I feel the love and am privileged to say that Irene's Orange Rolls are prepped and ready in my fridge to bake tomorrow morning! I will let you know how they turn out. What a smooth and luxurious dough to work with!

Thank you again for sharing.
05.18.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSapna
What an amazing-looking recipe! These rolls look so, so delicious. I love recipes that help connect us to's so fun to cook and feel like a relative is in the kitchen with you. :)
12.30.2012 | Unregistered Commentersara
I had a grandmother like that! miss her all the time.
I just made these and they are wonderful! The sauce just pulls it all together!
Thanks for sharing!
01.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJeannie
Hi Kristin, you wrote a beautiful post and a recipe that caught my eye from the moment I saw it. Today I made this rolls, reading it very carefully not to miss anything important and thinking on the day I can make them with my eyes closed. It is a wonderful dough this one, really easy to work. I am in love with this one and hope to make it a few times.
10.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmarghidan
I made these yesterday, exactly like the recipe (except I used my bread machine dough cycle for perfect rising during this extreme cold) and they were delicious! I was so pleased that they turned out looking just like the pictures and the taste! Oh my, a new favorite in our house. Thank you so much for sharing.
01.26.2014 | Unregistered Commenterkatheryn
I fell in love with baking and the kitchen by reading this and so many more like this. I'm a single woman that goes to the office five days a week for about nine hours. The kitchen, and preparing food in never on my agenda although I know how to cook, I'm of the opinion that one day when I marry he'll do the cooking, that's now changed. I read the stories that are linked to the pastries and all I want to do is cook and prepare treats for the love of my life. When did I become this woman?

When I find him I want to cook for him, see the delight in his eyes as he lovingly consume the passion and pride I bake into every treat. Thank you, the woman in the double breasted pinstripe wants to wear an apron and I LOVE IT.
04.4.2014 | Unregistered CommenterRosa

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