Lemon Poppy Seed Rolls

The beginning of winter feels a little bit like magic. After the colors of fall turn to brown and the wet leaves find their way into the gutters, a dusting of white is a beautiful welcome, erasing the world and letting it start with a clean slate. Awaking to a fresh, new world is my favorite part of winter. When the snowflakes fall from the sky, my house feels cozier, food turns into comfort favorites, and spending the evening under a blanket in front of the television becomes a special treat.

The beginning of winter is a reminder of why I couldn't imagine living somewhere without the seasons.

Once January rolls around and winter weather is drudging into its third month, awaking to a white world is no longer new and exciting. The short hours of daylight and early mornings spent scraping the ice off the windshield of my car take away a little of the magic. I'm ready to see the sun for more than an hour each day. When the world isn't blanketed in a new sheet of white, the snow turns gray and brown, mimicking the dank end of autumn.

Each season has a beginning and an ending. Though I may feel ready for a new change, winter has just settled in for a long stay, with no plans to take a weekend getaway.

When the winter season begins to drag on my mind and body, the brightness of citrus fruit or a bowl of dark greens can sort me out. I associate fruit with winter as much as summer, peeling oranges and devouring clementines by the handful. Tart and sour fruits feel most like winter to me, with a bite as shocking as a burst of cold winter wind. When I was trying to come up with a new flavor for a breakfast roll, lemon and poppy seed seemed a natural combination. The tartness of the lemon shines through, while the bitterness of the poppy seeds is counteracted with brown sugar and honey.

When winter starts to drag you down, these rolls will pick you right back up. I promise.

Lemon Poppy Seed Rolls are a zesty pastry with a burst of flavor. The dough is soft, tender, and riddled with a lemon zest to bring a bright lemon aroma. The filling is a mixture of poppy seeds, brown sugar for sweetness, and a splash of lemon juice to bring a tart tone. As soon as they come out of the oven, the rolls are drizzled with honey, which soaks deep into the cracks and crevices. These are a lovely choice to brighten morning taste buds or to be enjoyed in the afternoon with a cup of tea.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Rolls

Yields 9 rolls

Lemon Rolls
1 teaspoons dry active yeast
2 tablespoons (30 ml) barely warm water
2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 2 lemons (about 1-2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons (45 grams) butter, melted
1 large egg
1/4 cup (60 grams) sour cream
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) bread flour (all purpose will work)

Poppy Seed Filling
6 ounces (170 grams) canned poppy seed filling
1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar, packed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Honey, for drizzling

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the barely warm water and allow to sit about 5 minutes until activated (looks frothy). Stir in sugar, lemon zest, salt, melted butter, eggs, and sour cream. Gradually add the flour, mixing until it has been incorporated. Cover dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours. Punch down dough and allow to rise a second time until doubled, about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising for a second time, create the poppy seed filling by mixing together the poppy seed filling, brown sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 9 by 12 inch rectangle. Spread the poppy seed filling on the dough, keeping a 1-inch border around the edges. Starting on the shortest end, roll up the dough into a log shape and press the edges to seal them. Cover the log with plastic wrap, twist the ends tightly, and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes, or until it firms up. Unwrap the dough and cut the log into 1-inch slices using a sharp serrated knife. Set the rolls into a 9-inch baking pan. Cover and allow to rise until doubled, about 40-50 minutes.

(Alternatively, to make them for the next morning, cover with foil before rising and place in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow the rolls to warm to room temperature and rise until doubled.)

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

Bake rolls for 15-20 minutes, or until golden. While hot, drizzle the top of the rolls with honey and allow it to soak in. Serve warm or room temperature.