April 5, 2011

Lemon Rolls with Cream Cheese Lemon Thyme Glaze

There were a million things pointing me towards making these sweet wonderful rolls. First off, I planted my first herb garden this last weekend! I'm pretty excited about it and I keep smiling every time I walk into my kitchen and see a window sill of fresh herbs smiling back at me. I've managed to use them in just about everything I've made since then but the one that has by far stolen me away is the lemon thyme. Just rubbing your fingers on it leaves the beautiful refreshing smell of lemon on them. It doesn't get much better than that. Secondly, I ran across a recipe for these lemon rolls on The Kitchn that I remembered I had bookmarked some time ago so I stocked up on lemons at the grocery store the very same day.

Those lemons came in handy later that day when I started feeling sick. I must've had about 15 lemon, hot water and honey drinks over the next 24 hours trying to chase the bug away. But alas, I'm home sick today with nothing to do but bake to make me feel better. I realized while making these that yellow is one of my favorite colors and I sure do have a lot of it in my kitchen decor. It's a brighten your day kind of color. The next thing you know I'm stumbling across this post on Poppytalk alerting me that today was in fact declared a day of yellow for Spring Colors Week. Sometimes when you get a good idea it doesn't take a lot of convincing to carry it through but it sure does help when the universe is there to back you up. So, here's my own little tribute to yellow.

I made the recipe as it was posted but I added some fresh lemon thyme to the cream cheese glaze. I also modified the lemon amounts a bit as I think my glaze and filling were a bit too wet and it needed to be adjusted into measurements instead of just whole lemons.

Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
Makes 12 large breakfast rolls

Lemon Roll Dough
1 envelope (0.25 ounces, or 2 1/2 teaspoons) active yeast

3/4 cup milk, warmed to about 100°F (warm but not hot on your wrist)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of grated lemon zest
(about 1 lemon)

Sticky Lemon Filling
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon thyme
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest for garnish
(about 1 lemon)

Make the dough:
Zest and juice the lemons. Divide the zest into three parts. Divide the juice into two parts, and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a few minutes. With the mixer paddle, stir in the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, and one part (1/3) of the lemon zest. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable. (If you do not have a stand mixer, stir together the ingredients by hand, then turn the soft dough out onto a lightly floured countertop. Knead the dough by hand for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, pliable, and stretchy.)

Spray the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled — about an hour.

Make the filling:
In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the second part of the lemon zest (1/3) with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles soft sand. Slowly pour in one part of the lemon juice, stirring. Stop when the sugar and lemon juice form a wet, clumpy mixture. (You may use all of the reserved half of the lemon juice; you may stop before completely adding that half of the lemon juice.)

Assemble the rolls:
Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking dish with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10x15 inches.

Spread the dough evenly with the 3 tablespoons of softened butter, then pour and spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Stretch and pull the dough taut as you roll, to keep the lemon sugar firm inside. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls. Pinch the bottom of each roll closed and place each one, open and cut side up, in the prepared baking dish.

Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise for an hour.)

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into a center roll reads 190°F.

Make the glaze:
While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small food processor (or with a mixer, or a sturdy whisk), whip the cream cheese and the lemon thyme until light and fluffy. Add the remaining lemon juice and blend until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.

Finish the rolls:
When the rolls are done, smear them with the cream cheese glaze, and sprinkle the final remaining lemon zest over top to garnish. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving, but do serve while still warm.

My Inspiration

A little before and after

My pretty tea towel with the dough rising

Makes my mouth water just looking at 'em

Another before and after


  1. They were really good! Thinking about making them for Easter brunch instead of French toast.