Last year was the first time I was able to find Meyer lemons in my local store, and I went crazy, grabbing quite a few. Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange; they’re slightly sweeter than regular lemons and have a brighter yellow, orange-tinted skin. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find them again, so I was really excited when they turned up again this year. I had to restrain myself from buying the store’s entire stash (which wouldn’t have been as obnoxious as it may sound, they probably only had 15-20). When I got home, I remembered this recipe for lemon sticky rolls, which several bloggers had adapted from The Kitchn last year. My mind was instantly made up. I love cinnamon rolls, and a fresh lemon version just sounded so appealing. I was reminded of the lemon-scented pull-apart coffee cake I’d made last year, which I’d thought was similar to a citrus version of cinnamon rolls and I’d loved, so I had high hopes.
I made a few changes to the original recipe in my version below and will just point them out quickly. I eliminated ground ginger from the filling because I found it overwhelming in my first batch. I also decreased the amount of lemon juice and butter in the filling because a lot of the reviews complained the filling was leaking out everywhere so I wanted to make mine thicker. For the dough itself I found I needed a lot less flour than the recipe indicated (hence the range listed below), but the amount of flour necessary in a yeast recipe is always a moving target anyway so just pay attention to the consistency of the dough. Finally, my rolls baked up more quickly than expected; I definitely recommend using a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the rolls.
The rolls are just as good I hoped they would be. From the rich, tender roll to the sweet, gooey lemon filling and the tangy cream cheese topping – yum! My favorite thing about this type of treat is that you can prep them ahead of time and either refrigerate overnight, or pop in the freezer to save for another day. I can’t imagine a better way to start the day than with warm lemon sticky rolls. Making yeast breakfast rolls is really fun and relaxing in my opinion, and when they taste as good as these, it’s tough not to make them for breakfast every day :)
Meyer Lemon Sticky Rolls
adapted from The Kitchn
2 1/2 teaspoons active yeast
3/4 cup warm milk (about 100-110 F)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 lemons, zested
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
zest of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
4 oz cream cheese, softened
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 lemon, zested (optional, for garnish)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a few minutes. Add the butter, sugar, vanilla, salt, nutmeg, lemon zest, and one cup of the flour and mix briefly to combine. Add the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. (Alternatively, you could turn the soft dough out onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for 7-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.)
Lightly grease a large bowl with cooking spray. Add the dough and turn to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot. Let the dough rise until nearly doubled, about an hour.
To make the filling, mix the sugar with the nutmeg, then work in the lemon zest with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles wet, soft sand. Stir in two tablespoons of lemon juice.
Lightly grease a 13×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle that is approximately 10×15 inches. Spread the dough evenly with the softened butter, then spread the lemon-sugar filling mixture over top. Starting with a long end facing you, roll the dough up tightly. Pinch the dough at the end to seal the seam. Cut the dough into 12 even rolls (I like to halve the roll, then halve each piece and finally, cut each piece into thirds), and place them, 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. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the rolls are lightly browned and a thermometer inserted into the center of a roll reads 190 F.
While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. Whip the cream cheese (using a mixer or even by hand with a whisk) until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and blend until well combined. Mix in the powdered sugar until the glaze is smooth and creamy.
When the rolls finish baking, smear them with the cream cheese glaze, and, if desired, sprinkle the lemon zest over the top to garnish. Serve while warm.