Mother Knows Best! [Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze]
Let it be known, that I was the kid who recited “I will not be just like my mother” like it was etched on my skin. Not because I thought my mother wasn’t a perfectly acceptable role model, but I, like most kids/teens, liked to think I would be my own person. Do things differently, and change the little quirks that frustrated me so much as a teenager. “I’m not going to do it like that… ” I would say confidently, assuring myself that things would be different when I was old enough to call the shots.
Here I am, 25 years old, noticing daily that I am, in every sense of the word, my Mother’s daughter. From the way my hands look, to the way I answer the phone, my views on the world and relationships, and the tiny looks that I so often despised as a kid… it’s all eerily similar. And while it may not have been what I had hoped for when I was younger, I couldn’t be happier to be just like her. I remember her sighing at me with a smirk and saying “just wait until you’re older…” and it all makes sense now. Everything she instilled in me, all the life lessons passed down, they’ve all come back around.
I often find myself telling people that I would prefer to have boys when I decide to have children. Not because I don’t likegirls, but because I’m afraid that my potential daughters might be just like me. It took me twenty two (give or take) years to finally understand everything my Mum used to try and tell me. And it seems like an awfully long time to not see eye-to-eye. From where I’m sitting now, I have the utmost respect for her and the patience it took to raise two daughters who always thought they knew better.
My mom is wonderful, and kind hearted, and generous beyond belief. She not only taught me to be all those things, but also how to fend for myself and take care of others. A valuble lesson that I am forever thankful I aquired from her.
It’s hard to say thank you to someone who has molded exactly who you are, and unquestionably the person you had always hoped to be, but we always try our best. My mum is not much for presents on Mothers Day, but instead asks for our time, which we understand is more and more valuable as we get older, and start traditions, careers and home lives of our own.
Since the weather has been agreeing lately, we decided to put together a brunch for Mothers Day. Something small but satisfying we could enjoy over mimosa’s, coffee, and cheerful conversation on my balcony. My sister made the savoury portion of the meal, sharing a wonderful roasted vegetable frittata, bacon and fruit salad, and I was in charge of the sweets. I hmm’d and hah’d over scones, muffins, bread pudding… but none of them left me feeling excited. And if I wasn’t excited about it, why would anyone else be.
I recalled a recipe I came across on The Kitchn for an alternate take on the cinnamon bun minus the cinnamon. A sticky, sweet roll that housed a few of my very favourite things. Lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, cream cheese, nutmeg… all the most crucial players for a breakfast baked good, in my opinion. I can’t say I’ve ever been successful in any cinnamon bun endeavours, but I took a deep breath and assured myself that this was it. Time to step into the big leagues, push out any unfortunate memories of rock hard buns, and get down to business. I owed my mom that much.
There few words I can use to do these rolls the justice they deserve, but here are a few for starters; tangy, sweet, yeasty, warm, lemony, creamy. To say they were enjoyed would be a monstrous understatement. Each section was lovingly unraveled, the tangy lemon glaze slowly oozing down the freshly revealed dough, making a deliciously sticky mess of every one’s hands. Most of us enjoyed not one, but two rolls, which was surprisingly since we’re typically not much for dessert.
They looked good, tasted great, and were really not much harder than making a loaf of bread. I strongly urge you to try them. They might even convert you from a cinnamon-bun lover to a lemon-bun afficianado. I myself am a changed woman. And most importantly, my mum loved them just as much as I did.
Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon-Cream Cheese Glaze
Adapted from The Kitchn
Makes 12 large breakfast rolls
Note: Half of the lemon juice will be used in the lemon-sugar filling for the rolls. The other half will be used in the glaze.
Lemon Roll Dough
1 envelope or 2 1/2 tsp active yeast
3/4 cup milk, warm but not hot (about 100 degrees)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 zest from lemons
Sticky Lemon Filling
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp freshly-ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
3 tbsp unsalted butter, very soft
1/2 juice from lemons
1/3 zest from lemons
Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 juice from lemons
Final 3rd of zest for garnish.
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 until frothy. 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 of the lemon zest. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft but slightly 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, you can stir the ingredients by hand, roll out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead by hand for 5-7 minutes until smooth and elasticy. See here for thorough instructions.
Spray the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and flip the dough over so it’s mostly covered in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled, about an hour.
In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the second part of the lemon zest 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 not use all the lemon juice. It shouldn’t be gloppy.
Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking dish with vegetable oil or butter. On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle, about 10x15 inches. It might not be a perfect rectangle, but that’s ok.
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 firmly inside. Cut the long dough roll into about 12 even rolls with a sharp knife so as not to squish them. 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. If you are making the day before, as I did, you can cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight, up to 24 hours. In the morning, take them out and let them rise for an hour before you bake.
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.
(I was a little worried at this point since I expected them to be a little softer looking, but rest assured, you’re on the right track)
While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. Add the softened cream cheese to a mixer or a bowl with a hand mixer, and cream until smooth. Add remaining lemon juice and cream until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, a little at a time until you have a smooth, creamy glaze. Not as thick as frosting, but should coat a spoon (or your finger) with a good thick layer.
Finishing the Rolls
When the rolls are baked, 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 be sure to serve warm when they are at their very best.
Lastly, if you haven’t spoken with your mom in a little while, give her a call and tell her you love her. It’s the best gift you can give. Short of a million dollars, that is.