Have you ever had lemon flavored sweet rolls?  If not you are in for a treat with this recipe.  I love lemon and since I spend part of the year in southern CA, where free lemons arrive on my doorstep weekly, I’m always looking for new ways to use them.  This recipe originated with Faith Durand, owner of http://thekitchn.com, a great blog site.  I have made these twice and both times, the recipe was flawless and easy to follow.  The dough has that perfect softness, with just enough buttery flavor and sweetness.  Although the rising process takes time, the hands-on time is very minimal.  These rolls can be made a day ahead and chilled overnight.  Just give them a final rise and bake them off the day you want to serve them.  Give these a try – I made them for a family brunch and they were a home run.  My Mom said the were “sinful” and couldn’t believe they came from my very own oven rather than a bakery.

Lemon Flavored Sweet Rolls – Directions for the dough:
1 envelope or 1/4 ounce Red Star active dry yeast
3/4 cup milk, warmed to about 100°F, warm but not hot on the inside of your wrist
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for an hour
2 large eggs
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (opt.)
Zest from one lemon

Filling:
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, very soft
1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger (opt.)
dash of nutmeg (opt.)
2 T. lemon juice
zest from 3/4 of a lemon; reserve remainder for garnish

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar +/-
1 t. lemon juice +/- to taste
1 t. hot water +/-
Combine into a thick but still runny glaze. Put into a ziplock bag, cut tip and drizzle onto warm rolls.

Directions:

Turn on the oven light and/or the oven for the rising process.

Make the dough: In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a few minutes or until foamy. In the bowl of the stand mixer, mix the softened butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and 1 cup of the flour until creamy. Stir in the salt and nutmeg. Add yeast/milk mixture. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough. ( I used 3 cups of the remaining 3 1/2 cups.)

Switch to the dough hook and knead at low speed for 2-5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, pliable, and stretchy. Can knead by hand if desired.

Lightly grease the top of the dough with butter, and turn the dough over so it is coated in butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise for 2 hours or until doubled.

Make the lemon filling: While the dough is rising, rub the lemon zest into the sugar with a plastic spoon until well combined. Add the butter and stir together until it is thick, whipped, and creamy. Add the ginger and nutmeg. Slowly add the lemon juice and whip. It should be a creamy mixture of butter and sugar about the consistency of softened butter. Keep cool until ready to use.

Assemble the rolls: Lightly grease a 13×9-inch baking dish or 2 9×9 round pans with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface, roll the risen dough into a large rectangle that is about 3/8″ thick. If making 12 rolls, make the rectangle about 10 x 15 inches. If making 20 smaller rolls cut the dough in half and roll out to same size. Spread the dough evenly with the lemon filling (not too heavy). Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long side. (If you roll the dough too tightly, the centers will pop out. ) Cut rolls about 1 1/4″ thick and place in the prepared baking dish. (Can put all 20 rolls in one 9×13 pan.)

Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for 1 hour or until puffy and doubled.

→ Make-Ahead Instructions: You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, let them come to room temp for an hour and rise for an hour before proceeding with baking.

Bake the rolls: Move a rack to the middle position. Heat the oven to 350°F. Bake for 30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into a center roll reads 190°F. Rotate the pan to promote even baking. Can cover with foil to keep tops from browning too much. Don’t over-bake or let them over-brown.

Make the glaze: While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, whip the lemon juice and powdered sugar, adding water and sugar to make the right consistency. Put glaze into a ziplock bag.

Glaze the rolls: When the rolls are done and have cooled slightly, cut the tip of the bag and drizzle them with the glaze, then sprinkle the reserved lemon zest over the top to garnish. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.