Orange-Scented Cinnamon Rolls

While I hesitate to call it an all-out phobia, I will say that my, um, reticent nature towards baking with yeast has been well-documented in the past. I know I'm not the only one out there who suffers from this fear, and let's face it--yeast is a funny thing. I mean, it's ALIVE, for cry-yi. Unpredictable, with a mind of its own! And how do you choose the right type of yeast? What if you only have active dry and the recipe calls for instant? How can you really know for sure if the dough has doubled? The world could explode with such Oprah-esque Life Questions.

Well. Recently I've tried to tackle that fear for good, experimenting with different breads, rolls, even cakes that use yeast as their puffing (and flavor) agent. I've been inching closer to becoming One With the Yeast. Baby steps.

Not too long ago, the good people at Fleischmann's contacted me about checking out their online resources to help quell the anxiety of yeast-fearing baking enthusiasts like myself, and lo, I was calmed by the clarity of the information on their Become a Better Baker website, and the accompanying how-to videos that focus on yeast-raised goods. There's even a specific video for yeast equivalents! Hallelujah!

They also pointed me to the hundreds of recipes in their Bread World recipe index, and with holiday brunch season upon us, my pregnancy cravings went haywire when I spotted an orange-infused cinnamon roll recipe. This is the kind of twist on a classic that is so completely perfect right now--we want comfort food, we want familiar things, but a little zip of citrus in baked goods always manages to take the whole thing to a different craveworthy level. Sold.

So about the yeast in this particular recipe: It calls for Fleischmann's® RapidRise Yeast, which is an instant yeast, something I've been hearing a lot about lately from such Big Deal Culinary Sources like America's Test Kitchen, which often recommends instant yeast in its yeast-raised recipes. What's great about it is that this kind of yeast eliminates a few recipe steps that can often trip up a yeast-fearing baker. I mean, you do have to work with it in a yeasty manner, and there is some kneading involved, but with its dump-and-stir-friendly qualities, instant yeast works a little like baking powder in a recipe, simplifies the breadmaking process, and needs very little babysitting, which we're all cool with, right?

Once you get past the mixing of the dough and a quick rest, everything else here comes together in the most fabulously simple way. Roll out the dough into a nice, neat rectangle (using a ruler to guide you, just one tip I picked up from Become a Better Baker''s video on cinnamon roll how-to's--and the bit about using dental floss to cleanly cut the rolls? What, what?!). The filling is little more than sugar, orange zest, cinnamon, and butter, so COME ON, right?

These sweet, spicy, citrusy rolls are the world's most fabulous holiday kitchen project--the prep work is fun, and they can totally be made a day ahead and baked off first thing the next morning. Christmas in a pan, I'm telling you.

Orange-Scented Cinnamon Rolls Adapted from

A few tips to make life easier:

-Read the recipe a couple times before you begin to wrap your brain around the process, and the time required for each step.

-If you have a thermometer, use it to gage how hot your liquid is before you add it to the yeast. You want it nice and warm, like a soothing bath, but not hot to the touch.

-Measure all 6 cups of flour into a large bowl, and scoop your flour out of there as you work--you may or may not need all 6 cups (I did).

-Once the dough was mixed, I switched to the dough hook on my mixer instead of kneading by hand because I am pregnant and exhausted. I found on low speed, I still needed about 9-10 minutes of kneading with the dough hook to get a soft, elastic, supple dough, though your mileage may vary.

-Use a ruler while you're rolling out your dough rectangle to get it as close to a 10x20-inch piece as you can. This helps you end up with the right size and amount of rolls, taking any guesswork out of the baking time and knowing when the rolls are baked through.

-If you start to roll the rectangle and the dough is bouncing back on you, cover the dough with a towel and give it 10-15 more minutes to relax before starting again--my dough needed this extra rest time.

-I opted to halve this recipe, making 12 rolls, and baked them in a 9x13-inch baking dish. But! I kept the amount of glaze the same, as I am a freak about glazey things. The amount listed below are from the original recipe, so you can scale the amount of glaze up or down as you like.

-Double glazed or not, these puppies are indeed sweet, so if you're planning a brunch or buffet situation, one roll per person is plenty.

Makes 20-24 rolls

For the dough: 5-1 / 2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour 1 / 2 cup granulated sugar 2 envelopes Fleischmann's® RapidRise Yeast 1-1 / 2 teaspoons salt 1-1 / 4 cups water 1 / 2 cup milk (lowfat is okay) 1 / 3 cup (about 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter 2 large eggs, at room temperature

For the filling: 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 2 tablespoons grated orange zest 1 cup granulated sugar 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (I like Vietnamese cinnamon) Pinch of salt

For the glaze: 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract Pinch of salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, undissolved yeast, and salt. Stir on low speed to combine, about 1 minute.

In a heatproof measuring cup, combine the water, milk, and butter. Heat in the microwave on high power until warm (120o to 130oF), about 30-40 seconds (a thermometer is a good idea here to make sure your liquid isn't so hot that it will kill the yeast, or too cool to keep it from activating). With the mixer still on low speed, gradually add the liquid to flour mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minute, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs and 1 cup flour; beat 2 minutes at high speed. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes (or switch to the mixer's dough hook and knead on low speed). Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Butter a large rimmed baking sheet, or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Divide the dough in half. Roll each half to 20 x 10-inch rectangle. Brush all over with melted butter.

In a small bowl, massage the orange zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the sugar is fragrant and looks moist. Add the cinnamon and salt and stir to blend well. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough. Beginning from one of the short sides of the dough closest to you, roll the dough tightly into a log, pinching the seam tightly to seal. With a long, thin, sharp knife, cut each log into 1-inch slices, or about 10-12 pieces. Arrange the rolls snugly, cut sides up, on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with the second half of the dough. Cover the rolls with a clean towel and let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Alternatively, cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the rolls overnight. Let rise and come to room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.)

When you're ready to bake, arrange a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees. Bake the rolls until they are puffed and browned, rotating the pan halfway through baking, about 25 to 30 minutes.

While the rolls are baking, make the glaze. Whisk together the confectioners' sugar, orange juice, vanilla extract and salt until smooth. Slather generously over the hot rolls just as they come out of the oven. Although these rolls are best eaten fresh from the oven, any leftovers will keep tightly wrapped at room temperature for about a day, and benefit from a quick zap in the microwave before eating.

Special thanks to Fleischmann's for providing the inspiration for this post. This is a sponsored post and I did receive compensation to write it. However, all of the thoughts and opinions written above are my own.

Breakfast, YeastShauna Sever