Filed under: Breads / Rolls
March 21, 2023

Orange Rolls

Soft, pillowy milk bread breakfast rolls sweetened with orange juice and orange zest in the dough, wrapped around a brown sugar and orange filling and doused in a cream cheese and orange glaze. 

5 from 5 votes
Yield: 12 large rolls
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When I mentioned these were in the works, you might’ve thought I’d take my basic cinnamon roll recipe and add some zest in the dough and the filling, and call it a day. Or perhaps you saw my lemon curd rolls and figured I’d just use my orange curd in place of that. 


I went with neither. See the thing about orange juice, where it differs sharply from lemon juice for example, is that it can go in the dough. So instead of using water as I usually do to make the dough for the orange rolls, I developed a new dough recipe where I could use freshly squeezed orange juice in the dough – which will double down on that wonderful orange flavor we seek when we think ‘orange roll’! 


 There will still be zest in the filling and in the dough, of course, and then some more orange juice in the cream cheese glaze that goes on top. The result is the most orange a roll has ever been =) 


What makes this recipe for orange rolls so unique (and delicious!) 

Tangzhong: A chinese method used to make japanese milk bread, a tangzhong is cooking some of the four that’s to go into a dough with some of the liquid. It gelatinizes the starches so they can absorb more water, the bread will rise higher and stay softer and fresher for longer. 


Orange Juice and Zest: Fresh for both! We’ve got zest in the dough, speckling it with bright orange bits, zest in the filling and a large portion of the dough’s liquid is actually fresh orange juice. This gives the dough an unmistakable ‘orange’ flavor. It’s not an accent, it’s the dominant flavor. 


Brown Sugar and Orange Filling: While you could do a granulated sugar, and most orange roll recipes do, I considered that orange often pairs very well with most things that taste good with brown sugar (chocolate, apple, etc). Having brown sugar in the filling also gives it a little caramel like flavor, an ode to the original cinnamon roll. 


Heavy Cream Bath: Something I picked up from Tastes of Lizzy T. Pouring a half of a cup of heavy cream over the dough right before it goes into the oven gives us more of that gooeyness and gives a softer overall bun. 


Cream Cheese Glaze: Having orange juice in the icing is a given, and vanilla a happy addition. Adding cream cheese however gives it more tang and really complements the overall flavor. 


Recipe Ingredients 

Oranges: Any orange will do. I used navel in the photos and video pictured but you are welcome to use cara cara too. Blood oranges are great too though you’ll need more as they are smaller. Blood oranges will also give a slightly reddish tint to the glaze and dough. 


If you are not using organic oranges, rub them well under water to clean the skin before ou zest. 


Flour: Bread flour is great for cinnamon roll recipes given it’s slightly higher protein content. It’ll give the rolls more structure and chew as well. All purpose flour, as long as it’s not a very low protein content, will also work well. 


Yogurt: I use a vanilla greek yogurt, full fat, which makes the dough extra fluffy and a little tangy. You can also use sour cream or plain greek yogurt, but be sure it’s full fat. 


Yeast: Either instant yeast or active dry will do, if you use active dry add another ¼ tsp of it. Whichever yeast used, be sure to dissolve it into the liquid before adding it into the dough. 


Oil: A flavorless oil works well here but if you like the combination of olive oil and orange feel free to use that. Melted butter also works though the dough will be a tad drier. 


Heavy Cream: This isn’t super necessary but it does wonderful for the rolls to make the inside filling gooier and the bread itself fluffier. It goes into the pan right before the rolls are baked.  


How to make a yeasted orange dough 

First we’ll make the tangzhong, the flour and water paste by simply cooking them together while whisking until they turn into a thick (but goopy) paste. Let this cool slightly before adding to the dough. 


The second step to making this orange roll dough is to activate and dissolve the yeast: sprinkle the yeast over warm-to-touch water then sprinkle a bit of sugar over it (no more than a teaspoon) and give it a little stir. After a couple of minutes you’ll see the yeast has mostly dissolved and it’s foamy. If it hasn’t there could be something wrong with your yeast! 


The rest of the ingredients, including the tangzhong you’ve set aside, all go on top of the yeast. I like to start with the flour then adding the remaining dough ingredients on top. 


Knead the dough, starting on low and working up to medium until the dough mostly clears the bowl and has a mostly smooth surface. It can take up to 10 minutes to get there. 


When to add the icing or glaze to the orange rolls 


Deciding when to add it should be based on how you want the icing to be: do you want it thin and melted everywhere, adding to the goo factor? Add it right when the rolls come out of the oven. Do you like a thick layer of it on top, where it doesn’t touch the inside filling? Make a thicker glaze (add less milk or orange juice) and add it once the rolls are cool. 

How to store orange rolls (and serve them later) 


Keep them in an airtight container or they’ll dry out. If it has been a day since they’ve baked I’d warm them up in the microwave, 30 seconds at 100% power will soften them up nicely. I would say they won’t keep well after 48 hours. 

Making Overnight Orange Rolls 

You’ve got two options to make these a day ahead of time: 

First rise overnight: After you’ve made the dough let it rise at room temperature for an hour. It won’t double (we don’t want it to) but it’ll have begun the rise or even gotten halfway. The rest you can do in the fridge overnight. In the morning, you’ll take the dough out and shape and proceed – bearing in mind the second rise will be longer than instructed below as the dough will first need to come up to room temperature before it rises. 


Second rise overnight: In this scenario, you’re making the dough, doing a first rise and shaping all the day before. I’d give the dough about 30 minutes at room temperature then cover with plastic wrap to create a seal, then stick it in the fridge overnight. 


Inspect them in the morning: does the dough look slightly puffy? Does it bounce back when pressed? Most likely you’ll want to give it 30-60 minutes at room temperature before baking. Don’t do the heavy cream bath until right before they are going into the oven.


Orange Rolls

Soft, pillowy milk bread breakfast rolls sweetened with orange juice and orange zest in the dough, wrapped around a brown sugar and orange filling and doused in a cream cheese and orange glaze.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Rising Time: 4 hours
Yields: 12 large rolls
5 from 5 votes


Orange Roll Dough

  • 30g or ¼ cup all purpose or bread flour
  • 120g or ½ cup water
  • 7g or 1 packet instant yeast
  • 60g or ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 520 g or 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 125g or ½ cup greek yogurt vanilla or plain
  • 50g or ¼ cup canola or other flavorless oil
  • 50g granulated sugar optional, sweetens the dough
  • 175g or scant ¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Zest of two large oranges
  • 1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or paste
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt

Brown Sugar Orange Filling

  • 145g or ⅔ cups brown sugar
  • 75g or ⅓ cup butter softened, salted or unsalted
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 8g or 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • 120g or ½ cup heavy cream

Cream Cheese Orange Glaze

  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 2-4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 195g or 1 ½ cups organic powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract or paste
  • Pinch fine sea salt


First make the tangzhong and dough

  • In a small pot, add the half of a cup of water and the quarter cup of flour. Turn heat to low and cook, whisking until the mix becomes a thick paste. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (fitted with the dough hook) add the quarter cup of warm water, then sprinkle the yeast over it and add a sprinkle of sugar on top. Mix just briefly then leave it for a couple of minutes to foam.
  • On top of the yeast add the flour, then the remaining dough ingredients and the roux from above. Knead the dough starting on low, for about 7-10 minutes until it cleans the bowl and has a mostly smooth surface.
  • Transfer to an oiled bowl, turn it around in the oil a few times to coat, then cover the bowl and let rise for 2-3 hours until almost but not quite doubled. If your kitchen is warm this can be as quick as 2 or even 1.5 hours. Take the butter out to soften while it’s rising.

Make the filling and shape the rolls

  • Once the dough is almost doubled in size, punch it down and set it on a floured surface.
  • Mix together the softened butter, the brown sugar and the orange zest. Add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of flour.
  • Roll out the dough to a large rectangle that’s about 12x16” then spread the filling over it, leaving a half inch border on one of the longer sides. Roll up the dough into a log, ending with the side that doesn’t have filling.
  • Grease a 13x9” baking pan. Using a bread knife or unwaxed dental floss, slice the log into 1” rolls and place them on the pan - you should have about 11 large rolls, arrange them so you have them in rows of 2,1,2,1,2,1,2 . Cover the pan with a tea towel and let them rise for 45 minutes or until you press the side of the dough and it doesn’t spring back but leaves an indentation.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  • Right before baking, pour the heavy cream around the rolls. Bake for 30 minutes until golden. If you have a thermometer it should register 190 when inserted into the center of the rolls.

Make the glaze

  • Whisk together the cream cheese and orange juice. Add the vanilla, salt and powdered sugar and whisk everything together until it’s smooth. If the icing is thick, you can add more orange juice. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar.
  • Spread the glaze over the rolls and serve.


The dough is sweetened here with just the orange juice, if you want to ensure yours is sweet enough for your taste, add 1/4 cup granulated or brown sugar to the dough. 

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Recipe Reviews

  1. I am going to try this recipe tonight. Do you have to let it sit in the fridge or can you do first & second rise in one day. Also, with the roux do you add the yeast to that mixture?

    • The fridge option is *if* you want to overnight it. The recipe box instructions are for same day. The yeast and water are mixed together and then once it foams you add the rest of the dough ingredients, including the roux.

  2. 5 stars
    delicious! No egg, no butter in the dough, but I might like it even better this way ????. The only tricky part was a veeery wet dough (kneaded by yand). I had to add quiet a bit of extra flour. Not sure why.. ????

  3. 5 stars
    I wouldn’t consider myself an expert baker, although I am adventurous. This was an adventure! And I was worried it wouldn’t work out the whole way. The roux took longer than I thought to thicken, I accidentally used all purpose flour despite the fact that I had bread flour, my dough was stickier than I wanted it to be, and the cream cheese would not mix with the oj. But then everything just came together? These are amazing, excellent recipe and well worth a day of shopping for ingredients, making the dough, letting it rise and proof. Thanks always for magic!

  4. Love your recipes and knew I had to try this when I saw it. Can I ask if you have any tips on spreading the filling? I find it sticks and warps the dough no matter how long I’ve left it to soften. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Gemma! It’s probably the temperature of the butter that’s making it hard to spread. The softer (meltier) the butter the smoother you can spread the filling, so you could partially melt it.

  5. These are very tasty. My confusion about was that the 1/2 cup of heavy cream listed under dough-I wasn’t sure if this was the cream used once the rolls bake or to be used in the dough. I ended up using it in the dough and the dough was a bit sticky but manageable. Also, no temp listed but I used 350 and baked. Very delicious.

  6. Hey, I’m in the process of making these and realized as I’m leaving them for the second proof that you don’t provide an oven temp. I’m assuming 325 or 350, and I have a probe so I’ll temp them to check the doneness, but I just wanted to make sure no one else runs into this!

  7. Could you make the dough and then let it rest in the fridge overnight before the final roll out and rise?

  8. Had to make these. Really full orange flavour in the dough. Is the dough supposed to be a sweet dough? That’s my only adaptation I’d make next time I make these:)

    • it’s an eggless dough, if you add egg to it it will be rather wet and sticky. If you want to skip the yogurt you can add two eggs instead of the yogurt, but it might need a bit more flour