These Orange Pecan Cinnamon Rolls are sweet, tangy and completely sinful. Easy to make and even easier to eat!
One of my favorite things to eat when I was a child was cinnamon rolls. That is a love that I have never outgrown. The flaky dough, the spicy cinnamon, the ridiculous amounts of sugar. Does it really need anything more than that!? Well in my case, maybe…
I think that the orange cinnamon roll doesn’t get nearly enough credit. That twang from adding fresh orange juice into the mix is something that takes the cinnamon roll to a whole new level. Throw in some pecans and now you have a party!
I have tried making cinnamon rolls many times over the years. I have learned through trial and many errors that it is an art form to make the perfect cinnamon roll. Not enough salt? Blah! Too much sugar? You’ll be singing for days! If you don’t let your dough rise long enough, if you let your dough rise too long, if you use one centimeter too much flour then you should have… well, you get the idea. Then add ME into the grand equation and you have a recipe for disaster. I am notoriously horrible when it comes to making homemade dough. My grandmother was Ukrainian and spent her whole life making homemade perogies and I won’t even explain to you the tragedy that came about when I tried to make perogies for the first time by myself. Pretzels? Yeah, that didn’t go so well either. Homemade pasta? Forget about it! I basically have come to the realization that there are many things that I do well and at least one thing that I am completely horrible at and that would be making anything involving homemade dough. But alas, on my quest to find the perfect orange cinnamon roll, I’m going to have to make at least one more valiant attempt. Mixing the ingredients is not a difficult task, it is the fundamental ABCs of cooking. But when it comes to bringing that dough together, well, apparently you need a rocket scientist level of intelligence and precise skill to be able to create magic. So as I am putting the recipe together and I am adding this and adding that, I get to the stage where I know IT’S TIME!
I guess this is where I need to stop and I should admit to being an TV infomercial junkie. Months ago, after watching two hours straight of why I need a super duper Ninja processor in my house, I then bought said Ninja processor and said Ninja came to me including a dough hook. Now, when I say a hook, it is not exactly a real hook or even looks like one. It’s more like a spinning blade without a blade. Beggars can’t be choosers. I have yet to be given a stand mixer (cough, cough!…hello, Mike?) for Christmas or any other random holiday or just the celebration of my awesomeness in general, so my resources are a bit limited.
Enter, Ninja hook.
So I load my dough into my vessel, insert my hook, pop the lid on and hit power. And I wait. And wait. Still waiting. It’s apparently doing its job but because I rarely ever make it this far, I was not really aware of how long it takes to bring dough together. So after 5 minutes or so I look at my poor little ball of goo and Hey! It’s starting to kind of come together. There is a purpose to my life, there is dancing, the heavens are singing! My dough is a little bit sticky so I add more flour, pop that lid back on, and in another 5 minutes it is almost near perfect. And the angels are rejoicing!
I transfer the dough to my counter and carry on with my orange pecan cinnamon roll making process. Just the fact that I was able to make a legitimate ball of dough makes this recipe a complete success in my eyes! This could have turned out tasting horrible and I still would have called it a magical accomplishment. Lucky for me, it did not come out tasting horrible and it was actually came out tasting amazing! This dish is now my tribute to never giving up and miracles can happen. Forget world peace and the ‘miracle’ of childbirth… I MADE CINNAMON ROLLS!!!
But now enough about my quests and conquests and trials, let’s dish on the food!
These orange cinnamon rolls are to die for! They are flaky and flavorful, sweet and tangy and completely sinful. The tang from the orange being added makes these the perfect breakfast item. Going to a morning brunch? These are perfect! Going to an early morning celebration of some sort? These are perfect! Having a really bad weekend and you just want some alone time with no judgement or consequences? Yep, these are perfect for that too!
To some people, the idea of making their own cinnamon rolls seems laborious and much to time extensive. I too, at one time, thought this as well. But the feeling of accomplishment that overcomes you when you realize that you have created perfection is well worth the time spent. All joking aside, it really is not that much of a time investment to make these. The main thing is to make them the day before you need them so that they can sit overnight. This is a crucial part of the recipe as it allows everything to come together in a resting state before they are transformed into a puffy, flaky, glorious mess. I promise, if you give these a chance, you will never go back to buying cinnamon rolls in a can or from your local bakery ever again.
And what shall I do with my new found power, you ask? I feel that the possibilities are now endless. I may even challenge the Universe and tackle cleaning out the garage. Ha ha!
Orange Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
Start with the dough. Whisk together the egg yolks, egg, sugar, butter, buttermilk, vanilla, orange juice and orange zest.
Once that comes together, add in the flour, salt and an envelope of yeast.
Continue to whisk until everything is incorporated. At this point either knead your dough by hand or transfer it to a vessel that you can use a dough hook. If using the hook, knead for 5 minutes and check your consistency. If your dough is too sticky, add more flour and let it mix for another 5 minutes or until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Once it is ready, turn it out onto a lightly floured work space and knead the dough into a smooth ball.
Spray a mixing bowl with non stick spray or lightly coat with vegetable oil and transfer your dough to the ball, rolling it around so that all sides are lightly coated with the oil.
Place a clean kitchen towel over the bowl and let it rest on the counter for 3 hours.
Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish. I was doing my cinnamon rolls in two batches so I used two 8 x 8 and they worked just fine. Once your dough had doubled in size, turn it out on a lightly floured work space and using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large rectangle with the long side near you.
Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt in medium sized bowl. Chop you pecans and either combine with your sugar mixture or leave separate. Either way, they are all going to the same place.
Brush the dough with the melted butter except for approximately one inch at the top of the rectangle and then cover the butter with the brown sugar mixture, again leaving that top inch clear. Follow with the pecans.
Using your hands, gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long side nearest to you, slowly and carefully roll the dough forward, creating a tight roll.
When the entire surface of dough has been rolled, tightly pinch to seal the seam. I was afraid to pinch too hard so mine didn’t seal properly. Nothing fell out, there was no tragedy… they just had little tails when they finished cooking. That tail was still just as delicious to eat so I was ok with that.
Using a serrated knife, slice your roll in half and then each half in half again and again so that you end up with 8 identical sized cinnamon rolls. Arrange your rolls cut side down in your baking dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
I learned this next part from Alton Brown.
The next day, turn your oven on to 200 degrees. Once it comes to temperature, turn the oven off and put your baking pan of rolls into the turned off oven. Wait 30 minutes and then without taking the rolls from the oven, turn your oven on to 350 degrees and cook your cinnamon rolls for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
While your cinnamon rolls are cooking, make your glaze. With a hand mixer, beat your cream cheese until creamy. Add in the milk, orange juice and orange zest. Mix to combine. Sift your powdered sugar and then add it into mixture and whisk to combine.
Now, if you do this next part by hand, you will have a thinner type of glaze. If you use a hand mixer on medium, you will have a much thicker glaze. Your choice.. I’m just here to give you options. Lol
Drizzle/ spread / pour over your cinnamon rolls and serve immediately.