As we look forward to warmer weather, we here at the Forge to Table test kitchen were thinking about how to brighten up a chilly morning. What better way than with these lovely Lemon Poppy Sweet Rolls? A mash-up between a cinnamon roll and lemon poppy muffin, these rolls take the best of both breakfast pastries to create something completely new and unique.
The dough in this recipe is a fairly standard enriched sweet dough. Bakers refer to any bread dough that has added fat and sugar as “enriched”, due to the enriching contribution of those additions. This may come in the form of butter or oil for the fat, and plain white sugar, or a liquid sweetener like honey or maple syrup for added sweetness. This recipe calls for neutral oil, so vegetable or canola will do just fine, and white sugar for flavor and to feed the yeast.
The easiest way to make this dough is in a Kitchenaid stand mixer, as it requires quite a bit of kneading. You combine the sugar, yeast, eggs, and liquids in the bowl first, then add the flour and salt on top to make it easier for the dough to come together. When the dough looks homogenous, you add the lemon zest and poppy seeds while the mixer is running at low speed. Adding these mix-ins, later on, ensures that they won’t rip through the strands of gluten that form during the mixing process, and will instead be incorporated alongside them.
Once it’s formed a cohesive dough, it’s important to knead it long enough to see a “gluten window”. This term describes the sign bakers look for to see that proper gluten development has been achieved during the mixing process. Without proper gluten development, your bread dough will be tough and crumbly. To test the gluten window, take out about a tablespoon of dough from the bowl and gently use your fingertips to spread it apart. The properly-developed dough will be stretchy enough for you to pull it apart enough to see a matrix of gluten strands that hold together enough for you to see light through them. Dough that has been under- or over-mixed will break apart when you try to stretch it. It takes some practice, but this technique is the best way to stay in control of the quality of your bread dough.
When the dough is done resting, we recommend removing it from the bowl and gently shaping it into a smooth ball on the table, tucking any loose ends underneath itself. Place the ball back in the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, then let it rise until the dough doubles in size. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, this can take somewhere between 30-90 minutes. A warmer kitchen will make for a shorter rise time, and vice versa, as yeast is happiest in warm conditions. You can speed up the rising process by turning on your oven to its lowest setting and placing the dough on top or near the oven to let the heat help activate the yeast faster.
While the dough is rising, you can make the lemon butter filling, which couldn’t be easier. Just combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl, and have it ready at room temperature when it’s time to roll out the dough. Besides being packed with sweet lemony goodness, a touch of fresh-ground cardamom brings this filling to another level with a floral note for a more complex & interesting flavor. The filling is easiest to work at when it’s at a solidly spreadable consistency- too liquidy and it will spill out the sides when you roll it, too solid and it won’t spread easily at all.
Next up is the fun step-- making the rolls! On a clean, flat surface, roll out your risen dough into a rectangle, approximately 12x16 inches, and spread your lemon filling evenly over it. To roll, lift up one of the long ends of the rectangle and tightly roll it towards the other side. Adjust the finished roll so the end seam is on the bottom in order to keep it from unraveling. We like our rolls big, so we used a ruler to measure five even slices to get five rolls. You are more than welcome to make them smaller if you like (or bigger, we don’t judge!), so long as they’re all even.
Using our Petty Knife, we got beautifully, even cuts on each roll, then arranged them in an 8x8 parchment lined square pan. Make sure the rolls are spaced apart with equal room to grow for each one. Cover the tray with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to rise for a second time to grow in volume and develop more flavor, about 1-2 hours. If you’d like to enjoy them in the morning, we recommend completing the recipe up to this point the night before and refrigerating them overnight. Take them out in the morning and let them come to room temperature and rise before baking!
To bake, preheat your oven to 350F degrees and bake the rolls for 25-35 minutes until they’re a lovely golden brown. This time may vary if you’ve cut your rolls smaller or larger, so keep an eye on them starting at the 20-minute mark.
We went back and forth a bit on how to top off these sweet rolls. Sweet rolls are traditionally finished with a simple flat icing made from powdered sugar and water, but we wanted to elevate these and add a final boost of lemon flavor. We also wanted to add a touch more of freshly-ground cardamom to elevate it with a floral note.
The final product is a glaze that boasts zippy tartness like lemon curd, but much easier to make with no eggs or straining. Just whisk the ingredients together in a saucepot until they thicken up, and add a knob of butter at the end! It can even sit for as long as you need until you’re ready to use it, just warm it up a bit until it’s runny again, and your rolls will have a glossy, picture-perfect shine. Enjoy!
Lemon Poppyseed Morning Buns
A mash-up between a cinnamon roll and lemon poppy muffin, these rocking rolls take the best of both breakfast pastries to create something completely new and unique! Don’t miss out on the zippy lemon-cardamom glaze to bring it all together.
Recipe by Samara Wald
Forge To Table Knives
Prep Time: 4-½ hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 5 buns
400 grams flour + 30 grams flour
1-½ teaspoon kosher salt (9g) + 2 pinches extra
85 grams white sugar + 75 grams white sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast (10g)
2 medium eggs
75 grams vegetable oil or canola oil
113 grams lukewarm water
1 teaspoon lemon oil (optional)
4-5 tablespoons lemon zested, divided (3-4 lemons)
15 grams poppy seeds
160 grams light brown sugar
85 grams unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, divided (3-4 lemons)
Non-stick spray, as needed
1-½ teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold
(DRY MIX) Combine the 400 grams flour and 1-½ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.
(WET MIX) Separately, in the bowl of a stand mixer, add 85 grams white sugar, instant yeast, eggs, vegetable oil, lukewarm water, and lemon oil (optional) and combine thoroughly.
(MIX DOUGH) Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and use a dough hook attachment to knead on medium speed until homogeneous. While mixing, add half of the lemon zest (2 tablespoons) and poppy seeds. Continue to mix until the dough develops enough gluten to pass the windowpane test.
(DOUGH RISE) Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and lightly knead into a smooth ball. Place it back in the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or a dishtowel. Let the dough rise for 1-2 hours, until about doubled in size (time will vary based on kitchen temperature).
(PREP LEMON BUTTER) Meanwhile, spray an 8x8 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, line with parchment paper, and set aside. Prepare lemon butter filling by combining the remaining 2-3 tablespoons lemon zest, light brown sugar, softened butter, remaining 30 grams flour, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Stir until homogenous.
(ROLL UP) Turn the risen dough out onto a clean surface and roll into a rectangle, approximately 12x16 inches. Spread lemon-butter filling evenly over the bottom ¾ of dough. Starting at the bottom roll up into a log. While the seam is down, use the Forge To Table Petty Knife to trim ends and cut into 5 even slices.
(SECOND RISE) Arrange the rolls in the prepared 8x8 inch parchment-lined square pan. Make sure the rolls are spaced apart with equal room to grow for each one. Cover the tray with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to rise for a second time to grow in volume and develop more flavor, about 1 hour.
(BAKE BUNS) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the sweet rolls until lightly golden brown, about 20-35 minutes, depending on the size of the rolls.
(LEMON GLAZE) Meanwhile assemble the lemon glaze by combining 75 grams sugar, the remaining 5 tablespoons lemon juice, cornstarch, ground cardamom, and the last pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, whisking vigorously, until it comes to a simmer. Continue whisking until it thickens up, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in cold butter, and strain through a mesh sieve into a heat-proof bowl. Let cool.
(GLAZE BUNS) Once rolls are done baking, remove from the oven and let cool at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan. Top with warm lemon glaze and enjoy!
You are more than welcome to make the rolls smaller or bigger if you like, so long as they’re all even. Adjust baking time as necessary.
Photography by Sam Burgess