These cranberry and orange sweet rolls are a new twist on a classic cinnamon roll. Filled with warm spice, orange zest, and a pop of cranberry, these rolls are sure to be a hit with the whole family! Savor the flavor of fall or add a new twist to Christmas brunch!
These sweet rolls became a hit in our home last year!
Homemade cinnamon rolls are a staple in our house, so imagine our surprise when our fourth baby was allergic to cinnamon.
Thankfully, he has outgrown the allergy, but our new take on the humble cinnamon roll is here to stay.
These rolls were born out of necessity, but they have become a full family favorite!
My original goal was just to replace the cinnamon with cardamom but cardamom and orange zest go together like peas in a pod. A sale on dried cranberries completed this recipe purely by chance!
Every Great Recipe Begins With Great Ingredients
If you follow along with our family much at all then you probably know food is a critical part of who we are.
Is food one of the five love languages? Because I’m pretty sure that is mine!
But I believe food should do so much more than just taste good. What we eat determines so much about our bodies: how we feel, how clear our mind is, how much energy we have, and even our overall health.
Is a sweet roll the healthiest meal on the planet? Of course not!
However, the ingredients we use can make it a nourishing experience all the same!
4 Nourishing Ingredients
There are four crucial ingredients that are common in baked goods that can easily be subbed out for a better counterpart!
These substitutions are minor on your part, but they play a major role in elevating this recipe a sugary treat to a sweet, yet still nourishing meal!
That of course doesn’t mean to eat the whole pan; there is still sugar in them after all. It does mean, however, that these can be enjoyed without the guilt that comes from a Cinnabon cinnamon roll.
So let’s go over 4 nourishing ingredient substitutions for these cranberry and orange sweet rolls- and most baked goods for that matter!
1. Organic Flour
Most any baked good has some form of four in it, and these rolls are no exception.
So, what’s wrong with traditional store bought flour?
Unfortunately, most commercial wheat is sprayed with glyphosate in order to dry the crop faster. That wheat is then milled into the flour that we feed our families. Glyphosate, otherwise known as round-up, is a toxin heavily associated with neurological disorders, cancers, and mitochondrial dysfunction.
Probably not the ideal ingredient for your growing family!
When wheat is farmed organically, it simply means it is not sprayed with chemicals, toxins, or pesticides.
Where can I find good quality, organic flour?
Azure standard is a great option if you have a drop location near you!
Other options may include Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and even some Wal-Marts!
2. Pasture Raised Eggs
Eggs are essential in so many recipes.
Over the years, eggs have been a great controversy in the health foods world.
Eggs are one of the most ancient and nutrient dense foods we have, but it matters where they come from. Or better yet, the condition of the chicken (goose or duck) from which it came.
Just like our diets effect us; the same is true for them!
Chickens, too, need a well balanced diet, free from GMO corn or soy. They need space to move and forage.
Healthy chickens produce healthy eggs!
Pasture raised eggs from a local farm (or the backyard) are the best option!
But if you need a supermarket alternative, Vital Farms has some of the best eggs I have found!
3. Honey or Maple Syrup
We all know how bad processed sugars are for us, but sometimes we don’t realize how easy they are to substitute!
Honey, for example, is a 1:1 substitute for table sugar.
Maple syrup, monk fruit sweeteners, or date syrup are all healthier options for sugar substitutes.
In this recipe, we use honey for the actual dough.
We still use table sugar for the filling, but I opt for an organic raw sugar.
We also use powdered sugar in the icing. For those cutting back sugar in your diet, maple syrup or maple sugar makes a great substitution in this recipe. You will want to substitute 3/4 a cup of maple syrup for every 1 cup of sugar!
4. Grass Fed Butter
I am a huge proponent of grass-fed butter.
Butter gets such a bad rep, but the truth is butter is full of healthy fats and bioavailable vitamin A.
The trick is many of the so called ‘healthy butters’ found on supermarket shelves are a concoction of sweet cream and seed oils.
Grass fed butter is different.
Again, it goes back to how the animal is fed and cared for on the farm.
Healthy cows raised on pasture and alfalfa produce healthy milk.
The cream is then skimmed off, whipped, strained, washed, salted, and formed in a beautiful whole food known as grass-fed butter.
Not only is grass-fed butter better for you; it tastes better too!
Preparing the Ingredients
As with any baking, bringing all of your ingredients to room temperature will allow them to mix together easier. Especially in a dough, where the temperature affects the rise- you will want your eggs and butter to be room temperature.
So before you begin, allow 2 sticks of butter, one 8-ounce bar of cream cheese, and 1 egg to come to room temperature.
You can also soak your dried unsweetened cranberries in fresh orange juice for an hour or up to overnight- before you begin to allow for an extra pop of orange. (This is of course optional!)
Making the Dough
Blooming the Yeast
I’m a bread lover, so crafting a beautiful dough is my ideal place to start!
This is an enriched dough made with yeast. If however you have a gluten sensitivity or would prefer a fermented option, check out this recipe for a long fermented sourdough cinnamon roll dough!
To begin this recipe, you will want to bloom your yeast mixture. This ensures that your yeast is active and will actually rise your dough.
I begin by heating my milk over low heat until it is warmed through (about 100°). You could also just allow the milk to sit at room temperature for about four hours.
Note: Yeast loves a warm environment to grow. Too cold, and your yeast will take a while to bloom, but if the milk is hot, it will kill your yeast!
Simply pour your yeast packet or 2 and 1/4 tsp of active, dry yeast into a cup with the warmed milk.
Then add 2 Tbsp of raw honey into the mixture, stir to combine, and leave in a warm place to bloom.
Blooming means the yeast mixture should become frothy and begin to rise a little, like this:
If your yeast is inactive or dead, it will not froth or rise. Dead or inactive yeast will not rise your dough!
While your yeast mixture is blooming, combine 3 cups of all purpose flour and 1/2 tsp salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed until combined.
Slowly add your bloomed yeast mixture, 1 egg (you will want your egg to be room temperature in order to incorporate well), and the remaining two tablespoons of honey to the dough and mix on medium speed.
Allow the dough to begin to pull together into a ball.
Slowly drop 4 Tablespoons of room temperature butter into the dough mixture, one at a time.
You may have to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula at this step.
Once the butter is fully incorporated, the dough should be formed into a ball and pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl, slowly add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it pulls away and forms a ball.
After your dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl, allow your mixer to continue to knead the dough on medium-low speed for 4 minutes. (You can also knead the dough by hand if you prefer!)
Transfer the dough to a well oiled bowl, and cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and allow to rest for about one hour at room temperature.
Prepare the Filling
While the dough is rising, we are going to prepare one of the best parts of these perfect sweet rolls- the filling!
The filling for this mixture begins with brown sugar!
You can use brown sugar from the store or make your own using raw organic sugar and blackstrap molasses!
Combine one cup of brown sugar, with the zest of one orange- about a tablespoon, one tablespoon of cardamom, and 1/2 tsp of ginger with a fork!
You can mix your cranberries into you sugar mixture or simply spread them on top of the dough. I have done both. For this recipe, I added them into the mixture but I do think you get a more even layer by spreading them over the top of the sugar mixture once it is on the dough.
Assembling Cranberry and Orange Sweet Rolls!
Once your dough has risen- to nearly double– transfer it again to a floured work surface.
Roll the dough out into a rectangle- about 13x9inches.
Once your dough is fully rolled out, spread on a layer of grass-fed butter, leaving about a half an inch margin on all four sides.
Sprinkle on your brown sugar and spice mixture, and then top evenly with your dried unsweetened cranberries!
From the long side of the rectangle. begin to roll up the dough to form a log. Gently press the seam together to seal.
Lay your roll, seam side down, and slice your rolls gently using a sharp chef’s knife.
Your roll should cut into about 9-11 sweet rolls.
Place them gently into a well seasoned cast iron or a pie pan.
Drizzle a 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream over your rolls. This step is optional, but it does help ensure the fluffiest sweet rolls!
Drape a tea towel over your pan and set in a warm place for a second rise. (About 30 minutes)
Baking Your Rolls!
While your cranberry and orange sweet rolls are rising, preheat your oven to 375°.
When your rolls are large and fluffy, about 30 minutes, place them onto a rack in the middle of your oven to bake for about 23-25 minutes. Your sweet rolls should be evenly browned and no longer dough-y.
Note: Because these rolls are made with honey, they may brown a bit faster.
Ready For Icing!
This is- in my opinion- the best part of every single sweet or cinnamon roll and these cranberry and orange sweet rolls are no exception!
This icing is a sweet cream cheese icing with a pop of orange- almost like an orange creamsicle!
While the sweet rolls are cooling, cream together 1 (8 ounce) block of softened cream cheese and 4 tablespoons of softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed for about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.
Add in one tablespoon of orange zest, 1 tablespoon of fish orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and whip until smooth.
Lastly. slowly add one cup of powdered sugar until smooth and fully incorporated.
Depending on the sweetness of the orange juice, you may need to add more or less powdered sugar, taste and see (that the Lord is good! Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)
Once your cranberry and orange sweet rolls are cooled, (They don’t have to be cooled completely, but if they are too hot the icing will melt off.) spread your orange cream cheese icing over the top!
Serve and enjoy!
- 3/4 cup milk, heated
- 2 1/4 tsp active, dry yeast
- 4 Tablespoons Raw Honey, divided
- 3 cups All Purpose Flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 3 Tbsp butter. softened
For the Filling
- 1 cup brown sugar
- the zest of one orange, about 1 Tbsp
- 1Tbsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1 cup dried, unsweetened cranberries
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- Juice of half an orange, about 1 Tablespoon
For the Icing
- 1 (8 oz) block of cream cheese
- 4 Tbsp Butter, softened
- 1 Tbsp fresh orange juice
- 1 Tbsp Orange zest
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup powdered sugar
1. To begin, heat 3/4 cup of milk over low heat to about 100° or about 25 seconds in the microwave. It should be warm to the touch, but not hot! Too hot will kill the yeast! To the warm milk, add your yeast and 2 tablespoons of honey. Allow to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. The mixture should begin to rise a little and appear frothy.
2. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt on medium low speed for about 30 seconds. Slowly pour in your yeast mixture and one egg. Allow to mix on medium speed until dough pulls away from the sides. Then, slowly add in 1 tablespoon of softened butter at a time (3 Tbsp total).
3. Dough should be forming into a ball and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky, slowly add 1 Tbsp of flour at a time until a dough ball forms. Knead by hand or with the dough hook for 4 minutes.
4. Transfer to a well oiled bowl and allow to rise for one hour, until nearly doubled.
5. While the dough is rising, add brown sugar, cardamom, ginger, orange zest, and orange juice to a medium bowl and combine thoroughly with a fork.
6. Once the dough is risen and ready, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out into a rectangle, apporximately 13x9 inches.
7. Spread butter across the top leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch margin around the edges, Spread your brown sugar mixture evenly over the butter and sprinkle with dried cranberries.
8. Roll your dough into a long, pinching the seam together. Place seam side down, and using a sharp knife, cut the dough into about 10 even pieces. (You can get anywhere from 9 to 12 rolls out of this recipe depending on how thick you cut them.)
9. Transfer the rolls to a well seasoned cast iron or pie pan, and allow to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes. For fluffier rolls, top with a 1/2 c of heavy whipping cream.
10. Preheat the oven to 375° and bake your rolls for about 23-25 minutes, until golden brown and no longer dough-y in the center.
11. While the sweet rolls cool, cream together cream cheese and butter, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, on medium speed until light and fluffy.
12. Add orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla and mix on low speed until incorporated. Then add powdered sugar a little at a time on low speed to prevent a cloud of powdered sugar from raining down in your kitchen. Once the sugar is incorporated, work up to medium high speed and allow the icing to fully whip for about a minute!
13. After your rolls have cooled, top with icing, serve, and indulge!
*Honey can cause baked goods to brown a little faster than those made with sugar, so be extra careful when checking if they are done. You can add foil to the top if they are browning too fast!
*Depending on the sweetness of your orange juice and the tanginess of your cream cheese you may need to add more powdered sugar to the icing! Baker's preference here!
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Unsweetened Dried Cranberries (I had a really hard time finding unsweetened cranberries. Here is an Amazon Link, but if you choose to use sweetened since they are more accessible- that will work just fine!)
Happy Fall Baking!
Check out our blog The Ultimate Fall Bucket List for Families for inspiration to plan all your fall festivities!