on writing, and a recipe: orange sweet rolls with cream cheese icing

So, I lied.

I told you I was going to stay away for 2 weeks, and I just couldn’t. I missed this space, and as soon as I wrote that I was taking a break, it began calling to me.

Mostly, though, I missed sharing my words — and my food — with you.

Toward the end of December – heck, for the past three months – I was having a hard time with the writing process. More times than I can count, I sat at my computer, fingers in proper position on the keyboard, ready for the words to come…and then nothing happened.  Other times, I managed to get a few sentences out, but this was most commonly followed by rapid backspacing, deleting everything I had just written.

I started to dread sitting down to write. Which is silly and unfortunate.

Taking a break from the blog was a wonderful idea, I thought. Two whole weeks to not think about writing, to rest and simply enjoy whatever life brings each day. What I didn’t expect was that forcing myself to NOT write would actually make writing something of an obsession this past week.

I talked about writing and I read about writing. I re-read parts of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and I spent quality time with another one of my favorite book on the process of writing, Stephen King’s On Writing. Some of my favorite food writers have written about their experiences or thoughts on writing, and I devoured their words, nodding to myself as I read. I researched writing classes – because certainly I can fit something else into my schedule, right? – and I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for one.

And finally I decided that I’d better come back to the blog before I spent any more money on writing books or classes. So here I am, with my mind rejuvenated and fingers warmed up after only one week away.

The first recipe that I plan to share with you, in this first post of the year 2012, is a sweet one. I have several savory dishes coming your way, but I baked these rolls today, and the recipe is just too good to keep to myself for very long.

This recipe in Saveur caught my eye in the recent issue. I adapted the recipe to suit my own tastes, adding some pecans and golden raisins to the filling and using cream cheese in the icing. I prepared the dough last night, letting it rise while we ate dinner and put the kids to bed. I finished it up before I went to bed myself, storing the unbaked pan of rolls and the icing in the refrigerator overnight.

By 8:30 this morning, the kids and I were eating the orange sweet rolls, warm from the oven, sticky and gooey from the filling that oozed out of the crevices and the cream cheese icing dripping down the sides. By 8:40, my kids nominated me for a mother of the year award and then suggested I compete in a cooking competition.

I’m not sure I qualify for the Mom of the Year award, but this recipe is definitely a winner, folks. Make it for your family. Heck, make it for yourself.

Orange Sweet Rolls



1-1/4 cups milk, heated to 115°
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 16 tablespoons, softened
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 cups (512 grams) all-purpose flour

Filling & Icing:

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
Orange zest from 4 oranges
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/8 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 ounces cream cheese, softened


Make the dough: Combine milk and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in granulated sugar, melted butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and egg; add flour. Mix on low speed until dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high; knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap; let sit until dough doubles in size, about 1-1/2 hours.

Make filling: Beat softened butter, brown sugar, and orange zest in a bowl on high speed of a mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, confectioners sugar, and vanilla extract; beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer 1/4 cup filling to a small bowl and set aside. In remaining filling, add chopped pecans and raisins, beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Make icing: In the 1/4 cup of filling that was set aside, add orange juice and cream cheese; whisk until smooth.

Transfer dough to a lightly-floured work surface; using a rolling pin, roll dough into an 18 inch by 10 inch rectangle. Spread filling evenly over dough. Lift up bottom edge of dough and roll it into a log; trim ends and cut log into 12 rounds. Transfer rounds, cut side up, to a greased 9 inch × 13 inch baking dish; cover with plastic wrap. Chill 6 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 375°F. Uncover rolls and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Drizzle icing over rolls before serving.

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10 Responses to “on writing, and a recipe: orange sweet rolls with cream cheese icing”

  1. 1
    Kathryn — January 7, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

    Thank you for being so honest about the struggle it can sometimes be to find the right words – or indeed any words at all. I for one though am glad that you’ve come back to us after only a week especially since you are sharing such a delightful recipe.

  2. 2
    Paula- bell'alimento — January 7, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

    What a sweet start to what is hopefully a very sweet year ; ) xoxo

  3. 3
    Paula — January 7, 2012 @ 8:20 pm

    These look delicious and I love that you added pecans and raisins. Glad you are back (even though you did not give yourself a full two week break) and just so you know, even though you are sharing with us the tough time you had over the past several weeks with respect to writing…there is no sign of that difficulty to be found anywhere…in any posts…even when you feel you are not able to write, you do it so very well.

    BTW, I’m with your kids in voting you for mother of the year award!

  4. 4
    Rachel Winter — January 7, 2012 @ 8:33 pm

    Eric just looked at these and said, oh, we have to make this! I am off to the store tomorrow to buy yeast and can’t wait to try them. Delish!

  5. 5
    Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray — January 9, 2012 @ 10:25 am

    Your posts are some of my absolute favorites to read. And I HAVE to try these rolls, yum!

  6. 6
    MikeVFMK — January 21, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

    I’m glad your self-appointed break was short lived. And glad you came back to talk about it and share these wonderful rolls with us. Thanks MJ! They look terrific.

  7. 7
    Denise @ Creative Kitchen — February 1, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

    Oh these orange rolls are calling to me now! The writing process is surely a tricky one….especially with kids in the house. 🙂

  8. Pingback: Mother's Day Inspiration, Memories & Recipes | Kitchen Explorers | PBS Food

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