While many people eschew Valentine’s Day for it’s commercialism, I have no problems admitting I LOVE VALENTINE’S DAY. Maybe it’s the way I choose to celebrate the day that encourages my anticipation and fanciness. I spend hours planning, decorating and yes, even crafting. And I do not have a crafting bone anywhere in my body, or the patience it usually requires to produce something by hand that does not look slapped together by a five year old with sticky fingers after too many sugary cinnamon hearts.
I treasure celebrating the loved ones in my life. My friends, my family, my husband; everyone close to me in my orbit. For me Valentine’s Day is not just about amorous love (XOXOX… LOVE that part though), it’s more a reminder of all the beautiful love I experience in my daily life. All the acts of kindness, generosity and grace bestowed upon me. It’s a good little reminder to pay back (or possibly forward?) goodness and thoughtfulness.
It’s also a good excuse to don brightly colored red t-shirts, pink tank tops and scarlet, lacy, under pinnings. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to decorate the house with a huge pink tissue paper heart and invite my favorite ladies over for brunch, showering them with hugs, kisses, cinnamon marshmallow hearts, and fresh baked goodies.
Love indeed is in the air… well it is, if love is scented with lemon, and ginger… and cream cheese icing!
For the dough:
- 1 envelope (0.25 ounces, or 2 1/2 teaspoons) active yeast
- 1 cup milk, warmed to about 100°F (warm but not hot on your wrist)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft, plus 3 tablespoons more for roll assembly
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (you might not need all the flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- Zest of two lemons
- 2 large eggs
For the sticky lemon filling:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
- Juice of one lemon
- Zest of one lemon
For the lemon cream cheese glaze:
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Juice and zest of one lemon
Make the dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a 7 to 10 minutes or until foamy. With the mixer paddle, stir the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour into this milk and yeast mixture. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough. It works well, at this point to add in the flour about 1/2 a cup at a time. You might not need the entire amount. The dough should be really sticky.
Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable. Because the dough is so soft and sticky it’s easiest if you have a stand mixer. If you don’t though, stir together the ingredients by hand, then turn the soft dough out onto a lightly floured countertop. Knead the dough by hand for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, pliable, and stretchy.
Lightly grease a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and gently roll around until the entire ball is lightly greased. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled — about one hour.
Make the filling:
In a small bowl, mix 1 cup sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the lemon zest with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles soft sand. Slowly start pouring in the lemon juice while stirring. Stop when the sugar and lemon juice form a thick, clumpy mixture like wet sand. You might not need the juice from an entire lemon.
Note: The second time I made these, I omitted the ginger, used 2/3 C sugar, and added one heaping cup of fresh raspberries that I slightly crushed as I mixed them with the sugar. Soooooo good! And pretty for Valentine’s Day.
Assemble the rolls:
Lightly grease a 13×9-inch baking dish with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface pat or gently roll the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10×15 inches.
Spread the dough evenly with 3 tablespoons of very soft unsalted butter, then spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Stretch and pull the dough taut as you roll, to keep the lemon sugar firm inside. Once it’s rolled, pinch the seam shut to prevent the lemon mixture from escaping. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls and place each one, open and cut side up, in the prepared baking dish. If you have any of the lemon mixture left on your counter (I certainly did!), scrape it up and pour it over the sticky rolls.
Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled.
You can also refrigerate the rolls after this point. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap or a towel, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise/come to room temperature for a good hour before proceeding with baking.
Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until lightly browned.
Make the glaze:
While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. Whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar. Slowly start adding the lemon juice and zest and blend until well combined and the glaze has reached your desired consistency.
Finish the rolls:
When the rolls are done, smear them with the cream cheese glaze, Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving, but do serve while still warm.