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Meyer Lemon Sweet Rolls

Yields 12 rolls     adjust servings

These Meyer Lemon Sweet Rolls are packed with so much flavor! They are for true lemon lovers! These rolls are easy to make and come together pretty quickly. The cooked lemon filling is kind of like lemon caramel. The rolls are soft and tender. And the lemon glaze is perfectly sweet and tart! You can make this recipe with regular lemons but I love the slightly sweeter scent and flavor of Meyers.

Ingredients

For the rolls

  • 6 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 tablespoons active dry yeast (yes, really!)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 6 tablespoons shortening* (I like butter-flavored)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled (divided)

For the filling

  • 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) butter
  • 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest

For the glaze

  • 3 tablespoons butter, very soft
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, or more or less to taste (divided)
  • 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Make the rolls: In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, add 6 tablespoons warm water. It should be nice and warm like a bath for a baby, not hot. (About 105-110 degrees F)
  2. Stir in 3 tablespoons active dry yeast. Yes, really, 3 tablespoons. Add in 1/3 cup of the sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes and make sure it is getting bubbly! (If it is not bubbly at all, you killed your yeast, throw it out and start over)
  3. In a large bowl or stand mixer, add the other 1/3 cup sugar, 6 tablespoons shortening, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 and 1/2 cups whole milk, 2 eggs, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat together.
  4. Add in the bubbly yeast mixture and stir.
  5. Add the remaining 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time. If you are using a stand mixer, switch now to the dough hook. Once all the flour is incorporated, knead by hand or with the dough hook for 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. It is an VERY sticky dough. See photos.
  6. Cover and let chill at least 30 minutes. You can also let it chill overnight.
  7. Make the filling. Take the time now to get all your zesting and juicing out of the way. We are gonna destroy these lemons and take them for all they've got!! You need a total of 1 and 1/2 cups juice (divided), and about 5 tablespoons zest (divided). Make sure you buy or pick at least 8-10 lemons to get all the zest you need. (1 lemon zested is definitely not a full tablespoon.) I like to use this microplane grater for zesting, and I love using this electric juicer.
  8. In a medium saucepan, add 3/4 cup butter, 1 and 1/2 cups sugar, and 3/4 cup fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice. Set over medium high heat and stir until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Continue stirring until the mixture reaches a rapid boil, meaning there are bubbles all across the surface. The liquid will rise up in the pan. Lower the heat to medium so you don't burn your hands, but keep the mixture at this rolling boil. Stir for about 8-9 minutes. The mixture will lighten some and become a little syrupy.
  9. Remove from heat. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl: add a bunch of ice and cold water. Place the hot pan in the bowl, making sure water doesn't get in the lemon mixture. Continue stirring every 1-2 minutes, scraping the sides and bottom that will start to solidify. See photos. Keep the pan in the ice water for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture is no longer scalding hot and has started to thicken significantly. See photos. When you remove it from the ice bath, it should still be slightly warm but very thick. Add in about 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest and stir. Set aside.
  10. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13 inch pan with butter or nonstick spray. Set aside.
  11. Roll the chilled dough out into a large rectangle, about 18 x 22 inches; it doesn't have to be exact.
  12. Use a spatula to dollop the lemon filling (which will be quite thick by now) into small sections all over the dough. This makes it easier to spread around on such a soft dough. Spread the filling to the edges and get it all covered.
  13. Roll up the dough, rolling from the long edge of the rectangle. Seal the edges with your fingertips.
  14. Use a very sharp serrated knife to slice into rolls. This is easier said than done! This dough is very soft. I usually slice off about an inch on each edge and discard (or bake separate), because the ends are small and don't have much filling.
  15. Slice the log into 12 rolls. I cut the log in half, then cut each half in half, then cut each quarter of the log into 3 rolls. If you get too frustrated you could always put the dough in the freezer or fridge to chill for a few minutes. I didn't take that step because I don't care about slightly misshapen rolls. Just do your best and remember that they are going to taste amazing.
  16. Place the rolls in the greased 9x13 inch pan.
  17. Cover the pan with a tea towel and let the rolls rest for about 10 minutes. 
  18. Bake at 375 for about 35-40 minutes. Because the lemon filling seeps into the dough, this recipe takes longer to bake than your average cinnamon roll. At about the 25 minute mark, cover your rolls with foil to prevent over browning. You will know the rolls are done when an instant read thermometer inserted into the center reads 190 degrees F. The top should be a deep golden brown. It is really hard to know if these are done without a thermometer, so I highly recommend one. If you don't have one, the only other thing I can recommend is taking the pan out of the oven and using a spatula to lift the edge of one roll. If the bottom of the rolls are golden, then they are cooked all the way through.
  19. Take the rolls out of the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before adding the glaze.
  20. Make the glaze. In a medium bowl, add 3 tablespoons very soft butter. You can put it in the microwave for a few seconds to move it along. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and beat together with a spatula or a hand mixer. Add 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice and stir. Add the rest of the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until the glaze has reached a consistency and flavor you like. You can either add the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon zest directly to the glaze, or sprinkle the zest on top of the rolls when they come out of the oven. Reserve a bit of zest to garnish each serving, if you want that little pop of color.
  21. Drizzle some or all of the glaze over the rolls. I like to save some of it for guests to add to their own servings, because not everyone likes excessive amounts of glaze like I do.
  22. These rolls are best served warm; heat leftovers in the microwave.
  23. Store rolls covered tightly on the counter for up to 3 days; after that put them in the fridge. These rolls are of course best served on the day they are made.

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