Today's mantra: when life hands you lemons, make lemon curd. Which is to say, since I was recently gifted with a bagful of lemons from my mother's tree, I couldn't be happier to find ways to use them in pastries and desserts. I have a sneaking suspicion she feels the same way.
Spring always puts me in the mood for lemon and berries. And as we head into April, May and June, there likely will be several brunch opportunities so I thought I'd make some yeast rolls that would fit right in. With each tart and luscious bite, these Lemon Blueberry Rolls are a little diversion from the usual cinnamon. But they are made the same way: instead of smearing the dough with butter, sugar and spice, you spread a thin layer of lemon curd and blueberries. Roll it all up, cut into slices and set them aside in a warm place to go through their second rise. Then into the oven for about 25 - 30 minutes to fill your home with an irresistible aroma, a grand reward in and of itself.
Making lemon curd takes about 10 minutes. Simply whisk together lemon juice, zest, sugar and eggs and cook over a double boiler or bain marie for about 3 - 5 minutes until thickened. Add butter and let it cool. It can be made ahead and stored in your refrigerator. It's great spread on toast, scones or biscuits or used as a topping for vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt. Fold it into whipped cream and serve with fresh strawberries or gingerbread, swirl it into cheesecake or use as a filling for sandwich cookies, a lemon tart or between cake layers.
If you're leery of working with yeast, this is a pretty simple formulation and one that isn't likely to cause any panic. The simple and most important rule to follow is to dissolve your yeast in liquid that is 110 - 115 degrees F. It should feel warm, not hot. I usually just let my tap water run to its hottest temperature, measure out what I need and place a thermometer in the measuring cup. I let it cool just a bit and when it reads 110 - 115 degrees, I whisk in the yeast and then a pinch of sugar. (Yeast feeds on sugar but yeast activity may decrease if it comes into direct contact with sugar or salt, so dissolve the yeast in water first, then add the sugar.) I then set it aside to proof for about 10 minutes while I prepare my baking pan and assemble all the other ingredients. By the time I'm set to work on the recipe, the yeast is foamy and ready to go.
I do hope you'll stretch your pastry skills and get into the swing of working with yeast. It's such a joy to experience the magic of seeing how it transforms and then finally pulling out a luscious pan of freshly baked yeasted pastry.
Here's to the coming of Spring!
- The recipe for lemon curd makes twice as much as you'll need for this recipe. Store in an airtight container and press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 week.
- If you like lemon curd with less pucker, add the zest of just 1 lemon.
- Be sure to use a non-reactive heatproof bowl when cooking the lemon curd, such as stainless steel or glass. Acidic or alkaline ingredients cooked in aluminum will pick up a metallic flavor and discolor.
- Cook the lemon curd, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a spoon but is still liquid enough to pour (It will continue to thicken as it cools). Unlike pastry cream, which has flour and/or cornstarch to stabilize it, do not let lemon curd come to boil or it will curdle. Cooking it over a bain marie helps to control the temperature.
- Lemon curd can be frozen in an airtight container for several months.
- Don't be tempted to use more than about 1/2 cup of lemon curd in this recipe or your rolls will be too gooey and the centers won't bake thoroughly.
- Everything you wanted to know about working with yeast is here from Red Star. Lots of links and troubleshooting info.
- If you're not sure whether the dough is ready after the first rise, just press your index finger about 1 1/2" into the dough. If the indentation stays, the dough has completed the first rise.
- After the first rise, the dough is "punched down" to release the carbon dioxide and even out the temperature. But rather than punching, gently press the air out with your hands.
- If you're using a glass pyrex baking pan, check the rolls after about 20 minutes in the oven. Glass conducts heat more efficiently than metal.
- I place the pan on a baking sheet before it goes into the oven to prevent the bottom of the rolls from getting too brown.
- More really delicious yeast breads: Chocolate Orange Cardamom Pull-Apart, Whole Wheat Honey Oatmeal Rolls, Challah Knots and Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Yeast Bread.
Lemon Blueberry Rolls
Makes 12 rolls
Makes 1 - 1 1/4 cups
1/2 cup (4 oz) lemon juice
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (4 1/2 oz) sugar
2 egg yolks
2 oz (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter @ room temperature
1 pkg (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/4 cup (2 oz) warm water (110 -115 degrees F; warm but not hot on your wrist)
1/2 cup (4 oz) milk
3 oz (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs @ room temperature
2 3/4 (13 3/4 oz) - 3 cups (15 oz) flour
1/2 cup lemon curd
1 1/2 cups (11 oz) fresh blueberries
1/3 cup (40 g) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
few grains salt
For the lemon curd, whisk the lemon juice, zest, sugar and eggs in a non-reactive heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl isn't touching the water. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken, about 3 - 5 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a bowl and add the butter. Stir thoroughly to combine. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface and set aside to cool completely. Refrigerate.
For the dough, whisk together 1/4 cup warm water (110 - 115 degrees F), yeast and a pinch of sugar. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Place the milk, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan on low heat just until the butter is melted, whisking to combine all the ingredients. Take off the heat, add the vanilla and cool to room temperature.
Combine the proofed yeast with the milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Switch to a fork and stir in 2 3/4 cups of flour. Keep adding 1 tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough is no longer sticky. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead until the dough is soft and elastic, about 8 - 10 minutes.
Wash and dry the mixing bowl and lightly grease with canola oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it over once to lightly coat the entire surface with oil. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and set in a warm draft-free place to rise for 2 hours.
Lightly grease a 10" round cake pan or a 9" square pan and line the bottom with parchment.
When the dough has completed its first rise, press down on it to release the air. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and dust the dough lightly with flour. Roll out to a 12" x 15" rectangle, lightly dusting with flour as needed.
Using 1/2 cup of lemon curd, spread a thin layer over the surface of the dough to within 1/2" of the top of the long edge. Evenly distribute the blueberries. Starting with the long side nearest you, roll the dough into a log. Slice into 12 equal pieces using a serrated knife. Arrange them in the prepared baking pan, leaving enough space around each one for the second rise. Set the pan in a warm place for 1 hour.
When the rolls are just about finishing with the second rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake until the rolls are a golden brown, about 25 - 30 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.
For the glaze, whisk the powdered sugar, milk, lemon juice and a few grains of salt until smooth. Drizzle over the top of the cooled rolls.