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Apricot and Walnut Sweet Rolls with Orange Icing

I hope you're all planning to show your mom some love this weekend. Moms are probably one of the best things to befall mankind.

Just thinking about the years of care my mother devoted to me and my two sisters is pretty humbling. She was there for those messy first years, wading through the morass of dirty diapers, toys, and snotty noses. And from what I remember, she seemed pretty happy to be there.

Then there were the horrible middle school years, when I was a bundle of nerves and self-loathing. I know she worried about me without ceasing, but it didn't stop her from being an incredible mother, although perhaps I didn't appreciate it at the time.

And high school, while better for me, was probably even harder for her. Watching me choose my own classes, start to drive, go on dates, and prepare for college would have been something like releasing a tame little rabbit into the wild. Even when she knew she'd raised a happy, healthy, reasonably intelligent, and independent child, she must have been very aware of the wolves lurking just beyond the door.

And now, after all that and more, when I call her to let off steam, she listens much as she always has, offers whatever wisdom she has to give, and seems grateful for the chance to talk to me. Amazing.

My mother has many talents apart from being an incredible mom (which in and of itself is nothing to sniff at). She's a fine hand at the piano, can sew like a fiend, and she's one of the better cooks I know.

Growing up, she usually cooked dinner for the family at least 5 nights a week. I remember, as a petulant and budding feminist high schooler, feeling sorry for her that she was expected to cook so much and do the dishes afterward. But when I asked her about it, she simply said that she loved cooking, and that making dinner after she got off work was a way for her to unwind. As an adult who loves to cook, I now understand what she meant.

But she also made some epic breakfasts. Saturdays meant biscuits and sawmill or redeye gravy, country ham or sausage or bacon, and eggs. Sunday was waffle or pancake day. The rest of the week breakfasts were a little less imposing--cinnamon toast or oatmeal or cereal--but she always made sure we had something wholesome in our bellies before we walked out the door.

There's just no way I could even begin to thank my mother, but sweet rolls are probably an acceptable offering to make to the woman who has everything to do with how I turned out (and I do like to think I turned out okay). These rolls are accordingly decadent--a brioche-like dough slathered with apricot preserves (get the good stuff--it's mother's day) and heavily sprinkled with toasted walnuts. After baking, they're topped with a simple orange icing that will make her tastebuds do a little jig.

To have these rolls ready for Mother's Day breakfast or brunch, there are a few routes you can take. You can retard the dough after the first rising for up to 12 hours. So you could make the dough the evening beforehand, allow it to rise once, then punch it down and refrigerate it until you get up in the morning. Then, you just have to roll it out, fill it, cut it, and let it rise before baking.

You could also make the rolls from start to finish a day ahead of time, rewarm them in a gentle oven on Mother's Day, then top with the icing before serving. Either way, these sweet rolls will taste superb.

Feel free to modify this recipe. Use any jam you like--raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or even orange marmalade would be delicious. Also use whatever type of nut you prefer. This recipe uses a lot of nuts for a really decadent, hearty roll with tons of toasty flavor, so don't scrimp. 

Other articles you might enjoy: Muesli with Raspberry Coulis, Coconut, and Pistachios, Bacon Cornmeal Waffles with Brandied Peaches, Latkes Benedict

Apricot and Walnut Sweet Rolls with Orange Icing
Makes 12 sweet rolls

Combine in a large bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes:
           1/4 cup warm (105° to 115°F) water
            1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
           1/2 cup all-purpose or bread flour
            1/3 cup sugar
            1/4 cup milk
            2 large eggs
            1 teaspoon vanilla
            1 teaspoon salt
Mix by hand or on low speed until blended. Gradually stir in:
            2 to 2 1/4 cups all-purpose or bread flour
Mix for 1 minute, or until the dough comes together. Knead by hand for about 10 minutes or with the dough hook on low to medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your hands or the bowl. Add:
            6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, very soft
Vigorously knead in the butter until completely incorporated and the dough is once again smooth.
Place the dough in a large buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75° to 85°F) until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down the dough, knead briefly, and refrigerate, covered, until doubled again, 4 to 12 hours if retarding the dough overnight to bake in the morning.
Alternatively, you may finish the rolls on the same day. In this case, butter a 13x9-inch baking pan. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough on a very lightly floured surface into a 16x12-inch rectangle. Spread the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all the way around, with:
           About 8 ounces apricot jam
Sprinkle with:
           2 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped
Starting from a long side, roll up the dough into a tight cylinder. Cut crosswise into 12 slices. Arrange the slices in the prepared pan, spacing them evenly. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Don't worry if the rolls don't expand to fill the pan during the rise--they will puff up nicely during baking and fill the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake until the buns are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let the buns cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
Prepare the icing. In a small bowl, combine:
           2 cups powdered sugar
            3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
            Zest from one orange
The icing should be just spreadable, not runny. Spoon a small dollop over each still-warm sweet roll. The heat of the rolls will warm the icing just enough to make it spread out evenly. Serve warm, with lots of hot coffee and big hugs and kisses for your mother.


Faye's picture

How many calories in these sweet rolls?
meg's picture

We don't count calories here, but I will say these are not health food. They are not, however, as sweet or rich as many cinnamon rolls. Also, consider the healthy fats in the nuts. And if you use high quality fruit preserves, you're doing okay!

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