Make Ahead

Orange-Scented Olive Oil Sticky Buns

November 23, 2011
6 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
Author Notes

I've been monkeying for a bit trying to make some sticky buns that have all the decadent gooeyness of standard sticky buns, but a little fresher flavor. When we bit into these this morning, I knew they were it. The inspiration for them comes from a number of different places. I started by wondering if Joanne Chang's (of Flour bakery) focaccia dough would work for sweet rolls. It is, quite possibly, my very favorite bread dough—amazingly rich, tender, and pillowy, but enriched only by olive oil (quite a bit of it!). This gives it a lovely floral olive oil flavor.

This made me think of olive oil cakes, and how delicious they are, particularly olive oil cakes with a bit of orange fragrance. So, I decided to make a sticky filling with orange zest and juice, plus a little squeeze of lemon juice to add some refreshing extra acidity. This part is similar to the various recipes for lemon sticky buns that were flooding the interwebs a while back.

Then, looking at Melissa Clark's recipe for olive oil and orange cake, I noticed there was buttermilk in the batter. Playing off of this flavor, I decided to make a buttermilk glaze, sweet but with the light tang of buttermilk. I decided to keep the flavors of the dough, the filling, and the glaze different from each other, because I felt each blended with and added beautifully to the others and didn't all need orange notes. However, if you'd like more orange throughout, add a teaspoon of orange zest to the dough, and replace a little of the buttermilk in the glaze with orange blossom water to taste. —fiveandspice

Test Kitchen Notes

These delicious buns are wonderful. You'd never know that the dough was originally focaccia. Work quickly when cutting the buns since the filling is quite liquidy and can seep out from the roll, and you probably won't need all the juice for the filling. I loved the orange and olive oil combo and the little bit of acid in the icing is perfect. —Stephanie Bourgeois

  • Makes makes 18 smallish buns, 12 larger ones
  • Bun dough
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup good, fruity olive oil
  • Orange filling and buttermilk glaze
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
In This Recipe
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer with a bread hook, combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar, and allow to stand for 5 minutes to let the yeast foam.
  2. Add the salt and half of the flour. Turn the mixer on low, and continue to add the rest of the flour allowing the mixer to mix it all together. When the dough has come together in a shaggy ball (this may take slightly more or less flour—err on the side of a slightly sticky dough to keep it from being tough), pour in the olive oil in a drizzle as the dough hook keeps stirring.
  3. On a medium-low speed, let the dough knead for 4 to 5 minutes. (All of this mixing and kneading can also be done by hand.) When the dough is smooth and satiny, gather it together and turn it into a deep, oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp, clean kitchen towel, and put somewhere warm to rise until doubled in volume (mine took about 90 minutes, but my apartment is a bit chilly).
  4. While the dough rises, make the filling. Combine the cup of sugar with the orange zest. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes while the zest releases its oil into the sugar. Then, rub it together until well mixed and slightly moist. Next combine the orange and lemon juice and stir it into the sugar a bit at a time until you have a thick mixture about the consistency of wet sand (you may not use all of the juice). Set aside.
  5. Butter a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. When the dough had risen, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it out into a large rectangle that is a bit under 1/2-inch thick.
  6. Spread the filling mixture onto the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border empty along one of the long ends. Roll the dough up tightly like a jelly roll starting at the long end without the border. Slice into either 12 or 18 equal slices.
  7. Pinch one of the cut sides of each slice closed as much as possible, to help keep the filling in (it will leak out some anyway, but it will work out fine). Then fit the slices into the buttered pan, with the pinched sides down and the un-pinched cut sides up. Cover and allow to rise for another 45 minutes to an hour, until puffed. You can also put the rolls in the refrigerator at this point and let them slow rise over night and bake them in the morning. If you refrigerate them, just let them stand at room temperature for about 15 to 20 minutes before putting them in the oven.
  8. When ready to bake, heat your oven to 350° F. Bake the rolls for 35 to 40 minutes, until the rolls are nicely browned on top and baked through. Then remove from the oven.
  9. While the buns are baking, make the glaze by whisking the buttermilk into the confectioners' sugar bit by bit until it is the consistency that is thick but pourable. When the buns are finished baking, spread the glaze on the warm buns. Serve warm, preferably with some espresso or strong coffee, and moist napkins for cleaning off your deliciously sticky fingers.

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I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (, where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.