Make-Ahead Alaska Blueberry, Lemon, and Thyme Cinnamon Rolls

May 22, 2014
4 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Serves 9
Author Notes

The dough in this recipe is straight from a 1943 copy of 'America's Cookbook,' which belonged to my grandmother. The filling is straight from the wild blueberry patches of Alaska, but any berry will work well here. Note: wild berries tend to be a little smaller and a little juicier than those you'd buy at the market, so if you're using fresh store bought berries, you might want to add up to half a cup to one whole cup more. —Mary Catherine Tee

Test Kitchen Notes

If there’s such a thing as a summer cinnamon roll, this is it. A time-honored recipe with a citrus/blueberry/thyme twist makes this taste both fresh and familiar. The fact that you can make them the night before is a bonus and the rising technique of placing the cold buns in the oven with a pan of boiling water worked well. I used fresh blueberries and they stayed plump and juicy. I might add lemon zest to the glaze next time for more punch. Delicious. —Laurie

What You'll Need
  • For the dough:
  • 1 cup milk, scalded
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 3 cups flour, sifted
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • For the filling and glaze:
  • 5 tablespoons butter, 1 Tbsp set aside for greasing pan
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (see headnote)
  1. For the dough: combine the scalded milk, sugar, salt, and half of the melted butter in a large mixing bowl; let cool a bit. Once the mixture is lukewarm, add the yeast. Let the yeast sit in mixture until it is active and frothy, about ten minutes.
  2. Add two cups of flour to the mixture and beat thoroughly. Gradually stir in the remaining flour, adding just enough to form a light dough (a little softer than bread dough).
  3. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead until smooth, adding more flour as necessary, 1 tablespoon at a time. Using the remaining butter, grease the bottom of a large bowl and place the dough in it; brush the top of the dough with melted butter. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
  4. Once risen, knead the lemon zest into dough. Roll the dough out into a 14" by 9" rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.
  5. For the filling: mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, thyme, zest, and salt in a bowl. Brush the dough with 4 tablespoons melted butter, then sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar-aromatics mixture all over. Sprinkle fresh or frozen blueberries evenly over the surface of the dough.
  6. Beginning with the long side of the rectangle dough, roll the dough into a log and pinch the edges to seal. Cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch slices.
  7. Coat the bottom of a square or round pan with remaining melted butter. Place the cinnamon rolls in a 9x9 square pan or 10 inch round pan or skillet and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so. Cover and refrigerate. These can be made up to 12 hours in advance.
  8. When you're ready to bake the following morning, start with a cold oven and put the rolls on the middle rack. Take a shallow dish and fill it with boiling water. Place the dish on a rack directly under the rolls and close the oven. Forget about the rolls for 30 to 45 minutes.
  9. Take the rolls out of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Once the oven is heated, bake the cinnamon rolls for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  10. To glaze: mix together an additional 4 tablespoons butter at room temperature, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp. lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Add hot water one tablespoon at a time until the glaze is the consistency you like. Spread the glaze on the cinnamon rolls once they have cooled slightly.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Laura Griffiith
    Laura Griffiith
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    Erin Alderfer
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    Nico Harlakenden-Newton
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  • purduetina
I’m an old soul. My favorite Saturday morning activity is watching birds on the feeder while drinking strong, black coffee out of my favorite hand-thrown mug. My favorite place to kill time is in antique stores. The less organized the better. I like full-bodied red wines and bitter IPAs. I live for feeling the warmth of sunshine and hearing the stillness of freshly fallen snow. I can thank my stint in Alaska for that. I have salt water in my veins, having grown up in Eastern NC, and (shhh…don’t tell any of my Mainer friends this about me) I prefer blue crab over lobster.

30 Reviews

Laura G. September 12, 2020
well done !!
Juliann D. December 28, 2015
These buns were so wonderful! I made them for Christmas brunch. I had been saving this recipe for a special occasion. The blueberries made the most delicious jam on the bottom of the pan. They were still so delicious the next day (and the day after)! I as amazed at how simple this recipe was.( I am always daunted by the rolling pin) I will definitely make this again.
Juliann D. December 28, 2015
I did not refrigerate overnight as it was Christmas eve (who has time for that?) As it was a late night, i finished making the dough at 2:30am and at 7:30am, I rolled the risen dough...It worked perfectly and sleep was pertinent.
Malkie T. March 13, 2015
do you think putting it in the fridge to rest adds to the recipe? or can i bake it straight away?
Mary C. March 14, 2015
The only thing I can think of it losing from not sitting overnight is the "running of the juices" which depending on what berries you use, may or may not happen. I used wild blueberries and after sitting overnight, the berry juice, sugar and cinnamon pooled in the bottom and when baked the next day, was almost like a blueberry sticky bun. Frozen berried would probably do the same thing. Not sure about fresh berries. Popping them in a fridge overnight makes them convenient for next day baking, too.
Mary C. March 14, 2015
If not refrigerating overnight, omit the second half of Step 7 and dive right in to Step 8. Proofing them is worth it!
Dave January 17, 2015
I use raisins instead of the blueberries when not in season a mixture between brown and yellow with a half teaspoon of crushed cardamom seeds or powder will
Erin A. September 8, 2014
So the 4T in step 10 is a new 4T, not remaining?
Mary C. September 9, 2014
Yes, an additional 4T.
George August 30, 2014
The butter quantity for the filling/glaze does not seem correct - step 5 uses 4 T and step 10 uses 4 T vs 4 1/2 T in ingredient list
Mary C. August 30, 2014
Just revised. Butter in recipe is for the the filling and greasing the pan. Originally, the icing was optional, so step 10 is an addendum of sorts. I hope the revisions help!
RSVPPDQ36 August 22, 2014
Do you take the pan of water out of the oven before baking? I made a thick blueberry jam and added fresh blueberries to it for the spread.
Mary C. August 24, 2014
I keep the pan of water in the oven to generate a little moisture throughout the baking process, but I also live in a very dry climate. They would bake just fine without the water, I'm sure.
Nico H. August 21, 2014
how much powdered sugar?
Mary C. August 21, 2014
About 3/4 cup
Fork V. August 21, 2014
These sound so delightful! Thyme and lemon take these over the top :)
purduetina August 19, 2014
I rolled the dough out into an approx. 14" long x 9" wide rectangle (9 rolls x 1.5" per roll=13.5" on the long side). The dough was about 1/4"-1/2" thick at this point (my usual cinnamon bun dough thickness).
Kaia J. August 19, 2014
How thick and how large of a rectangle should the dough be rolled out to?
Anne August 17, 2014
What size pan do you use?
Mary C. August 17, 2014
I've used a 9x9 square pan and an 10 inch cast iron skillet for a single batch.
Anne August 17, 2014
What size pan do we use?
Mary C. August 16, 2014
For the greasing of the bowl and brushing of the dough in Step 3. I'll be sure to make that more clear.
Halifax F. August 16, 2014
What do you do with other 1/2 of the melted butter for the dough?
Mary C. August 16, 2014
For the greasing of the bowl and brushing of the dough in Step 3. I'll be sure to make that more clear.
Mary C. August 15, 2014
@kansashostage, there's only one 2 hour rising period. I just edited the recipe. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!
kansashostage August 15, 2014
Are there two 2-hour rising periods or just one (steps 3 & 4)?
Mary C. August 16, 2014
There's only one 2 hour rising period. I just edited the recipe. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!
Eat T. August 15, 2014
Wow - this looks sublime!
Definitely trying. X
Mary C. August 4, 2014
Oops!! That would be 1 Tbsp. of fresh, chopped thyme. Thanks for letting me know! I'll be sure to revise that as soon as I can edit.
purduetina August 4, 2014
psst! how much thyme is in this recipe? thyme is mentioned in the text/instructions section but not in the measurements section. (i don't see it listed in the ingredients/measurements section). thank you!