Chef’s Notes: I found a recipe for anise bread in Ladle, Leaf, and Loaf – and I thought it sounded like a wonderful dough for sweet rolls.
A dough rich with anise and orange, with layers of sugary spices – cinnamon, cloves, cardomom, ginger, nutmeg. Oozing with good old-fashioned Betty Crocker browned butter icing. These sweet rolls are decadent!
By the way, if your first reaction to anise is, “I hate black jelly beans!” let me say this: I love watermelon and peaches, but watermelon bubble gum and gummy peach rings make me gag. There’s a difference. Really.
Sugar and Spice Sweet Rolls
1 C. milk
1/4 C. fresh squeezed orange juice
2 T. honey
1 pkg. dry yeast
1 large egg
1 T. unsalted butter, melted
1 T. anise seed
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. grated orange rind
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
About 3 2/3 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 C. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C. white sugar
1 C. brown sugar (not packed)
1 T. cinnamon
2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
In a small saucepan, heat the milk, orange juice, and honey. Pour into a large mixing bowl and cool to lukewarm, 105 to 115 degrees. Add the yeast, stirring to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat the egg and butter together in a small bowl and add to the yeast mixture. Stir in the anise, salt, orange rind, and cinnamon.
Gradually add 3 cups of the flour, beating after each addition. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead in the remaining 2/3 cup flour, or more as needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Put the dough in a lightly buttered medium bowl. Grease the surface, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until almost doubled.
(My technique for rising: preheat your oven to the lowest possible temperature (mine is 170 degrees) and turn off. Let cool for about 10 minutes. You want it warm, not hot! If you have a oven thermometer, the ideal temperature is 80 – 85 degrees. Fill a large bowl or deep dish with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven. Place the bowl with dough inside the bowl with the water. This creates the optimal environment for the bread to proof – warmth, moisture, and no drafts.) To test the dough for doubling in size, press the tips of two fingers lightly and quickly into the dough. If the dent stays, it is double.
Once the dough has risen once, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough with the palms of your hands and gently stretch and/or roll it into a rectangle.
Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a larger rectangle, approximately 12 inches wide by 20 inches long. The dough might be sticky, so flour the work surface and the rolling pin, checking to be sure the dough isn’t stuck to the work surface and adding more flour as necessary.
Spread the 1/4 cup softened butter over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch strip along the long edge of the rectangle furthest away from you completely dry.
In a small bowl, combine the sugars and spices. Generously sprinkle mixture over the butter, spreading the mixture evenly across the whole sheet of dough. Leave the 1-inch border free of sugar.
Start at the left-hand corner of the edge closest to you. Working from left to right, tug the lip of the dough up and over the filling, keeping it tight. Roll up the dough, tightening the log as you go. (Do not roll too tightly, though, or the rolls will pop up in the middle when you bake them.)
When you reach the far edge of the dough, moisten the bare edge with water and pinch to seal the seam. Use length of unwaxed dental floss to cut the dough into even-sized pieces. (A knife will smash and tear the dough, so you want to use dental floss.)
Place the cut rolls on a greased cookie sheet. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth and let them rise until they nearly double in size, about 45 minutes to an hour. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. (If you’re letting the rolls rise in the oven, take them out before turning it on to preheat!)
When the rolls have doubled in size, put them in the preheated oven.
After approximately 30 minutes, test for doneness. Use a paring knife or fork to pull up the center-most roll; if the dough is still sticky and raw-looking, return the pan to the oven for about ten more minutes. The rolls should be golden to dark brown on top, and fully baked in the center of the coil.
Cool the pan on a rack about 10 to 15 minutes before icing.
Browned Butter Icing
1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 to 3 T. milk
3 T. butter
In medium bowl, place powdered sugar, vanilla and 2 tablespoons milk. In small saucepan, heat butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until light brown.
Pour browned butter over powdered sugar mixture. With an electric mixture, beat on low speed about 1 minute or until smooth. Gradually add just enough of the remaining 1 tablespoon milk to make frosting creamy and spreadable.