Can you see the cute butterfly? This is one of my favorite things to make in the spring, not only because the lemon rolls themselves are so light and gorgeous, but because I can’t get over how cute they look. Food that looks like other things is tops in my book, and I love the subtle butterfly shape here. The top of the roll look suggests antennae, and the sides not only show off the luscious lemon filling, but make it look like your roll is about to fly away!
The other thing that’s fun about this is that getting that shape is one of the simplest baking secrets I know. Hint: it involves a straw and about three seconds of “work.” I know, right? I’m all about easy things that give great results!
Also, can we talk about that glaze? It has the perfect blend of sweetness and lemony tang. I honestly believe these rolls taste like a spring morning!
If you’ve ever made cinnamon rolls, this is going to look verrrrry familiar. I use the recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction for the lemon rolls. Her recipe is so perfect, I really couldn’t make it better if I tried, so I don’t. Anyway, the big secret to yeast breads is to not kill the little yeastie beasties right off the bat. I use a kitchen thermometer to make sure my water is somewhere between 105° and 115°. That will feel lukewarm to the touch.
Provided you haven’t killed off your yeast, the rest of the dough is pretty straightforward. Combine ingredients, mix, turn out onto a floured surface, and knead.
When you’re done kneading, the dough needs to rest about ten minutes. This helps it to relax and roll out better later, so cover it up and find something to do with yourself (I washed the dishes I’d just made. Party time.).
Once the dough’s rested, roll it out on a floured surface. You’re shooting for a rectangle, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect. There’s a reason you never see my rectangles!
The next bit is one of my favorite parts. To make the filling, just mix all the ingredients together. You get this lovely crystal mix with flecks of yellow.
I also whip up my butter with a knife to make it easier to spread – when I’ve tried to be fast and skip that step, I’ve ended up ripping the dough trying to spread the butter. Once you’ve got the butter spread, you get to spread that crystal filling over it.
It’s just so gorgeous! Now we’re still following the cinnamon roll workflow at this point, so roll your dough longways as tight as you are able and then cut into 12 pieces. I don’t usually worry about it, but if you really need your rolls evenly sized, you can first cut the dough in half, then half those, then cut the remaining pieces in thirds in order to ensure that you have complete roll equality.
This picture makes me think of little roll soldiers lined up and ready for duty! We’re going to take those soldiers and turn them into butterflies (this sounds like a really bad fantasy film!).
So here’s the trick. You take your roll and use something round to press down in the center. (I’ve used both straws and pencils in the past). Check out this super technical image showing you just how to do it:
You do have to press pretty hard – almost as if you’re trying to cut the roll in half with your super blunt straw. You want to get the sides of the roll to face upward.
And once you’ve done this step, you’re home free. Plop those butterflies on a lined or greased baking pan and let them rise, covered for an hour. Then bake them at 350° for 25-30 minutes. They should be golden brown on top and smell divine (seriously, the smell is usually how I tell they’re done!).
The last step is that drool-worthy glaze. Just combine the ingredients (you might have to add a little more lemon juice or powdered sugar to get the exact consistency you want). Drizzle the glaze over your butterflies and serve!
Once last note: You’ve probably already figured out that you can make butterflies out of just about any kind of roll. Cinnamon rolls work very well, although any roll with large fruit pieces (strawberry rolls, I’m looking at you!) might give you more trouble. Just a thought.
What do you think? Worth the extra 3 seconds? Leave a comment and let us know!