These rolls are like subtle donuts.

A sticky orange glaze on a barely sweet knot of dough–the perfect treat for breakfast, or afternoon snack.

Glenn thinks they taste like breakfast in Italy, but I suspect the recipe is severely American. The original is scrawled on an index card I got from my aunt Ann’s recipe box–one of her grandmother’s specialties. And when I told my mom I was making them, she said HER grandmother had a recipe for orange rolls if I didn’t like this one. Orange rolls from all the great-grandfolk.

During the raid of Ann’s recipe box, we were talking about the appearance of shortening in recipes of a certain vintage–I always assumed shortening meant Crisco, but it apparently indicates any sort of fat–butter, margarine, lard. And we were discussing what an odd word that was for fat–shortening–and the number of baked goods that have “short” in them–short bread, short cake, short crust. And you know what? SHORT is an archaic word for “crumbly”–specifically, made crumbly by the addition of fat! I love it. This is like the perfect storm for me–archaic English and baked goods.

Glazed Orange Rolls
makes 16 big rolls

1 C whole milk
1/2 C shortening (I used half butter and half Smart Balance because it’s what my fridge had on offer)
1/2 C honey
1 t salt
2 packets yeast
1/4 C warm water
2 eggs
1/4 C orange juice
2 T orange zest
5 C white whole wheat flour, plus more for kneading (yes, go buy a sack of the King Arthur stuff)

1/4 C orange juice
2 t orange zest
2 C powdered sugar
2 pinches of salt

Scald the milk (the microwave is your friend) and in a large bowl whisk it into the shortening (in pieces), the honey, and the salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast and the warm water. Add the yeast paste to the big bowl along with the eggs, OJ, and zest. Beat well. Add the flour and mix to a soft dough with a wooden spoon–it will be quite soft and don’t fret. Cover with a towel, and let the dough stand until it’s doubled in size.

Flour your kneading surface generously, and knead the dough for around 5 minutes, adding more flour as the dough gets sticky. Grease the large bowl and put the dough ball back in there. Cover with the towel, and let stand until it’s doubled in size (the recipe card says two hours; mine took under an hour because my apartment is HOT). Punch down the dough (the best part) and then let it stand for another 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400. Re-flour your surface and dump out the dough. You want to roll the dough into a rectangle, 10″x16″. It will be pliable at this point so you may not even need a rolling pin–I didn’t. I just pressed it out into a rectangle. Cut into 16 strips, 1 inch wide and 10 inches long. Knot each strip. This is not the big deal I expected. Ugly is fine–they’ll look good when they bake. And if you want them to look pretty, make one leg of the knot longer than the other, and tuck it around the roll once you’ve formed the knot.

Bake on parchment paper for 12 minutes at 400, and let the rolls cool on a rack. Whisk together the glaze ingredients. When the rolls are cool, dip the tops in the glaze and let the syrup run down the sides as it sets. You’ll have extra glaze just in case you like to have a little pool of it with your roll.

The best part? The recipe card ends with this instruction: “Brush icing on with pastry brush for an even glo.”