Holiday Brunch – Citrus Cream Cheese Pull-Apart Rolls

Typically when I look for recipes I like those that are fast and uncomplicated. But when I searched for something impressive to bring to a Christmas brunch years ago I stumbled on this one from Cooking Light. Looked delicious, the rolls are relatively light, but… the preparation was more time than I usually put into one dish.

Let me tell you, these are worth it. And they aren’t complicated, but you do need to plan ahead because some of the steps a long time to complete, even if the time is not spent hands-on. I’m linking to the original recipe here, because it includes a glaze, but what I’m sharing here is how I prepare them. These rolls end up pretty gooey and sweet on their own; I didn’t think they needed additional stickiness or sugar. This recipe is a huge hit whenever I serve them, and at one yearly get-together it is demanded I bring them. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Please note I will replace the photo the next time I make these. This photo was taken at my sister’s holiday brunch, the day of a big snow storm. I let the rolls rise for the last time on our drive up to her house, which ended up taking almost twice as long as normal due to the bad roads. So my rolls were gargantuan and the cream cheese didn’t settle as nicely. But this will suffice for now!

If you try one new recipe this season to serve to your friends and family for a special breakfast or lunch, you’ll want to make it this one.

Blog image for use on the blog.

Citrus Cream Cheese Pull-Apart Rolls

Note: This recipe requires advance preparation. You will either need to begin the night before or three hours before you want to serve them. From Cooking Light.

1 package frozen dinner roll dough (the small balls; I use Rhode’s)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup Craisins
1 cup sugar, divided
6 oz low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1 orange
2 lemons
1 egg

Count out 24 rolls and put them on plates to thaw for 30 minutes at room temperature. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Then, using a serrated knife, cut the rolls in half, placing them cut-side down into the pans (24 pieces in each pan). Brush butter evenly over rolls. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. (What I do: Preheat oven to 150, turn it off, then stick the rolls inside.)

While the dough rises, use a micro plane zester to zest the orange and lemons; set aside the zest. Juice the orange to get 2 tbsp.  Use a hand mixer at medium speed to combine 1/4 cup sugar, cream cheese, 2tbsp of orange juice and egg.

After your 30 minute initial rise is complete, sprinkle the rolls with cranberries, then evenly spoon the cream cheese mixture over both pans. Combine 3/4 cup sugar and grated citrus rinds and sprinkle over rolls. Cover pans and let rise 1 hour until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes (you might want to line the bottom of your oven with foil, as these have a tendency to bubble over). Then cover pans with foil and bake for five more minutes, making sure the middle rolls cook through. Devour.

To prepare the night before: After spooning the cream cheese mixture over the rolls, cover the pans and put in refrigerator for 12 hours. In the morning, uncover and sprinkle with the rind/sugar mixture. Let the rolls rise at room temperature until doubled in size, then bake as directed above.



  1. I love Cooking Light recipes!

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