Lemon Curd Challah Rolls with Sweet Glaze
January 20, 2022
If you’re like me, you could just sit around all day and eat lemon curd with a spoon, but I’m not sure that’s considered part of a balanced diet. Instead, you might as well get your fix in the form of these fluffy and eggy challah rolls, oozing with lemon curd and topped with a sweet glaze.
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Enriched doughs are my favorite to work with when it comes to bread-style baking. Enriched means that the dough includes ingredients other than flour, water, and yeast. In the case of challah, that’s eggs, oil and butter, and sweeteners.
These doughs can be forgiving when it comes to working with and shaping them. I was inspired by another common enriched dough when making these — the one used for cinnamon rolls. The spiral shape turned out to be a perfect vessel for some ooey gooey lemon curd.
What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for these lemon curd challah rolls at your grocery store:
- Pantry: Sugar, All-purpose flour, Salt, Vegetable oil, Honey, Powdered sugar
- Fridge: Instant yeast, Butter, Eggs, Lemon curd (or make your own), Milk
- Equipment: Stand mixer with dough hook attachment, Rolling pin, 9×13 Baking pan
Let’s Start Making Challah Rolls
One thing to keep in mind when making these rolls is the rising time. While enriched dough is very forgiving to work with and shape, it generally does take longer to rise. I recommend starting this recipe the day before you want to serve it to allow yourself plenty of time for rising.
We’re going to begin by creating a dough starter. This is a good way to test that your yeast is still active, which is mostly what’s it’s used for in this recipe. I usually have instant or bread machine yeast on hand, so that’s what I prefer to work with. If needed, you can replace it with active yeast in the starter.
Dissolve a little bit of sugar into warm water. Yeast are the happiest when water is just around 105°F, so that’s what you should aim for. Water that’s too hot can kill the yeast, and cold water can shock them so they don’t start metabolizing sugar.
Sprinkle the yeast on top of the sugar water and set it aside in a warm part of your kitchen to activate. It should begin bubbling and become fragrant. If after five minutes you don’t see any activity, I recommend that you discard the starter and begin again with fresh yeast.
While the yeast is working its magic on the starter, you can begin preparing the remaining ingredients for the dough. It’s easiest to do the kneading with a stand mixer and dough hook, so we’re going to start by combining the flour, sugar, and salt in the mixer bowl.
Whisk everything together (or use the paddle attachment on low, if you prefer.) to combine until it’s nice and distributed.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, you’ll be combining the wet ingredients. Add the oil, melted and cooled butter, eggs, and honey. Whisk all of these together until they are smooth and uniform, and the eggs are completely incorporated into everything else.
By now, your starter should be plenty happy and it should have that distinct yeasty smell. That means it’s time to combine everything together.
Add the mixed wet ingredients and the yeast starter both into the mixer bowl with the flour. Then, use the dough hook attachment to combine on a low to medium speed. After a few minutes, it will begin to form into a wet dough, and then eventually begin pulling away from the sides.
Be sure to use a flexible spatula to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl as needed, especially if you notice pockets of flour that are not being incorporated. When done, the dough will be sticky to touch, but should conglomerate around the dough hook, and not appear wet.
Now get ready for a nice break, grab a cup of coffee and a good book, because it’s time for the first rise. Transfer the dough into a large, greased bowl, at least twice the volume of the dough.
Cover the bowl loosely with a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot for one to one-and-a-half hours. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, it may take even longer. You’ll know the dough is ready to move on when it has doubled in size.
How to Shape Lemon Curd Challah Rolls
Once the dough has risen, grease your finger tips, and then gently press down the dough in the bowl. Transfer it to a large, flat working surface.
Personally I prefer to roll out my dough using parchment paper, because I like using it as a size guide, and it makes cleanup easier later. You can also use the parchment to help you when it comes time to roll up the dough.
Use a rolling pin to flatten out the dough into a twelve-by-eighteen-inch rectangle. Since we’ll be rolling this up like cinnamon rolls, you really want to try to shape the dough without the corners too rounded. You can use a bench scraper to help you guide the dough into the correct position.
Now that you have it all rolled out, it’s time for the lemon curd. You can use a store-bought curd for this recipe, or you can make it from scratch. If you do decide to make your own lemon curd, I suggest preparing it at least a few hours before, so it has time to chill and thicken.
If you want to try it out, follow the recipe I include as part of these Lemon Sandwich Cookies. This recipe makes about two cups of lemon curd, so you will have plenty left over to enjoy with biscuits, spread on toast, or just eat with a spoon.
Add a thin layer of whichever lemon curd you decide on onto the rolled out dough rectangle. Cover it almost completely, spreading out the lemon curd, but leave about a one-inch margin on one of the short edges.
Then, begin at the other short edge (the one without the margin) and start to roll the dough into a spiral log. Depending on the consistency of your lemon curd, this can get a little bit messy. You will want to try to lift the dough over the lemon curd instead of pushing it.
You can also use the parchment paper underneath to help you evenly lift the edge of the dough to start rolling. The parchment will also collect any lemon curd that does escape, so you can drizzle that on top after shaping.
Once you have your log of lemon-filled dough, it’s time to cut it. I suggest using a sharp, finely-serrated knife so that you don’t have to put too much pressure on the dough itself when cutting. A very sharp chef’s knife will also work.
Each slice will be a one-inch-wide spiral, and you will end up with twelve of them total. As you cut, gently place each one into a greased 9×13 baking pan. If the spirals did get a little bit misshapen while cutting, that’s okay. Simple reform the spirals as needed, and place each spiral-side up.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap, stretched tightly across the top of the pan, not touching the rolls. Place the entire pan in the fridge to chill overnight. If you don’t have the time to wait, you should at least let them chill and rest for about four hours.
Bake and Glaze Lemon Curd Challah Rolls
The morning of serving, all you have to do now is bake and glaze, making this multi-day project actually a pretty simple breakfast. After the dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 375°F with a rack in the lower half.
At the same time, remove the rolls from the fridge, and set them aside to rest while the oven is preheating. If you have a super fast oven, be sure to give the rolls at least ten minutes.
Bake the challah rolls for right around 25 minutes. The tops will brown slightly, especially on the edge rolls, or under any oven hot spots. If you notice that they are starting to get darker than you like, cover the pan with foil and continue baking.
When these are done, the two rolls in the center should appear slightly golden brown and bounce back when gently pressed. You can also check that the internal temperature of the center rolls is no less than 170-180°F. When they are ready, set aside the pan on a trivet to cool for a few minutes.
Home stretch now! While the rolls are cooling, you can prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and half of the milk. Stir to combine these together, adding more milk just a small splash at a time, only if needed. You will want the glaze to have a drizzling consistency and drip off a spoon in ribbons.
Drizzle the glaze over the warm rolls, trying to focus on getting the glaze inside the spiral of individual rolls instead of between the rolls. A little bit between is fine, but it may pool when serving.
Use a large, thin spatula to separate the rolls at their natural seams. Serve individual pieces with a spoonful of extra lemon curd on the side for dipping or poured over top of the roll.
You can store the pan of baked rolls or individual servings in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple days. These taste best warm, so you can either reheat the entire pan in the oven or individual portions in the microwave.
If you are preparing these in advance or expecting leftovers, wait until just before serving to drizzle with the glaze and lemon curd.
What’s better than the sweet-tart flavor burst of lemon curd? Try it nestled into rich challah rolls and topped with a sweet glaze for a breakfast bursting with brightness!
How to Serve
I would treat these lemon curd-filled challah rolls the same way that you do cinnamon buns. For me, that means they can be part of any meal, really, if you try hard enough. But traditionally, I suggest serving them for breakfast, brunch, or even dessert.
Try building a bright and flavorful brunch menu around these rolls as a sweet starter. You can enjoy them alongside some tomato and avocado omelets, with a mandarin orange posset tart for dessert. For drinks, try a sweet and spicy paloma or mango rum sunrise cocktail.
Instead, you can lean into the cozy texture of the challah bread base with a more comforting menu of Old Bay smoky breakfast potatoes or beet and goat cheese latkes. Stay warm with a honey chestnut cafe au lait or chai white hot chocolate.
More Lemon Recipes
Lemon Curd Challah Rolls with Sweet Glaze
- 1 Cup Water warmed
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 ¼ tsp instant yeast one packet
- 4 cups All-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Salt
- ⅓ Cup Vegetable Oil
- 2 Tbsp Butter melted and cooled slightly
- 2 Eggs
- 2 Tbsp Honey
Filling & Topping
- ½ cup Lemon curd plus more for serving
- ½ cup Powdered Sugar
- 1-2 Tbsp Milk
- Prepare the starter by dissolving the sugar into the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top, and set aside for 5 minutes.
- The mixture should begin to foam up and become fragrant. If it does not, discard it and begin again with fresh yeast.
Dough and Rolls
- While the starter is activating, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk together.
- In a small bowl, combine the oil, butter, eggs, and honey. Whisk together until smooth and uniform, and the eggs are completely incorporated.
- Add the wet ingredients and the yeast starter into the mixer bowl with the flour. Use the dough hook attachment to mix together on low-medium speed, until combined into a dough that is pulling away from the edges of the bowl. Scrape down the sides as needed to full incorporated.
- When ready, the dough will be sticky to touch, but should not appear wet. Transfer it to a large greased bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with a kitchen towel and place in warm spot for 1-1.5 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
- Once risen, press the dough down gently with greased finger tips. Then transfer it to a large, flat working surface. Roll out the dough into a 12x18 inch rectangle. Use a bench scraper to shape the corners as needed.
- Add a thin layer of lemon curd onto the dough, leaving a 1-inch margin on one of the short edges.
- Roll the dough beginning at the other short edge, to create a spiral log. This may be messy, so try to lift the dough over the lemon curd instead of pushing it.
- Use a serrated knife to slice the log into 12 1-inch wide spirals, and place each gently into a greased 9x13 pan. Reshape the spirals as needed. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and chill in fridge overnight, or at least 4 hours.
- After the dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 375°F with a rack in the lower half, and remove rolls from fridge to rest while oven is preheating (at least 10 min).
- Bake the rolls for 25-30 minutes. The tops will brown slightly, but if they are starting to get very dark, cover the pan with foil. When done, the center rolls should appear golden brown and bounce back when gently pressed. The internal temperature of the center rolls should be no less than 170-180°F.
- Set aside the pan on a trivet to cool for 5-10 minutes.
Glazing & Serving
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar and half of the milk. Stir to combine, adding more milk a small splash at a time only if needed, until you reach a drizzling consistency.
- Drizzle the glaze over the warm rolls. Cut between rolls and serve individual pieces with extra lemon curd on the side or poured over top.
- Make ahead tips:
- These rolls are great to prepare the night before, and then simply rest and bake in the morning to serve as breakfast.
- You can store the pan of baked rolls or individual servings in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Rewarm the entire pan in the oven (350F until warmed through) or individual portions in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Wait until just before serving to drizzle with the glaze and lemon curd.
- Homemade lemon curd:
- If you prefer to make your own lemon curd for this recipe, you can follow the recipe I include as part of Lemon Sandwich Cookies. This recipe makes about 2 cups, so you will have plenty leftover.