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how sweet it is

Recipe: huckleberry lemon sweet rolls

Does everyone love their birth month or did I just luck out with September? While the flats remain relatively warm by my standards, the overnight temperatures dipped below freezing over the weekend here in the mountains. Morning walks with Neva have been pleasantly chilly for the past few days and the gold aspens light up like torches in the autumn sun. Jeremy noted that fall is our shortest season. I reminded him that technically all of the seasons are about the same length, but I knew what he meant. Winter is the longest season for us – basically from October to May – as long as there is snow. Summer is the next longest from June or July to September (when there isn’t much snow). Spring in the mountains is just plain weird because it’s all melty and muddy, usually from May to June or June to July. It’s the season of trashing your gear. True fall is cooler weather, golden aspen, and clear ground. As soon as there is enough snow to ski, it’s “winter”. Sometimes fall is as short as 3 weeks if summer and winter get a little greedy on each end. But I love it, because it’s so perfect for high country hikes, long trail runs, and mountain bike rides without the crowds. I think of autumn as that sweet spot.

Neva is getting spayed this week, just before she turns 6 months old. I was told to restrict her activities, as in – very short walks – for the two weeks after the surgery. I’m just a little nervous because after Kaweah was spayed, the Cornell Veterinary Hospital instructed us not to let her jump and of course, the first thing she did when we picked her up was to try jumping into the car. She cried, then tried to jump into the car again. Mainly, I don’t want Neva to be scared or to hate Doc Newton after the procedure is done. In anticipation of her upcoming convalescence period, we decided to take her up our favorite local trail in the Indian Peaks this weekend – to Pawnee Pass. We both had headaches thanks to lack of sleep and chilly gusts of wind slapping us around. Summer makes you soft because winds like that are considered “breezy” around these parts in winter. But Neva was happy and so we forged ahead. The winds were particularly nasty and cold at the pass (this happened a year ago on our backpack, too), so we took a quick snap for posterity and booked it on outta there.

on the way up

at the pass with our little hiker pup

almost to the trailhead it was warm enough for a swim

The good news is that Neva has taken two 30-minute car rides on windy roads with dramamine and hasn’t puked! She wasn’t happy about the rides, but we suspect once she’s had enough car rides without puking, she’ll start to associate the car with happier times. Also, she was VERY good on the hike wearing her chest harness despite wanting to chase after ALL of the marmots and pikas above treeline (60% of the hike is above treeline). Neva is still very much a puppy, but I think she just might become a good dog some day.

colorful sunset over our local mountains

mammata lit just before sunrise

This seasonal cool down means I’m able to turn the oven on to bake, roast, and feel normal again. Of course, all I could think about for the past several weeks were ways to use huckleberries and many of those recipes involved baking. While there are a handful of huckleberry recipes out there on the interwebs, you’ll find a hundred blueberry recipes for every huckleberry recipe. Something that had been on my radar for a while was blueberry lemon sweet rolls, but then I thought – HUCKLEBERRY lemon sweet rolls is where it’s at. First, start by making the dough.

for the dough: milk, water, egg, salt, sugar, vanilla extract, flour, butter, more butter, yeast

warm the milk and water to 115°f (close enough)

sprinkle the yeast and a teaspoon of sugar over the liquid

mix the sugar, salt, and flour

mix the egg, vanilla extract, and melted butter into the liquid

combine the liquid ingredients with the dry ingredients

knead until smooth

cover in an oiled bowl and let rise

The filling is pretty straightforward: huckleberries, lemon sugar, and butter. You could add cinnamon and other spices as you desire, but I didn’t want to make huckleberry cinnamon rolls. Sometimes it’s better to just keep the flavors simple and let the huckleberries shine.

sugar, butter, huckleberries, lemon zest

mix the lemon zest into the sugar

When the dough has doubled, roll it out on a lightly floured work surface into a 9×16 inch rectangle. [Am I the only one who finds it difficult to roll dough out into a rectangular shape? It appears to be more of a roundtangle.] Spread the butter over the dough. This is easiest if your butter is really soft. Be sure to leave a 1/2 inch clean margin along one of the long sides for pinching the roll closed. Next sprinkle the lemon sugar and the huckleberries over the dough, then roll it up from the long end opposite the long end with the clean margin.

the dough has doubled in size

roll it out

spread butter over the dough

sprinkle the lemon sugar and huckleberries

roll it up tight

Pinch the end of the roll back onto itself to help seal it. Then turn the roll over so the seal is on the bottom and slice the roll into 16 equal pieces (more or less). There will be berry escapees, but it’s easy enough to just tuck them back in after the slices have been set in their baking pan(s). Let the rolls rise and then brush them with butter before they go into the oven.

pinch the roll closed


arrange in a buttered baking dish and let rise

brush with melted butter

You can make the frosting while the rolls are baking. Well, I made a frosting. If you prefer more of a glaze, then add the milk into the frosting to thin it out. I decided I liked the thicker consistency without the milk. As long as the cream cheese and butter are soft, it’s easy enough to mix by hand, but a stand mixer or any mixer will make quick work of it.

lemon juice, milk (optional), cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, powdered sugar

cream the butter and cream cheese together

beat in the powdered sugar

add lemon juice and vanilla

beat until creamy and smooth

When the rolls are golden brown, take them out of the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. I personally prefer to spread the frosting when the rolls are still warm so that the frosting gets a little oozy, and I’m a firm believer in warm pastries. If you are baking the rolls ahead of time, I suggest postponing frosting until you reheat the rolls.



time for a taste test

I was worried these would wind up being bland cinnamonless cinnamon rolls, but no – these are heavenly sweet rolls. I’ll take one of these over any cinnamon roll any day. Lemon and huckleberry are a natural partnership and it’s really all the flavor you need in this pastry. The dough is a soft and fluffy accompaniment to the fruity filling and creamy, tangy frosting. Jeremy rated this at the top of his sweet rolls list. I think frozen berries could also work as long as they don’t give off too much liquid during the final rise. And of course, you can always substitute blueberries for the huckleberries. Yay baking season!

oh how i love the huckleberries

gorgeous fruity inside

Huckleberry Lemon Sweet Rolls
[print recipe]
from this recipe

3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 1/4 tsps active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt

extra butter for the pans
2 tbsps butter, melted (to brush on before baking)

1/2 cup sugar
zest of 2 large lemons
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (about 11 oz.) fresh huckleberries (or blueberries)

1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp lemon juice

Make the dough: Warm the milk and water to 115°F. Sprinkle the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar over the warm liquid and let sit for a few minutes. Add the melted butter, vanilla extract, and egg to the liquid. Combine the remaining sugar with the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Pour the liquid into the dry mixture and mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth. Lightly grease a large bowl with an unflavored vegetable oil. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Flip the dough over to oil the entire ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 90 minutes until it has doubled in size. Butter a 9×13 inch baking pan or two 9-inch round pans.

Make the rolls: Mix the lemon zest and 1/2 cup of sugar together. Punch the dough down and roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a 16×9 inch rectangle. Spread the 1/4 cup of softened butter over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch margin at one of the long edges. Sprinkle the lemon sugar over the butter. Then sprinkle the huckleberries evenly over the the sugar. From the long edge with no margin, tightly roll the dough like a carpet. Pinch the edge to the roll to seal it. Cut the roll into 16 equal slices, placing each slice, cut-side down into the prepared baking pan(s). Cover the pan(s) with plastic and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter and bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Let cool.

Make the frosting: While the rolls bake, cream the cream cheese and butter together in a mixer or by hand. Mix in the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon juice until uniform. Frost the rolls while warm. Makes 16 rolls.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

apple cider caramel apple cinnamon rolls strawberry cinnamon rolls sticky buns huckleberry scones

10 nibbles at “how sweet it is”

  1. Heather (Delicious Not Gorgeous) says:

    these sound wonderful! sweet rolls tend to be too sweet for my tastes, but with the hucks and lemon, these sound decadent while also being refreshing (:

  2. Pam says:

    I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised on the way Vets do spading now days. The 3 inch incisions have been reduced to just over an inch. I keep my Bella girl resting for three days and then there was no stopping her! To say she bounced back is an understatement. You just can’t keep a greeting wheaten (terrier) down. Neva will do just fine, she’s in GREAT hands. I must say I’m not sure what I love more about your blog, the food or the dog talk.

  3. Irmi says:

    “Let the huckleberries shine” – like it.
    And no, you’re not the only one who has difficulties rolling out a yeast dough. But yours has come out fine though.
    Beautiful recipe. I like to have one of your rolls right now.
    Have a nice day!

  4. Kristin says:

    Those look so good! I thought the juice would make them soggy, but they look fabulous. Happy birthday month! Both of my children were born in September, so maybe that’s why I love it so much, but it IS a great time of year. I hope all goes well with Neva’s spaying.

  5. Mary Karen says:

    I read your blog faithfully and it brings such joy on all levels. I rarely “comment” but this morning am wondering if you have every considered publishing a book of your nature photographs? I, for one, would be 1st in line at the bookstore! Meanwhile, thanks for blessing us with your spunky, gorgeous, informative and heartfelt postings.

  6. Jill Hyde says:

    Oh dear….give me a good cup of black coffee and one of those!!!!!!!!

    Good luck to Neva girl next week. My former dog, CarmelCorn, came home from the vet with the same instructions. I had her on a leash until we got to the front door. I gently let her in, where she proceeded to run through the house and land ON the dining room table! What!!!!! She’d never been up there before that day….oh well, all healed. Best to all of you.

    xo, j

  7. Heather says:

    So glad the harnesses is working out! Good luck to you and Neva!

  8. Colleen says:

    I have a birthday this month too! And I love the month I have it in! What day is yours? These look so tasty. What is the nearest next of kin to a huckleberry?

  9. jenyu says:

    Heather – you can also leave out the frosting (that’s just sugar, really) if the rolls are too sweet, but I like the added tartness from the hucks and lemon.

    Pam – yes, you are so right! Neva came home with a barely noticeable 1-inch incision and she’s been feeling fine ever since. Thanks for reassuring us! :)

    Irmi – glad I’m not the only one ;) If you were here, I’d share one with you! xo

    Kristin – I think if you use frozen berries, they will leak juice (or melt) because I’ve had that experience with other recipes that use frozen berries and have second rises. Neva is doing great, thanks!

    Mary Karen – well, seeing as I have not been able to update my gallery in over 5 years, I haven’t even thought of publishing a book. But you are so very very kind to suggest it. xo

    Jill – right?! ha ha! Neva jumped on the coffee table today, so I think she’s feeling pretty fine now!

    Heather – thanks! xo

    Colleen – Mine was the 23rd – first day of fall this year. Nearest cousin is probably the blueberry. Not as awesome, but still pretty awesome!

  10. Eden Passante says:

    These are so pretty! I love the color the huckleberries make too! What a fun ingredient!

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