Food and Drink

Delight the brunch crowd (and use the rest of your frozen berries) with wildberry rolls

Don’t know about you all, but I’m still cleaning out the freezer. Recently I found I had about four cups of wild berries — salmonberries a friend had picked in Western Alaska as well as some high-bush cranberries I picked at my cabin on Horseshoe Lake.

I was having family for brunch so I thought I’d incorporate my berries into a really straightforward cinnamon roll recipe I make all the time. It was a hit. The berries gave the usual rolls the perfect amount of tang. You can use just about any combination of wild berries with this recipe and scale up the jam if you’d like some left over. It keeps in the fridge for about a week. For the jam part, I just use equal parts berries and sugar, add some marmalade to aid in the firming up. Reducing the sugar will make the jam looser. Then I cook it way down. Most wild berries have a lot of natural pectin, so you shouldn’t have too hard of a time getting a nice firm jam going for the filling, plus a little extra for your toast. Especially if you’re using really seedy berries, it’s a good idea to press it through a sieve to remove the solids.

This basic roll recipe is relatively quick — and you can make it quicker by using rapid rise yeast. That should cut the first rise to an hour and the second to 30 minutes. You can also form the rolls the night before, refrigerate them, and then let them warm up for about an hour before baking them the next day. Don’t skimp on the butter you use to grease the pan. I use at least half a stick. The buttery dough edges are the best part!

Wildberry cinnamon rolls

Serves 12

For the dough:

3/4 cup milk

2 1/4 teaspoon (one package) active dry yeast


1/4 cup salted butter, melted

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup white sugar

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

(Butter and brown sugar for the pan)

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/4 cup butter, melted

3 cups frozen berries

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup marmalade

For the cream cheese frosting:

3 tablespoons butter, room temperature

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup powdered sugar


1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the dough: Measure the milk into a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 45 seconds. Pour it into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add yeast, butter, eggs, and sugar. Mix well to combine. Whisk the salt into the flour and then add it one cup at a time to the mixer, running on medium low. Allow it to mix, scraping the sides, until the dough is well combined, smooth and not all that sticky. If it is really sticky, shake in about 1/4 cup flour. Remove the dough ball to a greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth and set to rise in a warm place for 60 to 90 minutes. It should be just about double in size.

Make the jam filling: In a saucepan on medium heat, combine sugar, berries and marmalade. Cook until berries have melted and sugar is dissolved — about 20 minutes. Pour the mixture through a mesh sieve, pressing the solids to get the last of the juice out, into a clean saucepan. Return it to the stove. Simmer on medium low until the jam is reduced by about a third and coats the back of a spoon. Allow it to cool.

Form the rolls: Generously grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with butter and sprinkle the bottom with brown sugar, if desired. Mix the brown sugar, melted butter and cinnamon into a paste. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle, roughly 10 by 15 inches. Spread a thin layer of sugar-cinnamon paste on the dough, then a thin layer of jam (you will have jam leftover to serve with the rolls). Starting from the bottom long side, gently roll it up, pinching the roll closed at the top. Using a piece of floss or a serrated knife, cut into 12 or so inch-wide rolls. (To use floss — slide it under the roll, cross the strands on top and pull to cut.) The end ones will be smaller. Arrange them in the baking pan. Cover and allow to rise 30 minutes to an hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Frost the rolls: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Put the mixer on low and add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until combined. Finally, add the vanilla. Spread over warm rolls and serve immediately, with extra jam.

[Tender and bright with citrus, these almond cakes come together quickly]

[Throw backyard berries into these chewy, melty chocolate-raspberry pan-bangin’ cookies]

[Wholesome overnight oats are a perfect make-ahead breakfast or midday snack]

Julia O'Malley

Anchorage-based Julia O'Malley is a former ADN reporter, columnist and editor. She received a James Beard national food writing award in 2018, and a collection of her work, "The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska," was published in 2019. She's currently a guest curator at the Anchorage Museum.