My dad, Drew, was born in Budapest, Hungary, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1956, during the Hungarian Revolution. He learned to speak English by watching Wonder Bread commercials, so it’s no small coincidence that one of his all-time favorite foods is bread—freshly baked bread, to be exact. Growing up in the States, he’d receive the same Christmas present every year: a single navel orange. This recipe is an ode to my dad and combines his two loves, with oranges lending faint citrus flavor to the lightest, fluffiest dinner rolls. I use the word “ultimate” sparingly when it comes to recipes, but this one is more than worthy of that claim.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine 1 cup of the flour with the milk, orange zest, orange juice, egg, butter, sugar, yeast, and kosher salt. Mix on low speed until the flour is incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Increase the speed to medium and continue mixing the dough for 2 minutes.
Add another 1/2 cup of the flour and continue mixing until it is incorporated. Add the remaining 3/4 cup flour and mix until combined and the dough begins to form a ball. The dough should be sticky but pulling away from the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky, add more flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, as needed.
Lightly flour your work surface. Turn out the dough and knead until it comes together into a smooth ball, about 2 minutes. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover the bowl with a towel, and let rest in a warm, dark place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Grease an 8-inch round baking dish with cooking spray. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then arrange the balls in a single layer in the prepared pan. Cover the pan with a towel, then return it to the warm, dark place for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Uncover the rolls, brush with additional melted butter, and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until the rolls are golden brown and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the rolls from the oven, brush them again with melted butter, and serve warm.
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