Lifestyle

Sweet home Alabama orange rolls have taken ‘state by storm’ of sugar, butter, citrus

Roll, orange roll.

The home of the Alabama Crimson Tide has a curious obsession with pastries painted in the citrus tint of gridiron rival Tennessee Volunteers. 

“There’s a chunk of Alabama that has fallen hard for orange rolls,” Melissa Hall, co-director of the Southern Foodways Alliance in Oxford, Mississippi, told Fox News Digital.

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She cites central Alabama as the orange-flavored heart of the Yellowhammer State.

Orange rolls look much like cinnamon rolls, both made with yeast dough.

Orange rolls from All Steak restaurant in Cullman, Alabama. (Chris Granger/Alabama Tourism Department)

“Every recipe has its own twist,” Southern Living magazine wrote in 2019. 

“Some contain cinnamon, some do not, and some recipes will offer a filling containing orange curd or marmalade.”

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The magazine wrote of the phenomenon: “One special sweet roll, the Alabama orange roll, has taken an entire state by storm.”

All Steak, a venerable steakhouse in the north-central Alabama city of Cullman, is considered the birthplace of the state’s orange roll.

“There’s a chunk of Alabama that has fallen hard for orange rolls.”

But the steakhouse sweet traces its roots – perhaps not coincidentally – to a neighbor from the land of orange, Millard Buchman. 

He opened the original All Steak in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1934. 

He moved the restaurant to Cullman four years later.

Sweet Home Alabama sign

“Welcome To Sweet Home Alabama” signage along Interstate 65 in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 4, 2018.  (Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

The “soft, chewy” Alabama orange rolls at All Steak “get their delicious sweet and tart tang from a glaze made with plenty of sugar, butter and a hint of orange peel,” the Alabama Tourism Board said earlier this year. 

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The travel group has named the steakhouse orange pastry one of the 100 best things to eat in Alabama several times in recent years.

Millie Ray, a Birmingham homemaker and mother of two boys, became an Alabama orange roll icon in 1979 when she began baking the treats for her garden-club potluck parties. 

Millie Ray and Sons now distributes the late mom’s orange rolls throughout the Southeast and as far away as San Antonio, Texas and Wichita, Kansas.

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Alabama is not the only part of the country with an orange roll tradition, however.

They’ve been a Sunday brunch staple in the Midwest for decades.

Orange rolls from All Steak restaurant in Cullman, Alabama. (Chris Granger/Alabama Tourism Department)

“The origins of orange rolls and their popularity in the Midwest is, like many things, a bit cloudy,” writes North Dakota native Sarah Wassberg Johnson on her website, TheFoodHistorian.com

“If you search for ‘history orange rolls’ today, you’ll likely get a LOT of hits about ALABAMA orange rolls … but nary a one about the Midwestern kind.”

She concluded, “Truth be told, they don’t look like they differ much.”

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Johnson traces the origin of orange rolls to the explosive popularity of Florida oranges in the 1920. 

Hall of the Southern Foodways Alliance says the citrusy sweets were likely popularized by Sunkist soon after the orange growers cooperative was founded in 1893. 

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