Amanda and I promise the new year will bring fresh and healthy recipes, but late December is when the sweet treat rules the day. With just a short time before Christmas Day, families are gathering to decorate the tree, gorgeous light displays illuminate the neighborhoods and there is a feeling of joy in the air. Like Thanksgiving, every family has its own traditions to make the holiday season extra special and mine is no different. For me, the Christmas season is when “tradition” truly makes an appearance, whether I decorate the house with my nutcracker collection, my mother *ahem* I mean Santa gifting me a new Holiday Barbie ornament to add to my growing collection, or blasting Christmas music throughout the house subjecting all inhabitants to my singing along.No tradition in my family though, is more iconic or more anticipated than the annual Christmas morning cinnamon rolls.
As we would excitedly rip through our bursting stockings each Christmas morning I remember the smell of those cinnamon rolls cooking and waiting for the timer to signal their completion; they are a once a year treat. Now, in our family, the canned cinnamon rolls are our tradition and certainly do not disappoint. However, that would not make for a very interesting post, for one, and I’m an adult now and ready to make my own way in traditional recipes. So, while I did not want to just copycat the original, I did want to share this gingerbready spin on our classic with the Distance Dishes family and I’m sure they will be appearing on our Christmas morning menu for years to come. They are more work than the canned option, but they can be made in advance and freeze extremely well. We recently celebrated an early Christmas since my family is spread across the county and these were served. They did not disappoint.
- 4 large egg yolks at room temperature
- 1 large whole egg at room temperature
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 6 tbsp melted butter
- 3/4 cup milk
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (may need up to 1/2 cup more)
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 1/4 tsp dry yeast
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
- 1/2 tsp star anise, ground
- Cooking spray or vegetable oil
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1/2 sp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp melted butter for brushing
- 1/3 cup cream cheese
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp milk
- Whisk together the egg yolks, whole eggs, molasses, sugar and milk.
- Transfer this mixture to a stand mixer with a dough hook and add flour, yeast, salt, yeast (not over the salt), butter, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and star anise. Mix on low to combine for 1-2 minutes.
- Turn the mixer speed to medium and allow to knead for about 5-6 minutes until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be fairly wet but not sticky; add more flour if necessary and knead until this consistency.
- Transfer dough to a large buttered or greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow dough to sit and rise for 2.5 hours.
- While you are waiting for your dough to rise, mix together the cinnamon filling by stirring together the brown sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside until ready to roll out the dough.
- Once the dough has risen and rested, transfer to a large piece of greased parchment paper on a flat surface. Shape the dough into a general rectangle shape and roll out with a rolling-pin (or you can get creative with a wine bottle-life hack!). to a rectangle about 18″ by 14″.
- Brush the rectangle with the 4 tbsp of the melted butter leaving about 1″ strip at the top unbuttered. Distribute the sugar mixture over the buttered portion of the dough evenly.
- Starting opposite the unbuttered end, and using the parchment paper to assist, roll the cinnamon roll into a tight cylinder. Pinch the seams closed along the cylinder for a secure roll and turn to seam side down.
- Using a serrated knife, cut the cylinder into 12 identical slices, about 1.5″ thickness.
- Butter either 9″ by 13″ baking dish or two 8″ round baking dishes and place in the cinnamon rolls, cut side down, so that they are each just barely touching.
- Place in the fridge to rest overnight or about 6-18 hours if you’re timing it.*
- The next morning, place the rolls into a cool oven with a pan of boiling water to create steam and allow for one last rise for 30 minutes.
- Then, remove both the water and the rolls while you pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake the cinnamon rolls for 30 minutes, and while they are baking make the icing (can also be made ahead of time).
- Using a mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer, mix together the cream cheese, milk and powdered sugar until combined. Set aside or refrigerate until rolls are baked.
- Once the rolls are out of the oven, spread the icing evenly over the rolls and serve warm. Enjoy!
*If you’re looking to make these ahead of time, this is an excellent time to freeze. Tightly wrap the dish and freeze until ready (will keep for about 6 weeks). Once ready, thaw overnight in a cool oven and then resume the steps above starting with adding the pan with boiling water to the oven for 30 minutes. I would not recommend freezing the icing though, but it is fairly easy to assemble.
Wine Pairing: Since we typically have this for breakfast, I’d recommend your mimosa of choice to go with this one! Enjoy!