I have your Christmas morning breakfast covered!
This is the last baked good I will share for a long while. Promise. My site has been flooded with all sweet baked treats lately, and just know that some lighter, more normal, “everyday” food is coming soon. Our jeans are already thanking me!
In the meantime, we feast on cinnamon rolls! Because there is no better time than now for cinnamon rolls!
Cinnamon rolls filled with a glorious combo of butter, sugar, spices, candied ginger, and dried cranberries.
Cinnamon rolls cut and formed into a Christmas wreath shape to keep things festive AF.
Cinnamon rolls heavily doused in a bourbon vanilla bean cream cheese glaze that makes my heart sing.
Yeah, all of that is happening here today. And I’m not mad about it.
Cinnamon rolls are a bit of a tradition on Christmas morning. Or at least they have been since Dan and I got married. Growing up, my mom would always serve a fresh cranberry-nut bread (to die for!) and clementines for Christmas morning breakfast. When we were old enough, we had mimosas alongside our coffee mugs. She always kept it simple, and it was perfect.
Me being my somewhat overachiever self had to flip that on its head when I started my own Christmas morning traditions. Enter the cinnamon roll.
Cinnamon rolls are actually NOT hard to make, and the ingredients are probably things that you already have on hand. They just take some rising time, which is not ideal on Christmas morning (keep reading – I’ve got this covered). Overall, though, if you haven’t made them before, they’re probably easier than you think.
To avoid too much effort on Christmas morning (because, let’s face it, we’re all about the coffee, PJs, and presents at my house), I make my dough the night before and pop it in the fridge. I also make the filling (saving the melted butter for the morning), so everything comes together quickly and easily on the big day. It has worked like a charm for several years now, and I don’t see the tradition changing anytime soon.
One thing that DOES change every year are the types or flavors of cinnamon rolls I make. Last year, I made these chocolate peanut butter rolls (a house favorite). The year before that, I did just basic cinnamon with cream cheese frosting. It really depends on my mood, and if anyone is going to be at our house on Christmas morning (besides us, of course).
And this year, we’re taking that basic cinnamon rolls idea and adding in some spicy ginger and dried cranberries. Oh, and let’s not forget the bourbon in the glaze. Because that stuff is drinkable (both the bourbon and the glaze!).
The flavors and textures of these cinnamon rolls are fantastic. So, so good. I love the spiciness that ginger adds and the dried cranberries get plump and soft but still have a wonderful chew. All of this is surrounded in a blanket of spiced sugar butter (um, yes please) and the fluffiest damn cinnamon roll dough of all time.
I decided to make these festive by forming them into a wreath shape and serving them like one big pastry, but you can definitely cut these up and bake them like regular cinnamon rolls, if that’s your preference! I guarantee you will love them either way. The wreath method if not only a super fun and pretty way to serve these rolls, but it also makes for a fun eating experience. It’s kind of like a cinnamon roll pull-apart bread! You grab a hunk of warm cinnamon roll off the wreath and dunk it in the bowl of leftover glaze and GO TO TOWN.
Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.
2 cups whole milk
½ cup canola oil
½ cup sugar
1 package of active-dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons)
4½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons fine salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup candied ginger, finely chopped
½ cup dried cranberries
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional – you can sub with milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
3-4 cups powdered sugar
Pinch of fine salt
Whisk together the milk, canola oil, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat and whisk until well combined (you want the sugar to dissolve).
Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let it sit for 1 minute.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, add 4 cups of the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Whisk to combine.
With the dough hook attachment, start the machine and slowly pour in the yeast mixture until it is just combined. Mix in the last ½ cup of flour and the salt and mix until incorporated.
Cover the bowl with a towel and place in a warm place for an hour.
At this point, you can either roll out the dough/form the rolls and use it immediately or store it in the fridge, well covered, for a couple days.
Roll the dough out into a large rectangle on a well-floured surface until it is about ¼-inch thick.
Pour the melted butter evenly over the rolled out dough. Evenly sprinkle the butter with the sugars, cinnamon, ground ginger, candied ginger, and dried cranberries, leaving a ½-inch border along the edges.
Carefully and gently start rolling the dough lengthwise, forming a tight roll.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
At this point, you can either slice the rolls into 2-inch pieces and bake them as regular sweet rolls (see this recipe for the basic method), OR you can form the dough into a decorative wreath.
For the wreath method, place your dough log on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Slice your formed dough log into 1-inch pieces WITHOUT cutting all the way through. You want the dough to still be connected at the bottom.
Gently turn the first cinnamon roll onto its side so that it is flat against the baking sheet. Turn the next one so that it overlaps the first roll slightly. Continue turning and overlapping all the rolls, gradually forming them into a round wreath shape.
Tuck the last cinnamon roll under the first and adjust your shape to form a circle/wreath.
Place a ramekin or small heat-proof bowl in the center of the wreath and cover the baking sheet with a towel. Allow the dough to rest for 20-30 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.
Remove the towel and then transfer the baking sheet to the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and puffed.
Remove from the oven, remove the ramekin, and glaze.
While the wreath is baking, make the glaze by whisking together the cream cheese, bourbon (or milk), and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Gradually add in the powdered sugar, mixing well. If the glaze is too thick, add a splash of milk until you get a drizzling consistency. Add a pinch of fine salt, to taste, and whisk well to combine (I add salt here because I think it somewhat balances the intense sweetness of glazes/frostings like this).
Carefully transfer the warm cinnamon roll wreath to a serving platter or plate (I love to use a large cutting board for this).
Drizzle some of the glaze over the wreath. Serve any leftover glaze in a small bowl placed in the center of the wreath.
This is best enjoyed warm but is delicious at room temperature as well!