This is a photo from Let’s Stay In showing a brunch menu where the cinnamon rolls (recipe below) are featured prominently. The other dishes are a frittata with castelvetrano olives, a breakfast salad with strawberries, fennel and a sweet buttermilk dressing, and oranges in spiced syrup.
It’s different now that our kids have gotten older. The holidays used to delight them with simple pleasures like driving around looking at Christmas lights, a trip to the local nursery to see the camel and reindeer they bring in for the season, and adorning our tree with ornaments that hang like memories on the fragrant pine boughs. This year they have activities that pull them in other directions. They drag their feet and moan when I pull them into the snowy woods to find a less than picture perfect Christmas tree and roll their eyes to the point of near injury when I beg for a family photo to mark the occasion.
As much as I love this season I can’t help but fight off a bit of fretting and comparison. I see gleeful photos of others’ traditions and worry that I should be doing more. No matter their age I want this season to be full of magic, joy, and meaning. For myself I take deep comfort in the sacredness of this season, a foundation of my own faith established in the hope of the birth of a baby. I see the earth reflecting the same message of hope as the darkness of these days turns on solstice, reminding us that no matter the darkness the light always returns. Am I doing enough to show my kids the light? Especially during these days that seem to heap more and more darkness on us.
“What do you love most about this time of year?” I asked Baron. His response was a simple one. Time with family; to see his grandparents who spend a good part of the year away from the rain of the northwest, and his cousins who, particularly during the pandemic, have become his best friends. And Ivy’s response was similarly simple. The smell of cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, grandma’s sticky buns, and my mom’s cinnamon rolls on Christmas Eve. We have a thing for Cinnamon rolls in this family.
Like so many moments in parenting, I set out to be their guide and they end up being mine. The grand gestures and the picture perfect moments are so often not the ones that end up in the mental album of our memories. It’s the little moments, the dependable traditions, and quite often it's the ones I don’t think twice about. Like getting up before everyone else to take the rising rolls out of the oven so they are perfectly timed to be warm and just ever so slightly gooey in the middle when the first present is opened. And just being together, a gift I used to take for granted.
Happy holidays to you all. I hope your season is filled with simple moments of joy, light, and delicious bites.
Salted Cinnamon Rolls with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
From Let’s Stay In
Makes 12 large muffin size
2 pounds white bread dough (half of the recipe below)
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
6 ounces golden raisins
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar (feel free to add more if you like a bit more sweetness, I prefer mine with a notable tang)
Grease a large muffin tin with butter or pan spray. Preheat your oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Set a large baking tray on the rack below to catch any buttery drippings that may happen during the baking.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a rough 10 by 14 inch rectangle. In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt. Pour in the melted butter then stir to combine. Spread this mixture all over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle on the golden raisins.
Roll up the dough then cut the log in half then each halves in half. Cut each quarter into three equal pieces for a total of 12 equal portions.
Fill the muffin tin then cover loosely with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap. Set aside for 30 minutes or until the rolls are doubled in size.
Sprinkle the tops with flake salt then bake for 30 minutes or until golden on top and baked through.
Carefully take the rolls out of the muffin tin while they are still warm as they tend to stick once cooled.
To make the frosting beat together the cream cheese and butter until well mixed. Add the powdered sugar then beat until light and fluffy.
Frost the cinnamon rolls once cool or serve the rolls warm with the cream cheese frosting on the side.
NOTE: These can be baked in a 10 inch round cake pan or springform pan if you prefer. If you prefer to get ahead on your morning prep, make the rolls completely then cover the pan and refrigerate overnight. Warm in a proofing drawer or turn on your oven for 5 minutes then turn off and let the rolls rest in the warm oven until they slowly spring back when gently pressed, about an hour. Follow the baking instructions as written.
Classic White Bread
The recipe written below makes twice as much dough as what you need for the cinnamon rolls but I’ve left it written because you are going to want the other half. Either bake it up as a loaf or roll it into dinner rolls to bring along with you to another gathering. You won’t regret it.
Make 2 loaves
7 cups / 1000g all purpose flour
2 tablespoons / 26g yeast
1/2 cup / 100g sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons salt / 24g salt
2 1/2 cups / 600g warm water
1 stick / 115g butter, melted
Add the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, or a large bowl if you are mixing by hand. Mix to combine.
While the machine is on low add the water. Once nearly combined, stream in the melted butter. Knead for five minutes or until a smooth dough has formed.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean towel. Let rise until doubled, about 45 to 60 minutes.
For loaves, divide the dough in half. Tuck in the edges to form a rough rounded oval the size of your loaf pan. Grease the pans then gently lay in the dough. Cover again and let rise until doubled, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until golden on top and sounds hollow when gently tapped.
My mom always finished her warm bread by slathering the top with butter and I suggest you do the same.