Monday, December 26, 2011

The BEST Cinnamon Rolls and Other Holiday Baking

One of the best parts of the holidays is enjoying lots of treats guilt-free!  It's all part of the festivities, right?!  As a result, I have a few new tried and true recipes to share :)

I have to just go ahead and say, a photographer, I am not.  I can't take good pictures even when I try, but I didn't even try with these.  I just snapped quick pics in the midst of the baking frenzy so just imagine how good they actually look in real life because, trust me, all of these treats not only look better in-person, but they taste phenomenal!

Winner, winner chicken dinner!  I would have to say these are the best cookies I've had recently (although, there are several close runner ups ;) ); substantial, chewy, and the oatmeal-peanut butter-chocolate combo is beyond yummy!  And an added bonus, using red and green M&Ms make them festive for Christmas, but using any other color can make them festive any time of year!  You MUST try these!  

A great snowball cookie!  Some recipes completely pulverize the nuts, but I liked that this recipe calls for bigger pieces of pecans.  This cookie is nice and buttery!


I made these for Hanukkah as we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in my family.  These turned out wonderfully!  If you've never had Rugelach it's kind of more of a pastry than a cookie, I'd say.  It has a nice buttery, flaky dough which can be filled with any number of things: fruit, chocolate, nuts, or even poppy seed paste!  I like to make mine with apricot preserves and walnuts or pecans.  I follow this recipe for the dough, but when it's time for the filling I just spread on some apricot preserves and finely chopped nuts.

Not pictured, but definitely worthy enough to note: Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie

And now, onto THE cinnamon rolls! 

Cinnamon Roll-y Goodness

I adapted these cinnamon rolls from the famous Clone of a Cinnabon recipe found on  It's one of the most highly rated recipes on their site and has 5 stars out of a possible 5 based on more than 4500 reviews!  That HAS to be a great recipe, right?  Right!  This is my second time making these and they are gooOOOD!  I adapted the recipe to make  the dough without the bread machine the original instructions call for and I made my own frosting this time, which I prefer to that provided as part of the recipe.  I like to bake off half and freeze the other 6 rolls to make later.  My adapted recipe is below.

The BEST Cinnamon Rolls 

Yield: 12 rolls


1 cup warm milk (approximately 100 degrees F)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 - 4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar, divided
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted


1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened


4-ounces (1/2 block) cream cheese
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon milk


Add yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar to warm milk.  Stir and set aside to allow yeast to bloom (this will take approximately 5 minutes).

Meanwhile, to the bowl of a mixer (or just a large bowl if you're making the dough completely by hand) add 4 cups of flour, salt, a scant 1/2 cup of white sugar, eggs, and butter.  Once the yeast has activated, add the milk/yeast/sugar mixture to the mixer bowl.  On low-to-medium speed allow ingredients to combine (add additional flour, a few tablespoons at a time, up to an additional 1/2 cup as needed) and then continue allowing dough to knead for about 8 minutes.

Once dough is finished kneading, remove bowl from mixer, cover with a towel, and set aside to rise.  Tip: I like to allow my doughs to rise in the oven with the light on.  It provides just enough warmth to help aid the rising process.  Allow dough to rise until doubled in size (1- 1 1/2 hours).  Tip: check the dough to see if it has risen enough by pressing 2 of your fingers 1/2-inch into the center.  If the indentations remain after you remove your fingers the dough has doubled in size and is ready for the next step.  If they disappear, the dough needs more time to rise.

Once the dough has doubled in size, turn dough out on lightly floured surface and cover with a towel.  Allow dough to rest 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine brown sugar and cinnamon for filling.

Roll dough into a 16 x 21-inch rectangle.  Spread dough with melted butter (I like to use my hands for this) then sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture leaving a 1-inch strip on one of the long sides bare.

Roll the dough tightly going towards the side with the uncovered 1-inch strip.

Once rolled, gently squeeze the log to make it even.  Pinch seam closed (this is why you leave the 1-inch strip uncovered, so it seals well!).

If you have ends that are uneven or aren't well formed cut a bit of the extra dough off so that the log is even. Gently cut log into 12 cinnamon rolls using a serrated knife or unflavored dental floss. 

Place rolls into lightly greased baking pan (I use 2 8-inch rounds since I only bake off 6 rolls at a time, you can also bake all 12 in a 9 x 13-inch pan).

At this point you can do a few different things:

     -If baking immediately: cover and let rise until nearly doubled (approximately 30 minutes).
     -If baking the next day: cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.  When you are ready to bake, remove from the fridge 30 minutes - 1 hour before baking to take the chill off.  Then, bake as usual!
     -If freezing for future use: cover well with foil or combo of foil and plastic wrap and place in freezer.  When you are ready to bake take them out the night before and let them sit on the counter to defrost and rise.  Then bake as usual!

To bake:  Bake at 350-degrees for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.  Tip:  to check doneness of yeast bread tap the top.  If it sounds hollow the bread is done!  Cover with foil if the rolls seem to be getting too brown, too quickly. 

For frosting:  combine all ingredients and mix until smooth.  Frosting can be made while rolls are baking, or it can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.

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