A Magical Christmas Morning

I’ve always believed Christmas morning is positively magical. Our tall, fragrant spruce tree – freshly cut in the forest – glows with lights and glistens with cherished ornaments Randy and I have collected since our first Christmas together. A fire crackles in the hearth, snow falls outside our windows, and holiday music plays softly in the background.

Each year, Randy and I spend Christmas at Swan’s Nest – our 1898 historic, Breckenridge, Colorado home. Our Christmas-in-Colorado tradition started when the boys were little. We’d pack luggage, gifts, kids, and dog into the car and drive almost 15 hours nonstop to the family condo. Our quarters were cozy, but we cherished those mountain Christmases.

“A fire crackles in the hearth, snow falls outside our windows, and holiday music plays softly in the background.”

Our first Christmas at Swan’s Nest lasted three hours. We had purchased the house the prior year and were in the midst of restoration that would take more than two years. We were staying in the condo in the meantime, but had set up a tree in Swan’s Nest’s living room, and packed gifts, Christmas breakfast, and blankets for the 20-minute drive to the house. There was no heat or running water, and it was minus 17 degrees outside, so we had hung sheets of plastic to form a cocoon of sorts, and fired up four electric heaters connected by extension cords to the garage. No one removed their coats, hats, or gloves for the celebration. We feasted on homemade panettone and sipped mugs of hot cocoa and coffee, while opening gifts and doing our best to stay warm.

These days, Christmas morning is a more comfortable celebration. A breakfast of eggs, grits, and bacon or ham keeps us fortified after leisurely opening our stockings and the first round of gifts. But, we still begin with a sweet, homemade bread, and mugs of hot cocoa and coffee by the hearth. This year, I’ve created a recipe for super-soft cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting that ‘s sure to become our new Christmas morning tradition.

Merry Christmas and warmest wishes.

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

Sweet Dough Ingredients:
1 ½ cups milk
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
5 cups bread flour
2 packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium saucepan, heat milk and butter over medium heat until warm, about 115 degrees. Remove it from the heat and set it aside. In a large mixing bowl, stir together 2 cups of the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Pour in warm milk mixture and beat 2 minutes at medium speed with an electric mixer.

Add eggs and vanilla and beat 2 minutes more.

Stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and springs back when pushed with a finger. Transfer it to a greased bowl, turning the dough over once to grease its surface.

Cover with a towel and set it aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. (I heat the oven for one minute just until it is warm, turn it off, and place the dough in the oven to rise.)

Filling Ingredients:
¾ cup unsalted butter, very soft
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 ½ tablespoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon butter, to grease baking sheet

Remove the dough from the oven when it has doubled, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Punch down the dough with a fist, transfer it to a floured surface, and knead 1 minute until smooth.

Roll it out on a floured pastry cloth to form a ½ -inch thick 11” x 14” rectangle.

In a medium bowl, stir together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice until it is well blended.

Sprinkle the mixture over the dough and spread it evenly to the edges with an offset spatula. Tightly roll the long edge of the dough to form a 14-inch long spiral, using the pastry cloth to assist. Use fingers to seal the roll along the bottom and ends.

Grease a 17” x 11” x 1” baking half sheet with butter. Slice dough into 1 ½-inch thick slices with a serrated knife and place them on the baking sheet. Cover with a towel and set aside in a warm place to rise, about 45 minutes.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 15 to 20 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool 15 minutes. Mix frosting and spread it on rolls while they are still warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Frosting Ingredients:
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
dash of salt
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium bowl, beat butter, cream cheese and salt together with an electric mixer until well mixed. Add milk and vanilla, and beat until smooth.

Yield: 15 large cinnamon rolls

Christy Rost

Public television chef Christy Rost is the author of three cookbooks and a longtime resident of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. For additional recipes and entertaining tips, please visit christyrost.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @ChristyRost.

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