My perfect Christmas morning involves freshly baked cinnamon buns. I can’t imagine that there’s anyone in my house who wouldn’t want to stumble down the stairs in the morning to be greeted by the scent of cinnamon and caramelized sugar mixed with aroma of fresh baked bread.
The reality though, is that in order for these hot, fresh-from-oven, homemade breakfast buns to make it to the table before noon, I would need to wake up so early I just might run into Santa Claus himself. That doesn’t really work for anyone, especially me, as I’m also in charge of cooking Christmas dinner for 21 people later in the day.
Luckily, I’ve figured out a way to have both the breakfast of my dreams and the sleep I crave: I make my cinnamon rolls ahead of time. As in, I already have some stashed in my freezer now for the big day.
I’ve got three methods for making these in advance and you can choose whichever one might work best for you: You can prepare the rolls the night before and let them rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight, you can make them now and freeze them unbaked, or you can make them, par-bake them now, and then freeze them until Christmas morning.
If you’re looking for a variation on the traditional cinnamon roll, a few years ago we shared this holiday-inspired cranberry and clementine version, which is just as delicious, and also works well when made ahead of time.
Tell us, what is your favourite breakfast to serve on Christmas morning? Do you have a tradition, or do you just wing it each year?
Make-Ahead Sticky Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day
Makes 18 large rolls
For the dough:
- 1 ¾ cups lukewarm water
- 1 ½ Tbsp granulated yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup butter, melted
- 3 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 3 ½ cups bread flour
For the caramel goo:
- ¾ cup butter, melted
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- Optional: 1 cup pecan halves
For the cinnamon filling:
- ½ cup butter, softened
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
Prep and Cook:
- Combine the water, yeast, salt, eggs, honey, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add in the flours and mix with the dough hook attachment just until the flours are well incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough doubles in volume, about 2 hours.
- Remove the plastic from the bowl and flour your hands. Lightly dust a work surface with additional flour and, using your floured hands dump the dough onto the counter. You want to make sure your hands are well covered in flour because the dough will appear quite soft and sticky at this point. Knead it once or twice in the flour and it should appear soft and supple, and slightly elastic. Divide the dough into two even pieces and allow to rest.
- Make the caramel goo by stirring together the melted butter, brown sugar, and salt. If you’re making the buns ahead, butter or grease the sides of two 9-inch pie plates or cake pans generously (don’t worry about the bottom). Divide the mixture evenly between the two pans. Scatter the pecans over top, if using, and set aside.
- Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and with a rolling pin, roll out the dough to an 18-inch x 10-inch rectangle.
- Cream together the softened butter, sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg, and divide it into two equal portions. Smear one half over the rolled out dough. Starting with the long side closest to you, roll the dough up tightly into a log. Using a very sharp knife cut the log into 9 equal pieces (it’s easiest to do this by cutting the log into thirds and then cutting each piece into thirds again) and arrange them over the caramel goo in the pans, with the swirled sides facing upward.
- Repeat with the second piece of dough and remaining filling. If baking immediately, cover loosely and allow to rise for 40 minutes. If not, cover tightly with a double layer of plastic wrap and transfer to the freezer.
- If baking immediately, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake rolls for 35-40 minutes or until dough is golden brown and well set in the centre. They will be very large and may rise well above the sides of the pan, but that’s okay. While still hot, run a knife around the inside of the pan to release the caramel rolls, and invert onto a serving plate. If you let them sit too long, they will stick to the pan.
- If freezing the rolls, remove them from the freezer the night before you want to serve them, remove the plastic wrap and cover with a tea towel lightly dusted with flour. Allow the rolls to thaw at room temperature overnight and bake as per the instructions the following morning. Alternatively, allow the rolls to rise as instructed in step 6, then par-bake the rolls for 15 minutes, remove them from the oven and allow to cool completely. One cooled, wrap in a double layer of plastic wrap and tuck in the freezer until needed. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake for the remaining amount of time the next morning. Lastly, you can prepare the rolls up to step 6, cover them with plastic wrap and allow them to rise in the fridge overnight. Then pop them in the oven in the morning and bake as per the directions.
Good to know: If you’re baking the buns immediately, you don’t need to butter the sides of the pan as there is enough butter in the dough to prevent sticking.