There are a few things I need in order to make Christmas morning feel exactly like Christmas morning. There’s the smell of my dad’s Christmas church sweater (it’s maroon wool, maybe 20 years old, and he always looks handsome in it). I need a whiff of the perfume my mom sprays on before we go to church on Christmas morning. And I need the smell of something cinnamon-y coming from the oven come early afternoon. Simple, yeah?
This time of year is heavy in its nostalgia and why mess with a good good great thing?
This year for Christmas (aside from all the comforting parental details), I’m excited to partner with King Arthur Flour’s Holiday Table and making their Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls. Oh just the most decadent, comforting, cinnamon smelling, yeast rolls I could find.
Check our King Arthur Flour’s Holiday Table for other very worthwhile Christmas morning adventures, like Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake or these Christmas Scones! Anyway you work a Christmas morning, let something decadent and special come out of the oven.
What I love about these rolls is that you can assemble, roll and slice them the night before and bake them off fresh the next morning! Your family will think you’re a holiday wizard.
Here’s what we’ll need to bring these rolls to LIFE!
First… turn your Christmas tree lights on. It only seems fitting, and it adds good mojo for holiday baking.
Gather your ingredients for the dough:
• Granulated sugar + brown sugar
• Warm milk
• Softened butter
Here’s the beauty of these cinnamon rolls: they’re so much easier that you might think.
We’ll start by dumping (technical baking term) all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Must you use a stand mixer for this recipe? Not necessarily. You can also bring all of the ingredients together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Once the mixture starts to take shape, you can place it on a floured work surface and knead until soft and smooth.
I find that using a stand mixer is faster and helps me incorporate the right amount of flour. I notice when I hand-knead I tend to go heavy on the flour just because this dough is rather soft and can be pretty sticky at the beginning.
King Arthur Organic Unbleached All-Purpose Flour + brown sugar in the bowl.
Add active dry yeast.
Softened butter, too! I cut mine in chunks so it mixes a bit more evenly into the dough.
A good pinch of salt.
Egg and whole milk to top off the dough ingredients.
This is going to be a soft, rich, really luscious dough, and we haven’t even added the cream cheese yet! If you can’t tell, we’re on the track to greatness.
Before turning on the dough hook in the mixer, I mixed the shaggy mixture with a spatula just to give the dough a head start.
After about 8 minutes at low speed, the dough becomes a soft, tacky but not too sticky dough.
Into a greased bowl for resting and rising.
Can I share one of my baker’s tips with you?
I like to sprinkle the top of my dough with a bit of all-purpose flour before I set it off to rise.
As the dough rests and rises, the flour will begin to crackle across the top of the dough, an indication that the dough is on the move.
With patience we’ve let the dough rise to double in size.
Here’s what we’ve got for rolling:
• Softened cream cheese for layering into the dough.
• Softened butter + brown sugar + ground cinnamon for filling or Baker’s Cinnamon Filling!
• Chopped walnuts and pecans
• King Arthur Organic Unbleached All-Purpose Flour for dusting
In a small bowl, mix together the softened butter and brown sugar.
We’re creating a paste to spread over the dough. The combination of butter and brown sugar will be slightly grainy as we stir it together, that’s fine! We’re creating a spread that will evenly distribute delicious filling flavor throughout the rolls.
Add cinnamon. Lots! My absolute favorite is King Arthur Flour Madagascar Cinnamon.
Set aside the paste and it’s time to get our hands in some dough!
Our dough has risen to double. Can you see the fluff? It’s glorious.
We’re going to roll and fold the dough several times, incorporating the softened cream cheese.
On a well-floured counter, roll the dough to 14 x 12 inches. (I legit have a kitchen ruler)
Spread softened cream cheese across the rolled dough.
This will be a generous amount of cream cheese, I set aside about three tablespoons of the cream cheese to add to the icing at the end.
Here’s a helpful trick: To keep the cream cheese filling inside the dough as we fold and roll, fold the bottom and top edges of the corner in 1-inch, creating a sealed envelope we’re roll out again.
The right side of the dough is folded in one-third. The left side of the dough is folded over top of the first fold, creating an envelope of dough.
Roll and fold again.
If you find that some cream cheese is starting to peek out of the dough, lightly flour that spot and keep rolling if you can.
Finally, roll its final time to 12 x 18 inches.
Spread the rolled, cream-cheese-filled dough with our buttery sugar spread.
Sprinkle with chopped nuts. Add raisins or another dried fruit if you’re so inclined!
Roll tightly and adore.
Slice into 8 or 9 equal pieces.
If you’re drooling at this point, that’s totally normal. Part of the process.
Arrange, rather cozy, in a greased baking dish.
The rolls will be lightly covered and rested for another hour. They rise slightly and puff together in the most endearing way.
After 30 minutes in the oven the rolls are golden brown and bubbling. They also smell like heaven exactly.
The remaining cream cheese, powdered sugar, and milk are whisked into a thick but spreadable glaze.
At this point it’s nearly impossible to wait any longer.
I like to glaze slightly warm rolls. I like the way the glaze melts and soaks into the rolls rather than just sitting on top. Glaze warm. Enjoy warm!
These are easily the most decadent cinnamon rolls to ever emerge from my oven. The cream cheese integrates into the dough, creating the most tender and rich rolls. The cream cheese isn’t necessarily something you can taste with every bite of dough, but it adds a tenderness that is unparalleled. Adding a bit of cream cheese to the glaze brings the flavor to the front.
You know we’re onto something wonderful!
Happy Christmas Morning and be sure to check our King Arthur Flour’s Holiday Table for loads more inspiration!
- 3/4 cup lukewarm milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 ¼ teaspoons Red Star Platinum, Active Dry or Quick Rise yeast
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup finely chopped pecans
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened and divided (3 tablespoons set aside for the icing)
- remaining 3 tablespoons of softened cream cheese
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar or glazing sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons milk
- To make the dough, place all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low until the dough begins to come together. You may want to speed up the process by first mixing all of the ingredients together by hand with a spatula before putting the bowl on the stand mixer. This will help the dough hook with its work. The dough will come together into a soft, though not too sticky dough ball after several minutes of hand mixing and stand mixer mixing.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and lightly dust the top of the dough with flour. The flour will help you see that the dough is rising. Let it rise until it's almost double in size, about 2 hours.
- To make the filling: Combine the nuts in one bowl, and the butter, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon in another. Set aside.
- On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 14 x 12 inch rectangle. Spread the softened cream cheese evenly over the surface and fold the bottom and top edges of the dough over 1 inch.
- Fold one short end into the center. Fold the other short end over the first, like you were folding a letter.
- Carefully roll the dough into a 14 x 12 inch rectangle again, being careful not to tear the dough and reveal the cream cheese. Fold it like a letter again.
- Finally, roll the dough into a 12 x 18 inch rectangle. If some cream cheese starts to come through the dough, just flour the dough slightly and keep moving along. Spread the cinnamon filling evenly over the dough, followed by the nuts.
- Beginning with one long edge, roll the dough into a log. Cut the log into 8 or 9 equal slices. Place the slices in a greased 9 inch square or 10 inch square baking pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 hour more. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Bake the rolls for 30 to 35 minutes, until they're golden brown. Remove the rolls from the oven.
- To ice, whisk together the remaining cream cheese and sugar. Add the milk and whisk. Drizzle icing over the warm buns, and enjoy!
- To make the rolls the night before… follow the recipe through slicing the rolls and placing them in the greased baking dish. Instead of leaving them out to rise, cover with plastic and place the rolls in the refrigerator to slowly rise overnight. When you want to bake them the next day, allow them to come to room temperature on the kitchen counter for about 30 minutes, preheat the oven and bake according to the recipe.