I love cinnamon rolls about as much as anything. My mother used to make them from the Pillsbury can & they were childhood gold. Most especially the center roll. This is the sort of recipe where editing the photos is painful because I start to crave them terribly all over again. They’re fluffy, soft, gooey, and perfect. And they’re easy. You can make them & cut them the night before Christmas, let them rise in the fridge over night, set them out about an hour before you want to bake them, and then pop them in the oven for warm, homemade cinnamon buns on Christmas morning. I recommend doing that. You should probably do that.
My dear friend Tiffany (of the killer blog Offbeat + Inspired) drove down and hung out with me the day I was making these and tons of the process shots below are her gorgeous photography, not mine. It was a beautiful day. We baked; we got coffee; we took photos, and I played dress up (for an upcoming winter worn post.) And I laughed. A lot. I mean…more than I can remember laughing with anyone in ages. It was beautiful delirium.
Friendship is bizarre. It’s still relatively new to me & it confounds me at times. People are so vastly different. We all tend to judge one another by, as my grandmother used to say, our “own half bushel”. Which is to say we just go around assuming everyone is like us. That’s a particularly bad idea when you’re as eccentric and arguably, at times, troubled as I am.
I have my darklings. I have my doubts. I have my grey, grey, grey. My fog. My black humor. My contradictions. And having a friend like Tiffany sit across from me and simply say “You’re doing the best you can given where you’re at & what you have” took so much weight off my shoulders. Sometimes I forget that I’m a bipolar addict that was just kind of thrown by grace into this brave, new world of friendship, sobriety, and good work. I get frustrated by my raucous energy, frustrated by my bland lethargy. Frustrated by the unpredictable swings.
And most especially frustrated when I fall back into the same old patterns in different colors. And the same old unwillingness to change. People like me guard our vices whether it’s chocolate, work, or dope. I can’t even think straight if I feel like someone wants to pry it—whatever “it” may be—out of my hands. It’s a lousy way to be, but sometimes it seems like the least I can do is to acknowledge my unwillingness, my powerlessness. That feels like the first feeble step towards change.
I’ve been blessed, it would seem, with an above average number of short comings. And I say that with no irony. I have lived wild stories because of my flaws. I don’t readily judge others because of my flaws. And I have had to seek conscious contact with a higher power because of my flaws. They have driven me to darkness; they have driven me to light. When you’re intimately acquainted with your own brokenness, you become intimately acquainted with healing. You get to know yourself in untold ways. You look strange creatures in the eye and lick your own blood off their fangs. There’s something fundamentally intimate about it all.
So thank you, Tiffany. Thank you for being my friend. And for being so, so funny. And for not flipping my dining room table over every time I said something mushy to you. Even though I know you wanted to! #ImRuiningIt!
And to all my other dear friends that have walked through the past couple years of awesome and weird and dumb with me…I love you guys. And to those of you that read this stuff & suspend judgment and maybe, maybe relate & don’t say things like “Ermahgerd like why would she post cinnamon buns for Christmas and mention bloody fangs in the same breath?!”… I love you too. Merry Christmas.
Soft Brown Butter & Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls
- 4 cups (500 g) flour, plus 1/4 cup for rolling out
- 1 1/4 cup (300 grams) eggnog, warm
- 1 packet (1/4 oz, 2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) creme fraiche
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp smoked salt (or regular kosher salt)
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted, browned, and warm
- 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon (can increase to taste or omit)
- 8 oz creme fraiche
- 1 tablespoon good whiskey (optional)
- beans from one vanilla bean
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tablespoon eggnog
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Warm the eggnog gently in a small pot until about the temperature of bathwater. Remove from heat and stir in the yeast. Allow to proof for five to ten minutes. It should be bubbly.
- While the yeast proofs melt & brown the butter. In a stainless steel skillet (I prefer these for browning butter because you can clearly see as it starts to brown), melt one stick of butter (113 grams) over medium heat, swirling the pan often. The butter will bubble, foam, and then brown. This should take about 5-10 minutes. Remember to swirl often. As soon as the butter is golden & smells toasty, pour it into a heat proof bowl. I pop this in the fridge for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, to take the heat off before adding it to my dough. It should be warm when you add it but not hot.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the yeast & eggnog mixture, the eggs, creme fraiche, sugar, nutmeg, vanilla, brown butter, and salt. Stir to combine well.
- Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. I add about half, work it in, then add the other half. Stir pretty vigorously for about a minute or two. Or until you tire out, which is what I do. Make sure there are no dry bits left. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a lightly floured kitchen towel. Leave in a warm place to proof until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. I proof mine in my oven. I turn it on for about 30 second to a minute to warm up, then turn it off, put the dough in, and let it sit.
- After the dough has risen, sprinkle the additional 1/4 cup of flour onto a clean work surface. Turn the dough out and gently knead just enough of the flour in to get a workable dough. Pat it out into a rectangle about 9" x 12" with the narrow end facing away from you.
- In a bowl combine the dark brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon (if using, I leave the cinnamon out because I want my rolls to taste like pure eggnog & I think cinnamon dominates...they're excellent both ways!).
- Smear the butter all over the surface of your rectangle, leaving about a 1" boarder. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture evenly over the butter. Gently & mindfully roll the dough from right to left (or left to right...), and use your hands to shape it into a nice log if it gets a bit wonky. This is a soft dough.
- Using your finger pinch the dough to seal it well. Squish the dough into a nice log before proceeding.
- Using dental floss or fishing wire (I am serious here, don't use a knife...) cut the log into ten 1" or so rolls. Place them in two pie plates or into a 9" x 13" baking dish. Reshape rolls as needed after cutting as you place them.
- Cover loosely with plastic or a lightly floured kitchen towel. Allow to rise for about 45 minutes - 1 hour. At this point you can also cover them and place them in the fridge over night, up to about 16 hours. Bring them to room temperature before proceeding if you do.
- Halfway through the second rise, heat your oven to 350° F. When they are done rising, place them in the oven on the center rack and bake 20-25 minutes until golden (but not too dark!) and cooked through. Mine took about 22-23 minutes.
- Allow to cool fully before frosting. While they do said cooling...make your frosting!
- In a medium bowl whisk the creme fraiche together with the sifted powdered sugar, nutmeg, vanilla beans, whiskey, and eggnog. Feel free to leave the whiskey out, but it's a fun touch.
- Pour the icing generously over your cool rolls. Enjoy, messily. With either more eggnog or a cold glass of milk....best if on Christmas morning!