Hearty Brown Bread

One of my all-time favorite breads is this honey whole wheat bread made with whole wheat flour from our local mill. It is slightly sweet and has the beautiful flavor or freshly milled whole wheat. Another favorite bread that we can’t get enough of is from the Cheesecake Factory. Their brown bread is another favorite, especially of my kids. This hearty brown bread recipe is a combination of these two breads. It is made with half whole wheat flour making it hearty but is sweetened with honey and molasses. This gives it the sweetness of the Cheesecake Factory bread. In short: this bread is fantastic. My kids gobbled up both loaves as soon as they were out of the oven and they’ve been asking for more ever since.

Jump to Hearty Brown Bread Recipe

Whole Wheat Flour

Hearty brown bread starts off with a combination of all purpose and whole wheat flour. Not all whole wheat is created equal. If you want a real rundown and the nitty gritty behind the different flours available, check out this post. The short version: I like to use a hard white wheat flour. I buy my flour from our local Weisenberger Mill and it is freshly milled and delicious.  You can also grind your own wheat. I used to do that for years but have had trouble finding affordable hard wheat berries in Kentucky, so I transitioned to buying from the mill. If you don’t have access to wheat berries or a mill check your local grocery store. This King Arthur Flour’s white whole wheat flour is a good bet.

Vital Wheat Gluten

One of the properties of whole wheat flour is it doesn’t rise quite as much as traditional white flour. The rise is impeded a bit by the bran flakes in the wheat which “cut up” the dough and stop it from rising as well. Insert: vital wheat gluten. Vital wheat gluten ups the protein content in wheat which increases the strands that trap the gas bubbles, resulting in a better rise. I love using vital wheat gluten in all of my whole wheat breads. I buy it in bulk from Amazon, here. It improves the spring, rise and tenderness of whole wheat bread, and adding about a teaspoon for every cup of whole wheat flour does wonders in my baking. With all that said, if you don’t have vital wheat gluten you can leave it out. You may not have as much rise, but it will still taste delicious. I would also substitute bread flour for the all purpose flour in this recipe if I wasn’t going to use the vital wheat gluten.

A Trick for Viscous Liquids

One of the things I’ve learned over the years of baking with particularly viscous liquids like honey and molasses is to spray the measuring cup with a little bit of cooking oil. You can also pour whatever oil is needed for the recipe into a measuring cup first and add it to the bowl before adding the honey or molasses to the same measuring cup. This helps the honey or molasses slide right out of the measuring cup. You may still need to use a spatula or stick your finger in there to get it all the way out. In this recipe I spray a liquid measuring cup with cooking spray and then fill it up with ½ cup honey and then add the ¼ cup molasses right on top of the honey and pour it in the mixer. It makes a world of difference!

Hearty Brown Bread Dough

The dough for this brown bread comes together in a stand mixer really quickly. You know when to stop adding flour if you pinch off a piece of dough, roll it into a ball in your fingers and there is just a little bit of sticky residue left. As you knead the dough, the flour will become more hydrated as you go. You may need to add a little bit of flour at a time (a Tablespoon or two as you go) to make sure the consistency is tacky and not sticky. 

Free-Form Loaf Shaping

I like to shape this bread into two free-form loaves. I pull the sides up to the center of the dough and form it into a ball giving it tension and shape. After the dough rises for a second time, take a bit of water and brush it over the top of the dough. Keep in mind, because we are using whole wheat flour, you won’t see as big of a rise. Sprinkle on some oats and then pop in the oven for some delicious hearty brown bread. You could also shape this bread into rolls if you wanted a smaller, hand-held, version.

Sweet and Hearty Brown Bread

This hearty brown bread has a beautiful sweet flavor but also the richness of the whole wheat flour and cocoa powder. It is really one of our favorite breads to make and eat. Sweet and hearty, this bread is sure to be one of your family favorites too!

Hearty Brown Bread

Sweet and hearty, this brown bread is tender and delicious. It is made with whole wheat flour, honey and molasses and is the perfect bread to sop up some soup or eat with a schmear of butter. Yum!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Rise Time 3 hrs
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Servings 2 loaves

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups warm water the temperature of baby's bathwater
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup molasses not blackstrap
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2.5 cups whole wheat flour hard white wheat is my favorite
  • 1.5 Tablespoons vital wheat gluten leave this out if you are using bread flour
  • 2.5 – 3 cups all purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1 Tablespoon quick cooking oats reserved for topping

Instructions
 

  • To a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook add warm water and instant yeast.
  • Spray a liquid measuring cup with cooking spray and add 1/2 cup honey and 1/4 cup molasses to the measuring cup.
  • Pour the honey/molasses into the yeast mixture. Add the cocoa powder and salt.
  • With the dough hook running, add the whole wheat flour and vital wheat gluten. Add the two cups of the all purpose flour and continue adding flour a little bit at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is tacky (not super sticky). You should be able to pinch off a piece of dough, roll it up into a ball and have very little sticky residue on your fingers. Check out this post for how to tell when to stop adding flour.
  • Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes, adding extra flour as needed, a Tablespoon or two at a time.
  • Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap to rise. Let rise for 1-2 hours until just about doubled in size (it may not rise quite as much due to the whole wheat flour).
  • Punch down the dough and separate into two sections. Shape into a rustic circular loaf by turning the edges of the dough under until it forms a smooth, tight loaf. Repeat with the second section of dough.
  • Place loaves on a lined baking sheet and cover to rise. Let rise about an hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Using a pastry brush, brush the loaves with a little bit of water. Top lightly with the quick-cook oats. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until done. Let cool (if you can) and enjoy!

Notes

This dough can also be shaped into two traditional sandwich loaves and baked in 1 pound bread tins, my favorite linked here (affiliate link). 
 
Keyword brown bread, hearty bread

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Fondue Two Ways: Classic Swiss and Rich Chocolate

We were babies!

Many years ago (almost fifteen if I’m being exact), I ate my most memorable fondue dinner. My husband and I were honeymooning in Europe. We had a small wedding and spent the money we would have spent on a fancy party traveling around Europe for five weeks. This was definitely one of our better decisions. One evening we found ourselves in the tiny mountain village of Gimmelwald, Switzerland surrounded by the Swiss Alps. We were traveling on a budget trying to eke out the most of our trip but when we saw fondue on the menu, we threw caution (and a whole lot of Swiss Francs) to the wind and enjoyed one of the most memorable meals we’ve eaten together. Melty cheese, gorgeous mountains and two kids in love. Definitely a moment to remember.

Alcohol Free Fondue

Ever since that evening, I’ve been trying to recreate our fondue experience…sans beautiful mountains and overlooking the bluegrass fields of Kentucky instead. This recipe lives up to the hype in our minds of the perfect Swiss Fondue. It uses equal parts Gruyere and Emmentaler cheese which are pricey but totally worth it. We are not the biggest fans of alcohol in fondue and find it a bit overpowering, so we like to use chicken stock in place of the traditional white wine. If you prefer the flavor of white wine, by all means, substitute that for the chicken stock. You can add a few Tablespoons of Kirschwasser for a more traditional flavor too. I think this Classic Swiss Fondue recipe is pretty perfect without the alcohol and our kids love it too.

Cheese, Cheese and More Cheese

Can you substitute other types of cheese in this recipe? You can, but it may not give you the traditional sharp Swiss flavor that we love so much. That doesn’t mean it won’t be good. If you are looking to substitute cheese, I would look for a good melting cheese. Jarlsburg, French Comte or a generic Swiss cheese can be used. A pro tip: If you are looking for one of the easiest fondue recipes ever, just pick up a block of brie cheese. Cut off the casing and melt it in a fondue pot. Not quite as flavorful as our favorite recipe but delicious just the same. We love the creaminess of the classic Swiss fondue recipe and the sharpness of the Swiss flavors with some crusty bread or apples. 

Rich Chocolate Fondue

In our family it’s not a fondue night without chocolate fondue. Our kids love dipping fresh fruit, marshmallows, muffins or angel food cake in the chocolate mixture and it makes for a very fun and memorable evening. This chocolate fondue recipe I’m sharing below does not make a whole lot of chocolate fondue. You may want to double it if you are just making it on its own. For our family, after eating the cheese fondue we don’t need a huge pot of chocolate fondue because our bellies are so full of cheese!  I love this chocolate fondue because it is downright delicious and so easy to whip up.

What to Dip

A good crusty bread cut into chunks is a must for cheese fondue. We also like cutting up apple slices to dip in the cheese. I will often set out bowls of nuts, cold cuts, boiled potatoes or other easy-to-eat foods with the cheese fondue. For the chocolate fondue I scour my fridge and pantry for fresh fruit and marshmallows. If I can’t find angel food cake or pound cake I will cut up muffins into small pieces to dip in the fondue. I love how adaptable fondue is to what I have on hand. It’s not hard for anything to taste good covered in cheese or chocolate.

Fondue Tradition

In our family, fondue has become a tradition. We like to have fondue for our New Years Eve dinner, setting goals and toasting around the table to the new year. We also eat this traditional fondue (cheese and chocolate) for Valentines Day. It’s a dinner my kids look forward to all year long. Every so often we’ll pull out the fondue set for a back-to-school dinner or some other special occasion. We love eating fondue together because it slows down the meal and lets us enjoy and create family memories together. We’ve had so many good times gathered around the fondue pot as a family; laughing and enjoying delicious cheese and chocolate fondue.

Fondue Pot

Do you need a fondue pot to make fondue? Technically, no. If you are planning to have a one-off fondue dinner, then maybe you don’t need to invest in a fondue pot. If you want to make it a yearly family tradition, I think it’s worth it! We started off with this fondue pot (affiliate link) and after using it a couple of years, upgraded to this one. We definitely prefer the Swissmar pot (affiliate link) because it heats so evenly, but the Cuisinart is a good value too. It can burn easier on the bottom, so make sure you stir your fondue every so often.

Fondue is fun and has become a wonderful tradition for our family. Our kids look forward to it every New Years and Valentines Day (and sometimes on other special occasions). We love these recipes because they are simple, special and delicious. I hope you love them too! Happy New Year!

Fondue Two Ways: Classic Swiss Fondue and Rich Chocolate Fondue

The perfect creamy and classic Swiss cheese fondue and a rich chocolate fondue for dessert. Use these two recipes for a perfect special occasion dinner!
Prep Time 20 mins
Course Dessert, Main Course
Cuisine American, Swiss
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

Classic Swiss Fondue

  • 2 cups high quality Gruyere cheese shredded
  • 2 cups high quality Emmentaler cheese shredded
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock *substitute white wine if desired
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of ground pepper
  • 1 loaf soft or crusty french bread cubed

Rich Chocolate Fondue

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips can substitute for your favorite chocolate
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2-3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • an assortment of items to dip ie: fresh fruit, marshmallows, angel food cake, etc…

Instructions
 

Classic Swiss Fondue

  • Grate the cheese. I sometimes use a food processor for the harder cheese and it makes the process very fast.
  • To a medium-sized bowl, add the cheese and 4 teaspoons of cornstarch. Coat the cheese in the cornstarch and mix until completely combined. Set aside.
  • To a liquid measuring cup, add the chicken stock and milk. Whisk together.
  • Heat the fondue pot, (affiliate link) and add the chicken stock and milk to the pot. Warm to a weak simmer. Then add the lemon juice and continue to simmer (weak simmer).
  • Taking a handful at a time, add the cheese to the pot, stirring constantly. Wait for the cheese to melt before adding in another handful. Continue this process until all the cheese has been added to the fondue pot.
  • Add a pinch of nutmeg and pepper to taste.
  • Eat immediately by dipping the crusty bread into the fondue. Enjoy!

Rich Chocolate Fondue

  • To a fondue pot (affiliate link) or small saucepan, add the chocolate chips, heavy cream and a Tablespoon of milk.
  • Stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Add a Tablespoon of milk as needed to thin the chocolate fondue. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  • Keep the chocolate warm as you dip fresh fruit, marshmallows, muffins or angel food cake into the chocolate fondue. Enjoy!

Notes

Recipe Notes:
Classic Swiss Cheese Fondue: Traditional cheese fondue is made with alcohol. We prefer the flavor of the fondue made with chicken stock (and our kids do too). If you prefer, add 1/2 cup of your favorite white wine (or other alcohol) in place of the chicken stock for a deeper flavor.
Rich Chocolate Fondue: This recipe makes the perfect amount for dessert after eating cheese fondue. If you are making this recipe without eating a meal beforehand, you may want to double it.
Keyword fondue

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Sourdough French Bread

As a girl living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I used to always add loaves of French bread to the grocery list from our local grocery store. It was light, fluffy and was easily one of my favorite breads of all time. That bread, however, doesn’t exist in many parts of the U.S. so I decided to make my own loaf of French bread using 100% sourdough starter and no commercial yeast in sight. While the end product doesn’t taste exactly like the Bay Area store-bought version (which undoubtedly has commercial yeast, dough enhancers, etc…), it is a stand-alone delicious bread in its own right. This sourdough french bread is initially a little crispy on the outside. As it cools it softens and you cut into a tender, light and just slightly tangy inside. With just a few simple ingredients and an active sourdough starter,  you can have this bread on your dinner table too!

Jump to Sourdough French Bread Recipe

Power-Feed the Starter Before Baking

Before beginning to bake a loaf using 100% sourdough starter, make sure that your starter is active. I like to “power-feed” my starter before beginning a loaf that has no commercial yeast in it. Starters can be trained to rise bread predictably and giving them a little power-feed refresh is the best way to do this. In the past when I have not power-fed the starter, I tend to get a sluggish rise from my bread. There’s nothing worse than spending two days to make a loaf of bread and coming out with a sub-par rise. Note that if your starter is already doubling or tripling in size every time you feed it, you may not need to “power-feed” before mixing your leaven.

How to Power-Feed Your Starter

A day before you mix up the bread, feed your starter 2-3 times in a 24 hour period. To do so, discard all but a few Tablespoons of starter. Feed with ½ cup flour and ¼ cup water (may need a tad more water depending on how you scoop your flour). Mix, mark your jar and let rise. About 6-8 hours later repeat the process, noting how much your starter rose. Discard starter for the second time (all but a few tablespoons), feed the remaining starter again and mark the jar. Six to eight hours later, before you go to bed, repeat the process a third time, discarding and feeding. When you wake up the next morning, your starter should be doubling or tripling in size (check it out with the marked jar). This is the kind of activity you want to see from a starter to be able to raise bread.  

Double Check With The Float Test

If you are like me and want to double check that your starter is ready to raise bread, you can always perform the float test. Fill a clear cup with some room temperature water. Take a little spoonful of bubbly starter and plop it in the cup. If it floats, you are ready to proceed with the recipe. If it sinks, give it a bit more time and test again in another hour. If your starter is still not floating, but it has doubled or tripled in size, it may be over-ripe. You can still use this starter, but your bread may end up with more “sour” notes. You can see a video of how to perform the float test here.

Making the Leaven

Once your starter is consistently doubling or tripling in size, you are ready to use it to mix up the leaven for the bread. I think of my sourdough starter as my “mother starter” that I constantly feed. To make any of my sourdough breads, I take some of the “mother starter” and add flour and water to it to create the amount of leaven I need to use in my bread. Technically you could directly use bubbly sourdough starter, but I find that recipes are easier to understand and come out more consistently when I use my starter in this way. To mix up the leaven, take 1 Tablespoon of sourdough starter and add to it flour and water. Cover it and let it sit 8-12 hours until it has risen and can pass the float test. Then it is ready to raise the bread.

Vital Wheat Gluten

I don’t always have bread flour on hand. To help combat this issue, I bought a large bag of vital wheat gluten (affiliate link). Vital wheat gluten is made from wheat flour and is almost pure gluten. I use this all the time in my bread recipes to increase the protein in bread, build structure and improve the elasticity and rise in my dough. A little goes a long way and I typically use about 1 teaspoon vital wheat gluten per cup of all-purpose flour, which makes a great substitute for bread flour. If you don’t have vital wheat gluten, you can substitute bread flour for the all purpose flour in this recipe and omit the vital wheat gluten.

Time and Health Benefits

As with all sourdough and natural yeast recipes, this recipe is going to take some time to rise. The cultures in your fresh yeast break down the bran of the wheat, making the bread more digestible and providing more health benefits than bread made with commercial yeast. The temperature of your kitchen will have an effect on the length of time the bread will take to rise. The recipe calls out a range of time because of those temperature factors. If you are making this sourdough french bread in the winter it may take closer to 6 hours for your loaf’s second rise (depending on the warmth of your kitchen). One of the reasons I love this recipe is that the bulk rise happens overnight, which means the starter is doing all the work while you are asleep.

A Sample Timeline: Sourdough French Bread

Day 1: Power-Feed Your Starter 2-3 times (omit this step if it’s already doubling/tripling in size regularly)

Day 2: 

  • 8-10 AM Mix the leaven. Cover and leave to rise until it has doubled in size and passes the float test.
  • 6-8 PM Mix the dough using a stand mixer. Cover and let rise overnight.

Day 3

  • 6-8 AM Shape dough, cover and let rise in a warm place until puffy and almost doubled.
  • 11-2 PM Score loaves and bake.

Baking Tips

I often place my loaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet to rise and they turn out great. If you want your loaf to turn out similar to a traditional baguette and you are planning to bake a lot of baguette style loaves, investing in one of these (affiliate link) special baguette pans is worth it in my opinion. They help give a crispy crust with the air flow around the entire baguette and produce a superior product. This is not to say you can’t get a beautiful loaf on a traditional baking sheet and if you aren’t planning to bake much baguette, I wouldn’t worry about a baguette pan. To help either type of loaf get a crispy crust, I like to throw a few ice cubes into the bottom of my preheated oven right before before baking the baguettes. The ice cubes produce steam throughout the baking process which gives a beautiful crispy crust to these sourdough baguettes. 

If you love sourdough or want an easy-to-follow recipe to use your starter with, this recipe is really a great one. The dough is mixed in a stand mixer, it rises overnight and produces a few delicious loaves of french bread. The only “tricky” part for sourdough newbies is just making sure your starter is active and able to raise a loaf of bread. I’m hoping these tips will help you feel confident to try it out! Before you know it you can be pulling out some beautiful loaves of sourdough bread to sop up some soup, enjoy with butter or just to tear apart on a a family picnic. Enjoy!

Soft Sourdough French Bread

Crispy but soft, tangy and light this sourdough french bread is made with 100% sourdough starter and is absolutely delicious.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Rise Time 16 hrs
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Servings 2 loaves

Ingredients
  

Leaven: 8-12 hours before mixing dough

  • 1 Tablespoon sourdough starter
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup room temperature water

Dough

  • All of the leaven or 1 1/4 cups bubbly sourdough starter
  • 2 cups room temperature water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 6-7 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons vital wheat gluten *see recipe notes

Instructions
 

Leaven

  • Eight to twelve hours before mixing the dough, add 1 Tablespoon of ripe sourdough starter to a small bowl.
  • Add 1 cup of flour and 3/4 cup water to the starter. Mix together and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 8-12 hours until it has doubled in size and passes the float test.

Mixing the Dough

  • To the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook add the bubbly leaven, water, sugar, salt, and vegetable oil.
  • Add 5.5 cups flour and the vital wheat gluten and mix. Continue adding flour until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, the dough is tacky (but not overly sticky) and you can pinch of a piece of dough, roll it in your fingers and just have a little bit of residual dough on your fingers. Check out these tips to know if your dough is ready.
  • Knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes (set a timer and let the mixer go) and add a Tablespoon of flour at a time as needed.
  • Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 8-12 hours (overnight).
  • The next morning the dough will have risen. The amount of rise depends a lot on the temperature of your kitchen. Don't worry, if your starter is very active, it will be okay.
  • Transfer the dough to a countertop. Cut the dough in two sections for two large loaves or in three for three smaller loaves.
  • Pat the dough into a rectangle and roll up cinnamon-roll style, pinching the seams closed as you roll.
  • Repeat with the remaining sourdough loaves.
  • Place the loaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet or use a baguette bread pan. Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let the loaves rise for 3-6 hours until puffy and almost doubled in size (the time will depend on the warmth of your kitchen).

Baking the Bread

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Throw a handful of ice cubes into the bottom of the oven while it preheats.
  • Slash or score the loaves with a bread lame or sharp knife.
  • Bake the bread for 35 minutes until a nice golden color. Brush with melted butter and let cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

Notes

Vital Wheat Gluten: If you don’t have vital wheat gluten (I buy mine here), you can omit it and use bread flour in place of all purpose flour. 
Keyword soft french bread, sourdough bread

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Kolaches

I have hemmed and hawed about posting this Kolache recipe. It’s not that I don’t want to share it with you…I do! But it’s one of those recipes that I have been working on perfecting and have made many, many times in the process. I feel like I’ve finally got them exactly right and with the holidays approaching, I figured now would be a good time to share it with you. Kolaches are perfect for a Christmas morning breakfast, to share over a Thanksgiving weekend or to make for a family brunch. They can be sweet or savory and are absolutely delicious.

Jump to Kolache Recipe

What is a Kolache?

Traditionally kolache has its origins in the Czech Republic. I lived there as a child and my Czech Babicka would make kolach which I inhaled as a kid. Kolach is basically a pastry that holds fruit surrounded by puffy dough. My Babicka would cut her Kolach into slices with a plum filling and a streusel topping. It was my favorite Czech pastry and I have many fond memories of this delicious treat. 

Americanized Kolache

Czech Kolache was brought to Texas by Czech immigrants and over the years has become “Americanized.” Now you can find kolache bakeries throughout different parts of the United States that specialize in these little filled pastries. You can fill them with anything you can dream up, but the traditional filling is fruit. I use homemade jam in the center of my kolaches. Some I make with plain jam and others I add a cream cheese layer and then the jam. We also love a maple pecan kolache that is reminiscent in flavor of a cinnamon roll. Many kolache shops will add seasonal fillings. These fillings should give you a good starting point if you want to create some of your own.

Kolache or Klobasnek?

Kolache are technically a pastry with fruit and surrounded by fluffy dough. If you want to fill your kolache dough and enclose the filling inside the dough, then you are actually making a klobasnek. Klobasnek are typically filled with meat and are an Americanized version of a Czech sausage roll with kolache dough. Klobasnek are absolutely delicious and I am including a recipe for my favorite breakfast Klobasnek as well. It is probably one of my favorite foods…ever!

Overnight Kolache Dough

Kolache dough is enriched with A LOT of butter and A LOT of egg. It is a pretty sticky dough and because of that, I find that it benefits from a long overnight rise in the refrigerator. This makes the dough much easier to handle, shape and work with so that it is not over-floured and tough. I actually prefer this method because I can whip up the dough the night before, sleep while my dough rises and then shape and bake in the morning. The overnight rise is one of the keys to the success of this recipe. 

Shaping Kolache

Once the dough has risen overnight, pull it out the next morning and cut the dough into 24 pieces. Yes this makes a lot of kolache. Yes, it is worth it! The kolaches will freeze or they are perfect to share with loved ones or neighbors. Once you have your 24 pieces of dough, decide which you will make into kolache and which you will make into klobasnek. I usually split them into 8 klobasnek, 8 jam filled kolache and 8 cinnamon maple filled kolache. The recipes for the filling below reflect that. The processes for shaping kolache and klobasnek is different as outlined below:

Kolache

Roll the kolache into a ball and set them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let them rise until just about doubled in size. While they rise, mix up the fillings for your kolache. I like to put the cream cheese mixture in a piping bag, prepare my egg wash and get my homemade jam or cinnamon sugar mixture ready. Once the kolache have risen, take the bottom of a jar (I’ve found a 16 ounce ball jar to work really well) and press down in the center of each kolache. The sides will rise up a bit and it will form an indentation for you to put the filling in. If using the cream cheese mixture, take your piping bag and pipe a circle on the inside of the outer edge of dough. Fill the center of the dough with jam or cinnamon sugar. Brush with egg wash and bake.

Klobasnek

If you are planning to make klobasnek, you will want to make the filling mixture before pulling your dough out of the fridge. I will often make my fillings the night before along with the dough and refrigerate them. Then I just have to pull them out the morning of and fill my dough. Roll each klobasnek into a ball and then, using a lightly dusted surface and rolling pin, roll the dough out into a circle. Add a scoop of filling to the middle of the dough, and then bring the sides up and pinch them closed, completely encasing the filling in the kolache dough. Set each klobasnek on a parchment-lined baking sheet to rise. Once risen, brush with egg wash and bake.

My Takeaway Tips

Let the dough rest overnight in the fridge. It makes for a night and day difference when working with the dough.

Make the fillings the night before. This saves time when assembling them in the morning and the Klobasnek filling is best when used chilled.

Save your egg whites! This recipe uses a whole lot of egg yolks. Save the egg whites and use them in the Klobasnek filling. 

You can mix up the fillings for Klobasnek. Add bacon, mushrooms, veggies, whatever you want.

Don’t forget the egg wash at the end. I’ve done this many times because I’m so excited to bite into one of these amazing pastries, but the egg wash really does give it a finished, golden color that you will want. Trust me!

I forgot the egg wash on these. Still completely delicious but no golden brown shine.

If you don’t have homemade jam, use a favorite jam or make your own fruit filling (though this may take a little bit longer)

Fruit Filling Recipe:  Blend or mash 2 cups of strawberries (or other berries). Add them to a saucepan on the stove and over medium to medium-low heat, simmer the berries with ½ cup sugar, 2 Tablespoons cornstarch, a pinch of salt, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice until thickened and jam-like (about 15-20 minutes). Cool in the fridge before using.

So without further ado: the best Kolache recipe (better than a bakery and totally worth the overnight chill in the fridge). Enjoy!

Kolaches

A light, tender and delicious pastry made three ways. Maple Cinnamon Pecan, Fruit-filled and sausage, egg and cheese: this recipe details how to make all three delicious Kolaches.
Prep Time 40 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Overnight Rise 10 hrs
Course Bread, Breakfast
Cuisine American, Czech
Servings 24 kolaches

Ingredients
  

Kolache Dough

  • 2 cups milk, warmed 2% or whole milk
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 egg yolks reserve the whites to use later if making Klobasnek
  • 1 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg yolk reserve the white to use later if making Klobasnek
  • 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon maple flavoring reserved for cinnamon cream cheese mixture
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon reserved for cinnamon cream cheese mixture

Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter melted
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon water as needed
  • 24 pecans for topping

Fruit Filling

  • 1/4 cup favorite jam strawberry, raspberry, mixed berry, blueberry, lemon curd, etc…

Sausage, Egg and Cheese Klobasnek Filling

  • 1/2 to 1 lb breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • a sprinkle of ground pepper
  • 7 egg whites reserved from making the dough and
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded cheese cheddar works well here

Egg Wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water or milk

Instructions
 

Kolache Dough

  • To a liquid measuring cup, add the milk. Warm it in the microwave (or on the stovetop) in 30 second increments. Stick your finger down into the middle of the milk to check the temperature. If it is the temperature of baby’s bath water, you are good to go. If it’s too cold, warm it a little longer. If it’s too hot, stir it until it is warm and not hot.
  • To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the warm milk, yeast and sugar. Let it sit while you crack the eggs.
  • Using two bowls, crack and separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. One bowl should hold the yolks and the other holds the whites. Set the whites aside to use later on.
  • Add the egg yolks to the yeast mixture in the stand mixer. Pour in the melted butter (make sure it’s not too hot! You don’t want to kill the yeast). Then add the salt.
  • With the stand mixer running, add the flour a cup at a time and mix. Once the dough comes together, continue kneading the dough for about 7-10 minutes. I like to set a timer and let the mixer do its thing while I start preparing the fillings.
  • After the dough has kneaded, it will be very sticky. This is normal. Don’t worry and don’t add more flour (unless you feel it needs just a few extra Tablespoons).
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container that has room for the dough to at least double in size. Cover the container and stick the dough in the fridge to proof overnight. The overnight proof will help solidify the butter in the dough, which will make it easier to work with the next morning.

Cream Cheese Filling

  • Using a hand mixer, whip together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, egg yolk (you can add the white to your bowl of egg whites from making the dough), flour and vanilla extract. Whip until completely incorporated and thick and creamy, about 3 minutes.
  • Stick a piping bag (or ziplock works too) into a glass and fold the edges over the glass. Transfer half of the cream cheese mixture into the piping bag.
  • To the other half of the cream cheese mixture, add maple extract and ground cinnamon. Mix together. Stick a second piping bag or ziplock into a glass and fold over the edges. Transfer the rest of the cream cheese mixture into the piping bag and close.
  • Refrigerate the piping bags of mixture overnight and pull out the next morning to come to room temperature when you pull your dough out of the fridge. If you want to make the filling the morning of shaping, there is no need to refrigerate the filling.

Cinnamon Sugar Filling

  • Put the softened or melted unsalted butter in a small bowl. Add the powdered sugar, brown sugar and ground cinnamon and mix together with a fork. It may be a little crumbly. Add a teaspoon of water until it forms a thick paste. Cover and let sit at room temperature before using.

Sausage Egg and Cheese Klobasnek Filling

  • To a skillet, brown the breakfast sausage. Add the onion powder, garlic powder and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference. Transfer cooked sausage to a medium-sized bowl.
  • To the reserved egg whites, add two eggs with their yolks and scramble in the same pan as the breakfast sausage. Season to your preference with a little salt and pepper. Pour the cooked scrambled egg on top of the sausage.
  • Add 1 ½ -2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese on top of the scrambled eggs and sausage. Using a large spoon, mix it all together until the cheese, egg and sausage is evenly distributed throughout.
  • Cover the mixture and stick in the fridge until ready to use. It should be cool before being used to fill the Klobasnek.

Shaping (8-12 hours later)

  • After an 8-12 hour rise in the fridge (overnight), pull the dough out and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Go ahead and pull the fillings out of the fridge at this time too, the cream cheese fillings and egg filling.
  • Separate the dough into 24 pieces using a bench scraper or sharp knife.
  • Line three baking sheets with parchment paper (you may be able to get away with two if making all kolaches but if you are also making the Klobasnek, you will want three baking sheets).
  • Shaping Klobasnek: Lightly flour the surface and a rolling pin. Roll one piece of dough into a circle shape, about 5-6 inches round. Take about ½ cup of the sausage, egg and cheese filling and place it in the center of the circle. Pull the sides of the dough up and around the filling in a circular manner and pinch together, enclosing the egg mixture in the dough. If any filling seeps through, patch it with dough from the bottom of the Klobasnek. Place on the baking sheet and repeat with seven more balls of dough. Let rise until puffed up about an hour.
  • Shaping Kolache: Roll each piece of dough into a ball using a little pinch of flour if needed. Place the balls of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 8-12 balls of dough per sheet. Let them rise in a warm place for about an hour until puffy and almost doubled in size. Using the bottom of a 16 oz canning jar, press down firmly on top of each ball of risen dough, forming a large circle indentation and higher sides. Take the cream cheese mixture and snip the end off the piping bag. Pipe a circle around the outer edge of the kolache dough, repeating until all eight kolaches are filled. Repeat the process with the cinnamon sugar cream cheese filling. Using your favorite jam, place about a teaspoon of jam in the center of the cream cheese mixture. To the cinnamon maple kolaches, place about a teaspoon of the cinnamon sugar filling in the center.

Baking

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Egg Wash: Crack an egg in a small bowl and whisk it with a teaspoon of water. Using a pastry brush, brush the outsides of the kolaches with the egg wash.
  • Bake the Kolaches for about 12-15 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly. Add 3-4 pecans on top of each cinnamon maple kolache when they come out of the oven. For the Klobasneks, bake about 18-22 minutes until baked all the way through. Enjoy warm!

Notes

Recipe Notes:
This recipe makes 8 cinnamon maple Kolache, 8 fruit Kolache and 8 sausage egg and cheese Klobasnek. You can change the fillings around to make more or less filling depending on your favorites.
The cream cheese mixture is meant to be divided in half. Add the maple flavoring and ground cinnamon to half of the cream cheese mixture and put in a piping bag (or ziplock bag). Take the other half of the cream cheese mixture and put in a different piping bag. You will end up with two bags of the cream cheese mixture. 
I like to make the dough and fillings the night before baking the Kolaches. The morning of, I shape the dough and fill it. It is possible to make the fillings the morning of if that works better for you.
Keyword kolache,

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Parmesan Herb Christmas Tree Rolls

With Christmas around the corner, I am always looking for easy ways to bring a little festive cheer to our dinner table. These Christmas tree rolls are just delicious rolls nestled close together in the shape of a Christmas Tree on parchment paper. The parmesan herb topping gives a little green speckled color to them and a whole lot of delicious flavor. You could use any roll recipe to make this festive Christmas tree shape, like these white dinner rolls or these quick yeast rolls, but I am partial to the parmesan herb topping that take these Christmas tree rolls over the top. 

Jump to Parmesan Herb Christmas Tree Rolls Recipe

Mixing and Kneading the Dough

The dough is mixed up using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. You can also knead this dough by hand if you don’t have a mixer, though it will take some arm muscle to knead for about 8-10 minutes. The dough should come together nicely and be slightly tacky to the touch. Add more flour, a little at a time (a Tablespoon or so), as needed throughout the kneading process. You should be able to pinch off a piece of dough, roll it up in your fingers and have just a little sticky residue left over. If you have lots of stickiness on your hands, you need to keep adding flour just a Tablespoon or two at a time. Over-flouring the dough is one of the ways you get tough rolls…and nobody wants that! You can check this post for tips on how to know when your dough is ready. I like to set a timer and let my mixer go to work for about 8-10 minutes, adding little bits of flour as needed, to make sure the dough is properly kneaded, which develops the gluten and makes for some pretty amazing bread.

Parmesan Herb Topping

After the dough has risen, mix up the parmesan herb topping. The parmesan inside the dough and the parmesan mixed with butter, oil and herbs give these rolls delicious flavor. You can substitute almost any hard cheese for these rolls and they will turn out delicious. Separate the dough into 22 pieces. These are good-sized rolls. Pull up the edges of the dough into the center forming a ball and roll on the counter top to form a ball shape.

You can watch how I shape rolls in the video below:

Now for the messy part: dip each shaped roll into the parmesan herb topping and turn it around covering it completely with the mixture. Place the roll at the top center of a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat the process with the rest of the rolls and continue the Christmas tree shape down the parchment paper.

Christmas Tree Shape

For the Christmas tree shape, I had six rows of rolls, adding a roll every time as I went down the parchment paper and ending with six rolls on my bottom row. If you want a smaller Christmas tree, you can do four or five rows instead and bake up the extra rolls on a separate baking sheet. Take the last piece of roll dough (your 22nd roll) and pat it into a square shape for the tree stem. Place it in the middle underneath the row of 6 rolls. 

Parchment Paper 

These rolls will rise a lot in the oven. They make good-sized, light and fluffy dinner rolls. The parchment paper is important because it makes it much easier for you transfer the rolls all together off the baking sheet. Once the rolls are baked, pull them out of the oven and brush melted butter over the top if desired. After cooling for a few minutes, slide the whole piece of parchment paper with the rolls on top off the baking sheet and display however you would like for your Christmas meal.

Pull Apart Rolls

Expect oohs and aahs as you reach in and pull apart these rolls. The soft dough makes for a springy, delicious roll, and the parmesan herb topping adds a delicious savory element. These rolls would pair perfectly with a charcuterie board or for a special Christmas dinner. They are festive and are so fun to pull apart from each other, slather with some butter and enjoy.

No matter what roll recipe you use this Christmas, this Christmas tree shape is so much fun to make and is an easy way to bring a little flair to a special meal. And if you don’t want to make a Christmas tree shape, no worries! These rolls bake up perfectly on a baking sheet or cut into 24 pieces and baked 12 to a baking dish. I hope you love these as much as we do!

Parmesan Herb Christmas Tree Rolls

Light fluffy and tender dinner rolls filled with parmesan herb flavor and shaped as a Christmas tree for some festive fun.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Rise Time 2 hrs
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Servings 22 rolls

Ingredients
  

Roll Dough

  • 2 cups warm water baby's bathwater temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil any neutral-flavored oil will work
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 1/2 – 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese

Parmesan Herb Topping

  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese freshly grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions
 

  • To the bow of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add two cups of warm water and the instant yeast.
  • Add the vegetable oil and honey (in that order so the honey will slide right out of the measuring spoon).
  • Add the salt and three cups of flour. Mix together. Add the parmesan cheese and continue adding the flour up to five cups total. Continue kneading and add the last cup of flour as needed. The dough should be tacky and not overly sticky on your fingers. Pinch off a piece of dough and roll it up into a ball. There should be just a little bit of sticky residue on your fingers. You can check this post for how to tell if the dough is ready.
  • Knead for 8-10 minutes (set a timer and let your mixer go) adding flour a Tablespoon at a time as needed.
  • Transfer dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and let rise about an hour.
  • While the dough rises, mix up the parmesan herb topping in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Cover a large baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
  • Once the dough has risen, punch it down. Turn the dough out on the counter and separate it into twenty-two equal-sized pieces of dough.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a ball by pulling the dough into the center, forming a tight ball.
  • Roll each ball, covering it completely, in the parmesan herb mixture.
  • Place the first ball at the top of the parchment paper. Continue forming balls, rolling them in the mixture and placing on the parchment paper in a triangle/tree shape starting with 1 ball on top to 6 balls on the bottom. Form the last ball into a rectangular shape for the base of the tree.
  • Let the dough rise about 30-45 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes. Brush with melted butter if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

Recipe Notes: These rolls are delicious on their own but even more fun placed in the shape of a Christmas tree for the holidays.
Keyword Parmesan Herb, rolls, yeast rolls,

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Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies

In our house, it is not Christmas until we have made our traditional Christmas cookies. My family has been making them ever since I can remember (and long before that). These Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas cookies are the ultimate holiday cookie. Buttery shortbread-style crust with a luscious caramel, chocolate and pecan topping. What isn’t there to love about these? The festive star-shape makes them a Christmas cookie you will want to make on repeat at your house every year. 

Jump to Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies Recipe

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies: The History

When my mom was little, she would make Christmas cookies with my grandma. I don’t know if she just liked these cookies the best or if they won out over all the cookies my grandma made but for whatever reason (and good reason in my opinion) this was THE cookie. Originally many cookie cutters were used to cut out the dough for these cookies but the star-shape always turned out the best. From then on, my family made hundreds of these cookies every Christmas. Truth be told, I didn’t even know people made many different kinds of cookies. This chocolate caramel pecan cookie is the one cookie you will want this Christmas too!

Buttery Shortbread-Style Cookie Dough

This dough is a dream to work with. It rolls out beautifully (just add a tiny touch of flour to the rolling pin if needed) and is so easy for little fingers to cut and help shape. I always make a little extra dough (double the recipe) and pull out my cookie cutter collection so they can make whatever shapes they want. We bake them up and the kids love eating them plain or decorated. While they are occupied, I go to town rolling the dough and cutting the star-shaped ones to give away to friends and neighbors. I’ve found rolling the dough to about ¼ inch thickness and using a 3-3.5 inch star-shaped cookie cutter (affiliate link) works best for these cookies. This recipe will give you 24 beautiful star cookies.

Baking Time

The cookie bases bake for about 10-12 minutes depending if you use convection or regular on your oven. I’ve waxed poetic about convection ovens before, so you know my preference but I’ve made them for years before having a convection oven and in many different countries with different ovens and they always turn out amazing. Be careful on the time as you bake these because these cookies are really divine if you don’t over bake them. They will puff up just a little bit but keep their star-shape. If you let them go too long or have rolled them out too thin, the edges will start to brown just a bit and you will know they went a little too long in the oven. Still delicious, but much better without the browned edges.

Caramel, Chocolate and Pecans

The toppings are what really set this cookie apart. Caramels are melted down (I use the microwave but you could also do this on the stove if you watch very carefully) with butter and evaporated milk and then stirred with sifted powdered sugar and chopped pecans to give the most amazing caramel topping. The pecans help the caramel to set up to a little ball on top of the cookie which makes the perfect base for the thick chocolate topping. I love the richness the semi-sweet chocolate chips bring to this cookie and any extra topping we have from these cookies we save to eat on ice cream or…by the spoonful. It is so good. A whole pecan tops the cookie for a finished look.

Sift. Sift. Sift that Powdered Sugar

One note about sifting. Please, please, please sift your powdered sugar. One year when I was a college student, I was making these Christmas cookies (yes, I made these every year…even while I was in the midst of college finals, they are that nostalgic for me). I decided to forgo the sifting and it was a BIG MISTAKE. I had chunks of powdered sugar all throughout my caramel sauce. Even though I did everything I could to get those chunks combined, they just wouldn’t combine well. My caramel still tasted okay but it didn’t look very good with little white chunks throughout what should have been a smooth caramel. So learn from my mistake and get yourself a sifter if you don’t have one. 

Gluten-Free Option

If you need to make these cookies gluten-free, good news. They are absolutely amazing gluten-free. My sister eats gluten-free and makes them every year with Cup4Cup flour (affiliate link). It is really hard to tell the difference between the gluten-free version and the regular version. Just sub the flour in the cookies for the Cup 4 Cup flour and they should turn out amazing.

A Cookie Job For Everyone

I make over 200 of these cookies every year for Christmas. This is our family tradition. We spend a few days doing the entire process. One day baking the cookies. One day making the toppings. One day assembling everything. When we finally get to the assembly portion, everyone has a job to do. My kids have now graduated to being able to help put on the caramel and chocolate toppings. The youngest in our crew is usually relegated to “pecan sorting” and putting nuts on top of the cookies. I love that these cookies have a job for everyone. We have such fun every year blasting Christmas carols, making cookies and sneaking a cookie or two.

Caroling and Cookies

The cookie bases freeze well (actually the whole cookie does) and it makes it easy for us to make plates of cookies to deliver to friends and neighbors. We love caroling, bringing along our Christmas card and a plate of these cookies. It’s a tradition that began when I was a kid and has continued on with my family and the families of my siblings. And after all the deliveries…we get to enjoy eating our star-shaped cookies. The funny part is that if you ask each of us, we all have a different way to eat the cookie. Some of us eat off all the star points first leaving the gooey middle. Others pull off the pecan and eat off all the topping first. I love having these fun traditions to look back on every year 

I love all cookies. Chocolate chip, candy jar, gluten-free oat cookies, but these chocolate caramel pecan Christmas cookies are a standout favorite. Full of nostalgia, lots of butter, chocolate and caramel, they are the ultimate holiday dessert. Whether you are looking for cookies to give, cookies to eat or cookies to leave out for Santa, these chocolate caramel pecan cookies are the perfect indulgent holiday cookie. I wish I could bring you a plate! From my family to yours…Merry Christmas!

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas cookies are the ultimate holiday cookie. A star-shaped buttery crust with a luscious caramel, chocolate and pecan topping. They will be on repeat at your house every Christmas.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 10 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 24 cookies

Ingredients
  

Cookie Base

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour

Caramel Topping

  • 8 oz caramel candy Kraft caramels are the ones we traditionally use
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar sifted
  • 1 cup pecans finely chopped

Chocolate Topping

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar sifted

24 whole pecans

    Instructions
     

    Cookie Base

    • Using a stand mixer or a handheld mixer and large bowl, cream together the softened butter and powdered sugar until thick and creamy.
    • Add vanilla extract, evaporated milk and salt. Mix well until completely incorporated and creamy.
    • Add the flour and mix gently until combined. Be careful not to over-mix the dough, but you do want it to be fully incorporated.
    • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees convection or 325 regular and place parchment paper on two large baking sheets.
    • Separate the dough into two portions and roll the first ball of dough out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick.
    • Use a star-shaped cookie cutter about 3-3.5 inches to cut out the stars from the dough. Transfer the cutouts to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
    • Bake for 10 minutes convection or 12 minutes regular until just baked. Watch the cookies so they don't brown. The bottoms of the cookies should still be light.
    • Cool the cookies completely. At this point you can move forward with topping the cookies or freeze them to top later.

    Caramel Pecan Topping

    • Combine unwrapped caramels (or kraft caramel bits), evaporated milk and unsalted butter in a microwave-safe bowl.
    • Microwave in 1 minute increments, stirring with a spoon. Alternate stirring and microwaving until the caramels are completely melted and mixed together. This can take upwards of 10 minutes.
    • Sift in the powdered sugar and stir until completely incorporated.
    • Finely chop the pecans (I pulse them a few times in the blender) and add them to the caramel topping. Mix.
    • Set the caramel aside while you make the chocolate topping. At this point you can also refrigerate the caramel for up to a week before using.

    Chocolate Topping

    • To a microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate, butter and evaporated milk. Microwave in 30 second increments. Alternate stirring and microwaving until the chocolate, butter and evaporated milk are melted and combined.
    • Stir in the vanilla extract. Sift the powdered sugar into the bowl and mix until completely combined. Set aside the chocolate topping to assemble the cookies. You can also refrigerate the topping for up to a week before using.

    Assembly

    • Lay out all the cookies on a flat counter space.
    • Place a dollop of lightly warmed caramel topping on the center of each cookie (about 1 Tablespoon).
    • Place a smaller dollop of lightly warmed chocolate topping on top of the caramel (about 1 teaspoon).
    • Add a whole pecan on top of the chocolate quickly before the chocolate hardens.
    • Let the cookies cool completely before moving to a cookie tray, sharing with friends and neighbors, freezing or setting out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Enjoy!

    Notes

    Freezing Tips: These cookies freeze very well. The fully assembled cookies can be frozen after the toppings have cooled and pulled out to thaw when needed. The process can also be split into multiple days; making the bases one day (then freeze them) and the caramel and chocolate topping a different day. 
    Sifting: It is really important to sift the powdered sugar into the caramel and chocolate. If you don’t, the caramel and chocolate will have tiny lumps of powdered sugar in them that won’t fully incorporated. They will taste okay but not look as good.
     
    Keyword caramel, chocolate chip cookie, Christmas cookies, cookies, pecan

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    Gingerbread Snack Cake with Sourdough Discard

    Gingerbread has always been one of my favorite holiday flavors. As a kid living in Europe with my family, I grew up going to German Christmas markets: stalls filled with nutcrackers, handmade trinkets and intricately iced “Lebkuchen” (gingerbread). I was always intrigued by the sweet and spicy smell and the delicious flavor. This sourdough gingerbread cake evokes so many of those Christmas childhood memories and will make your whole house smell like Christmas. It is a soft and tender crumb, jam-packed with gingerbread/molasses flavor and uses up a bunch of sourdough discard. My kids especially love this sourdough gingerbread snack cake and always ask for extra whipped cream. It takes me back to my childhood Christmas memories and is the perfect snack cake to eat all winter long.

    Jump to Gingerbread Snack Cake with Sourdough Discard Recipe

    Sourdough Discard in Gingerbread Cake

    A word of warning: not all sourdough discard is created equal, age makes a difference. The discard that has been sitting in my fridge for a week or two gives a lot more “tang” to this cake. For some recipes you will want to taste that sourdough flavor. For this recipe, I prefer to use sourdough discard that is only a day or two old, so it cuts down on the tang. My family didn’t even know there was sourdough in this recipe. You can also use bubbly sourdough starter if you want in this gingerbread snack cake and it should work well. If you want to taste the tangy sourdough along with the gingerbread spices, go ahead and use up that 2 week old discard from your fridge. It will still taste delicious.

    Blackstrap Molasses

    Molasses is made out of sugar cane, and it is categorized depending on how many times the sugar cane syrup has been boiled and then extracted. The first boiling/extracting is light molasses. Second boiling/extracting is dark molasses and third boiling/extracting produces Blackstrap molasses (affiliate link). It is the most concentrated molasses and has a bittersweet flavor on its own. Typically you will find the “light” molasses in a regular grocery store. Health food stores and some grocery stores will often carry blackstrap molasses due to the concentrated nutrients found in it. In this cake, I love the flavor the blackstrap molasses brings when combined with the sugars. It gives a depth of delicious molasses flavor that pairs so nicely with the spices. If you don’t have blackstrap molasses on hand, you can substitute it for regular molasses (it just might not have as “punchy” of a flavor).

    A Few Gingerbread Snack Cake Tips:

    1. The first step in making this gingerbread snack cake is to mix very hot (nearly boiling) water with the molasses. This helps break down the sugars in the molasses and lets it fully incorporate into the cake batter. 
    2. I use one bowl for this gingerbread snack cake. I add my spices directly to the center of the bowl and mix them in before adding in the sourdough discard and flour. I like to go with “less cleanup”, and with four kids, we always have a lot of dishes. You can find some of my other favorite one-bowl recipes: here, here and here.
    3. I like to bake this cake at 400 degrees for the first ten minutes and then reduce the temperature and continue the bake. This hot temperature activates the baking powder in the cake, giving it a beautiful domed top. 

    Deep Gingerbread/Molasses Flavor

    If you really want the deep gingerbread flavor, this cake needs to cool completely before serving. As the cake cools, the flavors bloom and turn into the perfect mix of molasses/gingerbread heaven. If I am making this cake for my family, we will often snack on a piece fresh out of the oven…and then wait for it to cool and have another slice. We like to top it with whipped cream (fresh is best, but we don’t always have heavy whipping cream on hand), and it is just delicious. I hope you enjoy it too!

    Gingerbread Snack Cake with Sourdough Discard

    A soft and tender crumb, jam packed with gingerbread/molasses flavor and uses up a bunch of sourdough discard: the perfect Christmas snack cake.
    Prep Time 15 mins
    Cook Time 40 mins
    Course Dessert, Snack
    Cuisine American
    Servings 1 cake

    Ingredients
      

    • 1/3 cup very hot water
    • 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses can substitute regular molasses
    • 2/3 cup light brown sugar can also use dark brown
    • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
    • 1/3 cup vegetable oil any neutral flavored oil works
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 3/4 cup sourdough discard see note
    • 1 cup all purpose flour

    Instructions
     

    • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat an 8 by 8 pan with cooking spray or a parchment sling.
    • To a liquid measuring cup, add 1/3 cup water. Microwave it until very hot or almost boiling. You can also do this on the stovetop. Add the molasses to the hot water and mix together. Set aside.
    • To a medium-sized bowl, add brown sugar, granulated sugar and oil. Mix together with a wooden spoon. Add the egg and mix.
    • Add the molasses/water mixture, mixing as your pour it in (this helps temper the egg if the molasses mixture is still very hot). Continue mixing until completely incorporated.
    • Add the salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and cloves directly to the middle of the bowl and mix together, taking care not to splash any of it out of the bowl.
    • Add the greek yogurt and sourdough discard. Mix together. Then add the flour and mix until just combined.
    • Pour the mixture into your greased pan and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
    • After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 30-40 minutes until the center is no longer jiggly and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
    • Allow to cool before serving. This gingerbread snack cake deepens in flavor as it cools. Serve with a sprinkling of powdered sugar or fresh whipped cream. Enjoy!

    Notes

    Not all sourdough discard is created equal. For best results, use discard that is only a few days old at the most. You can also substitute ripe, bubbly sourdough starter for the discard in this recipe.
    Keyword gingerbread, sourdough

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    The Great Family Bake Off: Reunion-Style

    One of my guilty pleasures that I enjoy sharing with my kids is the show, “The Great British Bake Off.” You can check it out on Netflix if you haven’t watched it yet. My kids absolutely love it and we often spend evenings folding laundry and watching the latest episode of “Bake Off” (or the Great British Baking Show as they call it here in the U.S.). It is equal parts funny, challenging and just endearing. We love it. During March and April of this past year, I surprised my kids with their own “Great Family Bake Off” where they completed three challenges and were judged on what they made. You can check it out here. My kids loved it so much that they begged to do it again. And again. And again. Until I finally agreed and decided to make it a larger “reunion-style” family affair.

    Reunion-Style Bake Off

    That’s how “The Great Family Bake Off–Reunion Style” was born. This past summer we drove cross country to be with my parents and siblings for about a month of our Covid-style summer. I planned out a “Reunion-style” bake off and paired the kids up with adults who wanted to participate (those who chose not to participate in the cooking still participated as judges). This entire day was such a hit and so much fun that my family has asked to do it every year.

    Three Rounds

    An episode of Bake Off takes you through three rounds. A signature challenge, a technical challenge and a show stopper challenge. Our Reunion-style Bake Off took us through these three challenges: Cookies for the Signature, Rice Krispy Treats for the technical and Pie for the show stopper. We drew names for teams a few days before the competition and gave the teams time to brainstorm for their signature and show stopper challenges. Ingredients were purchased and imaginations ran wild. This was almost as much fun as baking everything!

    Choosing Teams

    We chose teams about a week in advance to give them time to brainstorm and collaborate. You can print the planning worksheet below to help you out. Teams were selected somewhat randomly (drawing names out of a hat) but we did pair up the younger bakers with an adult because this bake off called for more intricate recipes.

    Signature Round: Cookies, 1 hour

    We gave each team one hour to make and bake their best cookie recipe. Cookies were judged on presentation, uniformity and taste. One of our teams was dairy free and gluten free and had no trouble coming up with delicious recipes. We tasted super creative cookies this round: gluten free sandwich cookies, salted caramel cookies, “lolipop” cookies and mint oreo cookies. All were stellar and hard to choose a winner!

    Technical Challenge: Rice Krispie Treats, 30 minutes

    One of my sisters is gluten free (and she was dairy free at the time due to a nursing baby) so I picked rice krispie treats for the technical challenge as it is easily gluten and dairy free. Portion out the butter, marshmallows, rice krispies, salt and vanilla into the number of teams you have. Give everyone their own ingredients and this “recipe.” The “contestants” have to follow the recipe and figure it out without any help from you. This challenge is also judged “blind,” so the judges can rank them in order from best to worst. 

    Show Stopper Round: Pie, 2 hours

    The pie challenge requires a bit more time. The pies should be properly baked (or chilled) and mostly cooled within the 2 hour time period. We had four very different pies: a candy pie, a charcuterie board of mini pies, a pizookie pie and a potato pie. All of the pies were amazing, but the potato pie was gobbled up (probably because we had been taste-testing sugar all day). Contestants can make any kind of pie they want: sweet, savory, mini pies…the sky is the limit! 

    Judging

    After each round of baking, bring the judges in to judge the round. This is a lot of fun for the other family members who are not participating in the competition. Make sure to have some small plates, forks and napkins for the judges as needed. At the end of the entire competition judges can award “Star Baker” to one team or judges could come up with different awards to give to each team who participated. Depends on how “competitive” you want this experience to be.

    Our Experience

    This was such a fun day for a family reunion. The groups were so creative. Everyone shined in the show stopper round and they are still talking about this fun experience…six months later. No one in our group ended up winning (you can watch the video and see the shoutouts given to each group) but I think we all came out winners with extra treats to eat throughout our reunion and memories to last a lifetime. 

    You can Watch our Bake Off Here

    Please share this post if you enjoyed it. If you plan to host your own “Great Family Bake Off” we’d love to see it! Tag me @amybakesbread on Instagram or share your video clip in the comments section.

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    Homemade Snow Day Donuts

    Back when I first started this blog…almost ten months ago (crazy!), I wrote about one of my favorite kid traditions on a snow day. Snow Day Donuts are the donuts that I make just about once a year. I don’t own any fancy donut equipment or even a deep fryer, so these donuts can be made using the things that I have in my own kitchen. Typically on the first snow day of a year when school is cancelled and there is palpable excitement in the air…we play in the snow, drink cocoa, make donuts and share with our friends and neighbors.

    Jump to Our Favorite Snow Day Donuts Recipe

    A Weird Year

    This year, thanks to COVID, the kids are doing virtual school and we aren’t having friends over right now. This would have been one of those easy traditions to by-pass…but the fact that our first big snow landed on the 1st of December was too magical to miss. We mixed up our donut dough, welcomed our Elf on the Shelf, went sledding, ate far too many donuts and fit in our virtual classes for the day. Whew! And I’m glad we kept the tradition alive this year, even if it wasn’t quite the same.

    Plan for about 3-4 hours

    This donut dough is very good. It is light, airy and easy to work with. It does take time for the dough to rise, and the frying process takes a little extra involvement too. Plan for about 20 minutes to mix up the dough, then a rise of 1-1 1/2 hours. Cutting out the donut shapes takes another 20 minutes and then another hour rise before frying. I usually whip up the dough while the kids are putting on their snow clothes and let it rise for our first venture in the snow. Then I’ll come back in and cut out the shapes with whoever has had enough of the cold for the time being. All the kids come in for frying/topping. I have actually been eyeing a donut recipe that refrigerates the dough overnight, which I think would give an even better-tasting donut. With that said, I never know if we are going to have a snow day…it’s usually not called until the morning of, so those recipes wouldn’t work well for our snow day tradition. Instead we stick with this recipe, our tried and true favorite that is ready to fry when the kids come in from playing in the snow.

    Use What You Have

    I am a big proponent of using what I have in the kitchen and not buying a new appliance unless I really think I’ll use it a lot. In the case of donuts, I just don’t make them all that often. I typically make donuts about once a year…on the first snow day of the year. So I don’t have a fryer or donut cutters. I’ve found that plastic tops to water bottles work really well for cutting out the center of the donuts. I also use the lid of a canning jar to cut out the donut shape. Round cookie cutters work well too. Just make sure to press down hard.

    Donut Holes, Filled Donuts and Apple Fritters

    Once the dough is rolled out, it shouldn’t be re-rolled. If you want to make filled donuts, I take a little bit of the dough, roll it up into a ball and let it rise. Once it is fried, we fill them with frosting, jam or any creamy filing you want. When cutting the donuts out, cut as close together as possible to use up all the dough. I use a large cap to cut out donut holes from the scraps of dough, and when there is no more dough to cut out, with just scraps left over, I cut up an apple and make some apple fritters. The process for this is pretty easy:

    1. Break the scraps of dough into small pieces (using a knife or pulling pieces apart with your fingers so there aren’t long stringy pieces).
    2. Dice an apple (I like Granny Smith) and add it to the scraps of dough along with some brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of lemon juice.
    3. Scoop handfuls of the mixture together and squeeze together, forming a ball-like shape.
    4. Set aside to rise a bit.
    5. After you have fried all the donuts, fry the apple fritters (invariably apple pieces will get into the oil).
    6. Cover with glaze after they cool just a bit.

    Frying Donuts

    I don’t fry very many things and guess what? I don’t use a thermometer to check the temperature of the oil. This goes back to using what I have. Instead I like to heat my oil up to medium heat, throw in a little donut hole and watch it. That donut hole will tell me if my oil is hot enough and ready for my donuts. It will also tell me if I need to turn the temperature up or down a little bit. If the donut hole takes forever to turn brown, turn the heat up. If it browns too quickly, turn it down. The donut hole should sizzle with little bubbles forming around it and take about 30-45 seconds to brown on one side. Once that happens, I know I can start frying my donuts. Donuts take about 2 minutes per side, then flip to cook on the other side. Be careful about adding more oil to your pot or skillet. If you add more oil, it will cool down your oil and you will need to re-heat it to the correct temperature before continuing to fry your donuts.

    Glaze and Toppings

    My kids’ favorite part of making donuts is the toppings. We set up different glazes and sprinkles and let the kids go to town! I have recipes listed for a traditional glaze, chocolate glaze and a maple glaze. All are wonderful on their own and all are great topped with sprinkles. I’m dreaming of topping the maple donut with crispy bacon, that glaze is so good! However you top them, these donuts are best eaten warm. For donuts that are made the same day…these can’t be beat. I hope you enjoy them on a snow day or any day that calls for a homemade donut.

    Snow Day Donuts

    The perfect donuts to share with friends on a snow day. Light, airy, fluffy and sweet. These donuts hit the spot with a cup of cocoa and are perfect to pile high with glaze and toppings.
    Prep Time 30 mins
    Cook Time 3 mins
    Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
    Cuisine American
    Servings 30 donuts/fritters

    Ingredients
      

    Donut Dough

    • 1 3/4 cup milk, warmed to the temperature of baby's bath water
    • 2 Tablespoons instant yeast
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/3 cup shortening, melted or unsalted butter
    • 5 1/2 – 6 cups all purpose flour

    Frying

    • 48 ounces vegetable oil shortening works well here too

    Apple Fritters

    • Scraps of Donut Dough
    • 1 Granny Smith apple chopped
    • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

    Powdered Sugar Glaze

    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/3 cup heavy cream or milk thinned to your liking
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Chocolate Glaze

    • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted semi-sweet is my favorite
    • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 2 teaspoons corn syrup
    • 2 teaspoons water
    • pinch of salt

    Maple Glaze

    • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
    • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon maple extract
    • pinch of salt

    Toppings

    • various sprinkles

    Instructions
     

    Donut Dough

    • Warm the milk (it should be the temperature of a baby's bath water) and pour into a stand mixer. Add the yeast and sugar. Smell for the yeasty smell that tells you your yeast is active.
    • Next add the salt, eggs and melted shortening (make sure it's not too hot so it won't kill the yeast).
    • Add one cup of flour and turn the mixer on. Continue mixing while adding flour a cup at a time until you've added 5 cups of flour total. Reserve the last cup of flour to add as needed.
    • Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until it is slightly tacky to touch but clears the sides of the bowl. Check out this post for tips on how to know when the dough is ready. Add extra flour as needed (you may need up to 6 cups of flour but you may also be fine with 5 1/2 cups).
    • Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover it and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
    • On a very lightly floured surface (you may not need any flour at all), dump the dough out and roll out until about 1/4 inch thick.
    • Use a circle cutter or the top of a mason jar or bowl to cut out donuts. Cut out a small circle in the center of the donut and transfer to a baking sheet to rise.
    • Cut out donut holes and make apple fritters with the donut scraps if desired (instructions for the apple fritters are in the blog post).
    • Let rise again until puffy and almost doubled in size.

    Frying Donuts

    • Heat 48 ounces of oil in a large pot or skillet. Keep the temperature steady and around medium heat.
    • Toss a small donut hole into the oil when you start to see bubbles and watch how long it takes the donut hole to fry. If it starts sizzling, bubbling and takes about 30-45 seconds to brown on one side before flipping it to the other side, your oil is ready to fry donuts in. If you add more oil, that will change the temperature of the oil and you will need to use another "donut hole tester."
    • Fry the donuts a few at a time for about 2 minutes per side until golden brown.
    • Remove donuts from the hot oil onto a baking rack. Let cool for a few minutes before dipping in glaze, toppings and sprinkles. Enjoy warm!

    Glazing Donuts

    • For the glaze, melt together the ingredients and whisk together. If the glaze hardens before or during the process, thin out with a bit of water.

    Notes

    Recipe Notes:
    *Donut dough should not be re-rolled to form more donuts. Instead use the scraps to make donut holes or apple fritters.
    *Donuts should be glazed after they’ve had a few minutes to cool so the icing doesn’t run right off them.
    *Once the donuts are fried, the oil should not be poured down your sink drain. Instead, pour it into a container with a lid and dispose of it in the trash. 
     
    Keyword donut, doughnut

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    Family Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

    I’ve been making these rolls for many, many years every Thanksgiving.

    You may be wondering why I am sharing a cinnamon roll recipe right before the week of Thanksgiving. I should be sharing my favorite pie or telling you about this roll recipe that is perfect for your turkey leftovers. But instead, I am waxing poetic about cinnamon rolls. The best cinnamon rolls. Cinnamon rolls that I have been making and perfecting for many, many years. These rolls are tender, fluffy and filled with an ooey gooey cinnamon mixture then topped with a delicious “light on the cream cheese” frosting that is absolutely amazing. These cinnamon rolls are our family favorite and I have been sharing them with family and extended family every year over our Thanksgiving holiday.

    Jump to Our Family’s Favorite Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
    Missing this view this year! We’ll be back next year 🙂

    My extended family has been going to the coast of Oregon for Thanksgiving every year for the past 50 plus years. We enjoy pot-luck style feasting for many days, lots of family time, long walks on the beach and I especially love making new and favorite recipes fit for a crowd. These cinnamon rolls are a part of our family Thanksgiving week every year. I sometimes make these rolls twice during the week…we love them so much. The dough is substantial, yet soft. The middles are gooey but baked through. The icing takes these rolls to a whole new level of glorious cinnamon rolls. Basically, our whole family loves these cinnamon rolls. 

    Because of Covid this year, Thanksgiving looks a little different and my little family isn’t going to the Oregon Coast. It’s been a tough year for so many and I’ll be honest and say, writing out this cinnamon roll recipe has been hard but good if that makes sense. It’s hard to know we won’t be there to carry on this tradition this year but also good because I love looking back on the many memories I have of cinnamon rolls shared and consumed for so many years. 

    Enough of the walk down memory lane…Let’s get to the details. Here are some of my pro tips for my family’s favorite cinnamon rolls.

    The Dough

    This dough is a dream to work with. I like to use a stand mixer (affiliate link…but check your local Costco for a good deal if you’re looking for one) or Bosch mixer but you could also make this dough kneading by hand. Just knead for about 10 minutes…until your arms are screaming at you to be done. All the butter and eggs in the dough enrich it, which can make it take longer for this dough to rise. To help combat this issue, I use instant yeast in the dough. This is my favorite yeast (affiliate link). It doesn’t need to be proofed and it helps an enriched dough rise a little more quickly.

    Filling Cinnamon Rolls: Cinnamon-Sugar Paste

    Throughout the many years of making this recipe, I’ve learned a few tips that have upped my cinnamon roll game. Many cinnamon roll recipes will have you spread butter over the dough and then add the cinnamon sugar mixture on top. Instead, I like to mix together softened or melted butter in a bowl and mix cinnamon, brown sugar and a little bit of flour into the butter. Then I spread the cinnamon-sugar paste over the roll dough. I think this gives a more even flavor and that little extra flour helps keeps the rolls from gaping open when baked. If you want to add nuts or raisins into your rolls, you can add them right on top of the cinnamon-sugar paste and roll them right up. I sometimes top some of the cinnamon rolls with toasted pecans. Yum!

    Shaping Our Family Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

    This recipe makes 12 large cinnamon rolls. I roll out my dough on the counter, spread on the filling and then roll up, pinching the seam together. To cut out the cinnamon rolls, you can use a sharp knife, bench cutter or even dental floss. If you have any wispy cinnamon roll ends, go ahead and tuck them under the roll so they don’t come loose during the bake. I also prefer baking these rolls six or eight to a pan because they rise a lot on the pan and in the oven while baking. I do know that’s not always possible or ideal (especially when I’m doubling this recipe to feed a crowd), so you can cram 12 to a pan if you want, though they may not rise quite as much.

    Add A Little Heavy Cream

    One other tip that ups the ooey, gooey factor in a cinnamon roll is the addition of warmed heavy cream. I like to take ¼ cup of lightly warmed heavy cream and pour it over the tops of the cinnamon rolls right before baking. You want the cream a little bit warm so it doesn’t impede the rise of the rolls. This little addition keeps the rolls extra tender and gooey, while still being baked through.

    Just drizzle the warm cream right over the top of the risen rolls. Yum!

    Baking the Cinnamon Rolls

    A word of caution on baking the rolls. Ovens all bake differently. Some ovens bake hotter in the back and cooler in the front. If you want an even bake on your rolls, rotate your pan 180 degrees after the first ten minutes of baking. This will keep half of your rolls from getting too dark and the other half being too light. Check the center of one of the cinnamon rolls once the pan is baked to make sure that the middle isn’t raw. Sometimes you need to let them go a minute or two longer just so they are completely baked through.

    The Best Cinnamon Roll Frosting

    The frosting on these rolls is amazing. There’s no other way to describe it. I’m not a huge fan of overly “cream cheesey” tasting frosting, and the ratios on this icing are just perfection. More butter than cream cheese, all whipped together take these rolls to an ethereal level. I also highly recommend adding in the maple flavoring that really give a unique flavor to the entire cinnamon roll. It is just divine! Whip the frosting until it is thick and creamy. Let the cinnamon rolls cool about 5 minutes before spreading a large dollop on each roll.

    How to Make Cinnamon Rolls Ahead of Time: A Few Options

    1. Mix up the dough, fillings and frosting the night before. Stick the dough in the fridge for the first rise and let it rise overnight. The next morning, shape the cinnamon rolls, let rise and bake. This would probably be my first choice if I wanted the freshest cinnamon rolls for a special morning breakfast.
    2. Make and shape the cinnamon rolls. Place them on a sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge. Pull the rolls out the morning of and let them come to room temperature and puff up a bit before baking and frosting. You may have a little bit of leakage from the cinnamon sugar mixture, but they should bake up well and taste delicious.
    3. Make the cinnamon rolls completely without adding the icing on top. Freeze them in ziplock bags. Warm them up and add icing on top when serving.
    4. Make the dough and increase the amount of yeast to 1.5 Tablespoons of yeast. Shape the cinnamon rolls and freeze them immediately. When ready to use, pull them out of the freezer, let them warm up to room temperature and puff up a bit and bake. The freezer can kill off a small amount of yeast in un-baked dough, so you add more to counterbalance this.

    Have I convinced you yet? You need these cinnamon rolls in your life. And your family does too. I usually double this recipe to feed a large crowd at our Thanksgiving celebrations. This year I wasn’t planning to make these cinnamon rolls but my kids looked at me with those sad eyes of “too much has been cancelled in the name of COVID” and this mama has a hard time saying no right now, so I made them. And guess what? I am grateful I did. For the memories. For the traditions. For the look on their faces. And for the amazing gooey deliciousness that is sitting in my kitchen right now. I hope you love them too! Enjoy!

    Family Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

    All the cinnamon-sugar goodness rolled up in a tender, light & fluffy roll and covered in practically perfect icing. These cinnamon rolls are ooey-gooey perfection and our family's favorite treat.
    Prep Time 30 mins
    Cook Time 20 mins
    Total Time 3 hrs
    Course Bread, Breakfast, Dessert
    Cuisine American
    Servings 12 rolls

    Ingredients
      

    Cinnamon Roll Dough

    • 2 cups milk warmed (2% or whole milk works best)
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 5 1/2 – 6 1/2 cups all purpose flour

    Cinnamon Roll Filling

    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter very soft or melted
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour

    Cinnamon Roll Frosting

    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
    • 2 oz cream cheese softened
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream or half and half can also substitute milk in a pinch
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
    • a pinch of salt

    Instructions
     

    Cinnamon Roll Dough

    • Warm the milk in the microwave (about 1 1/2 minutes full power) or on the stove. To the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the warmed milk and melted butter. Feel the mixture with your finger (make sure you feel in the center of the milk/butter mixture) and make sure it is not too hot. You want the temperature to feel like a baby's bathwater. If it is too hot, let it cool a bit before proceeding.
    • Add the sugar and instant yeast to the milk/butter mixture. Stir. Look for the yeasty smell that tells you the yeast is activating (should happen within 10-20 seconds) and then proceed with the recipe.
    • Add the eggs, salt and a cup of flour. Turn on the dough hook on in your stand mixer and continue adding the flour a cup at a time until you have added 5 cups of flour. Knead for 1 minute until all the flour is fully incorporated. Check the dough by rolling it into a ball in your fingers to see if you need more flour. If the dough is too sticky to roll into a ball, continue adding flour 1/4 cup at a time, kneading for 1 minute after each addition. This process will make sure you don't over-flour the dough. Once you can pinch off a piece of dough and roll it into a ball with just a little sticky residue on your fingers, you can stop adding flour. Knead for a total of 5-7 minutes.
    • Lightly oil (or spray with cooking spray) a large container and dump the dough in the container. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place to rise. I like to turn my oven into a "proofing box" with the oven light turned on. This is a nice warm spot for my dough to rise and speeds ups the process a bit. Make sure the oven is NOT turned on during this process.

    Cinnamon Filling

    • While the dough rises, make the cinnamon filling.
    • To a small bowl, add the softened or melted butter. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. Mix together until fully combined and set aside.

    Cinnamon Roll Frosting

    • While the dough rises, whip together the butter and cream cheese until fully mixed and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract, maple extract and salt. Whip together using a mixer until light and fluffy. Set aside.

    Assembling the Cinnamon Rolls

    • Prepare two half sheet pans (18 by 13 inches) and cover with parchment paper.
    • Once the dough has doubled in size, move it from the bowl to a clean space on the counter. The dough will be soft and not overly sticky. Pat the dough out into an approximate 18 by 12 rectangle.
    • Spread the cinnamon filling all over the dough with your fingers, making sure to cover up to the edges of the cinnamon roll.
    • Starting with the dough closest to you, roll up the cinnamon roll and pinch together the seam. Flip the cinnamon roll over, seam side down.
    • Cut the long log of cinnamon roll dough into 12 equal pieces.
    • Place the cinnamon rolls on the parchment paper, six or eight to a pan, leaving plenty of space to rise. Full disclosure, I often cram twelve to one pan, but I think they bake up better and have a better rise if they are placed six or eight to a pan.
    • Cover the rolls again and let rise for thirty minutes to an hour (depending on how warm your kitchen is).

    Bake and Enjoy

    • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    • Once the rolls have puffed up and almost doubled in size, they are ready for the oven. If you want an extra gooey cinnamon roll, warm up some heavy cream and drizzle it over the top of the cinnamon roll before sticking in the oven. Bake the cinnamon rolls for 10 minutes. Then rotate the pan and bake for another 8-10 minutes until just starting to brown.
    • Check the middle of one of the cinnamon rolls by using a butter knife to pry up a bit of the roll and make sure it is baked to your liking (the center will tell you if it needs more time or is perfectly baked).
    • Let the rolls cool for 5 minutes before covering with frosting.
    • Freeze any extra frosted cinnamon rolls in a ziplock bag. To re-heat, place on a plate and warm in the microwave for 30 seconds (time will vary depending on microwave) and enjoy!
    Keyword cinnamon roll