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Christmas was merry and bright

cinnamon rolls

Christmas at the Hopkins’ house was full of family, food, fun, food, gifts, food, friends, more food, and laughter. The most honored and long-standing tradition in our house is our Christmas breakfast. It always consists of only two items; the artery-clogging, sickeningly sweet, and utterly delicious and delectable brown sugar-baked bacon and cinnamon-pecan rolls. These rolls are only made on Christmas day, as your heart and waistline could not bear them more than once a year. And the bacon, that we have twice a year. Once on Christmas to celebrate Jesus’ birth and then again on Easter to celebrate His resurrection. Of course, the bacon itself has nothing to do with either blessed event, just with our traditional family meals. Again, the bacon is only eaten twice a year because of its horrific health ramifications! Today’s post shall focus on the rolls and tomorrow, the bacon. The dough for the rolls is a classic James Beard recipe for Refrigerator Potato Bread, the original recipe can be found in his book, Beard on Bread, available on Amazon.com.

I make a double batch of the dough and use it three times over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The first third is used for potato rolls for Christmas Eve dinner with my mother, the next third for the cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, and the final third for a fresh batch of rolls for Christmas dinner with my dad. If you would like to do the same, the dough needs to be made on December 23rd and refrigerated overnight to begin the process. The dinner potato rolls are also a traditional part of our Thanksgiving meal each year.

potato rolls

Another thing I just have to share with you is what caused all the laughter at our house this year. I stumbled upon the funniest thing a few weeks ago. Decoy gift boxes at theonion.com. They are the most clever and hilarious things I’ve seen in a long time.  I purchased the four-pack, check out the site when you have a free moment and consider buying a pack for next year or for birthday gifts throughout 2010.

Dave, Marissa, and Connor with their decoy boxes

Dave, Marissa, and Connor with their decoy boxes

Linda Hopkins’ Christmas Morning Cinnamon-Pecan Rolls and Dinner Rolls

(make 2 batches of the dough if you would like 1 batch of cinnamon rolls and 2 nights of dinner rolls)

1 package or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup warm potato water (reserved from mashed potatoes, below)
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons or 1  1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened in the warm potato water
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 eggs
1 cup mashed potatoes (cooking water reserved for “potato water” above)
6 cups flour

Cinnamon Rolls
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Dough: Dissolve yeast and the tablespoon sugar in the 1/2 cup warm water and let proof for 5 minutes.  Then add the 1 cup warm potato water with the butter, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, and the eggs to the yeast mixture and stir to blend well.

Add the mashed potatoes and stir well.  Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition, to make a stiff dough.  Turn the dough on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is very smooth and shows elasticity.

Shape dough into a ball.  Butter a large mixing bowl, place dough in the bowl and turn the dough to coat with butter. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight to let rise.

Dinner Rolls: Punch the dough down, then pinch off 14 pieces of the dough to make fourteen 2-inch diameter balls. Cover the remaining dough in the bowl and return it to the refrigerator. Roll dough balls between the palm of your hand and a lightly floured surface to create smooth round rolls. Place rolls on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Cover and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the rolls are a light brown color on top.

Makes 14 dinner rolls

Cinnamon Rolls: The next morning, stir together the 1 1/4 sticks of melted butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup until smooth. Generously butter the sides of two 10-inch-round cake pans. Divide the glaze into the bottom of each pan, then sprinkle with the chopped pecans.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and remove 2 pounds of dough. Cover and return the remaining dough to the refrigerator for another batch of dinner rolls for Christmas dinner.

ball and disk

Divide the dough in half and flatten each into a disk and then on a heavily floured surface, roll each dough into a 10 x 16-inch  rectangle.  Brush the dough with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.  Starting at the short end, roll up each dough, as for a jelly roll.  Cut each “jelly roll” into six equal slices.

into pan

Arrange 6 slices in each of the prepared pans.  Cover with a greased sheet a plastic wrap and a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 3 minutes, then immediately invert onto a serving platter.  Serve warm.

Makes 12 sinful rolls


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1 Sloane { 12.30.09 at 12:10 PM }

This xmas was awesome! Thank you sweet sister for all of the goodies and laughter….still trying to figure out my ipod automatic cat feeding bowl…..

2 Linda Hopkins { 01.02.10 at 7:41 PM }

So happy you liked your “box” we had a blast with those darn things all day! It’s like when the kids were little and the box the big toy came in would entertain them almost as much as the toy itself! xoxo Love you so much, my baby sister!

3 Audrey Larsen { 11.19.10 at 2:57 PM }

Linda, I just did a trial run of this recipe because I want to make it at the holidays, and all I can say is: WOW! Best rolls ever!! Thank you once again for the ideas and inspiration!

4 Linda Hopkins { 11.19.10 at 5:06 PM }

Audrey, thank you again for another lovely comment! I’m so excited to learn that you tried the rolls and loved them as much as we do… we all have James Beard to thank for those! The only problem is that now that my kids and husband have read your comment, I am having my arm twisted (it hurts!) to make these rolls too… so I shall! One must make the family happy on Thanksgiving! xoxo

5 Vicki Dickerson { 08.24.14 at 10:59 AM }

I love this post, because I had never thought of making cinnamon rolls with potato roll dough. BEST cinnamon rolls ever–so tender and yummy. We will never use another kind of dough for cinnamon rolls. (And my husband has been in search of the best cinnamon rolls for a LOT of years.)

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