These are the most amazing breakfast rolls you will ever eat!
Every Christmas morning at our house begins with these caramel rolls. Since I’m the one who actually bakes the caramel rolls, I am up earlier than anyone else and it’s my responsibility to taste-test the caramel rolls. (The early bird gets the middle roll!) It’s a tough job but someone must sample them before they’re released to the masses. I usually have a caramel roll with my coffee before everyone wakes. Then I have another one for breakfast. Then after we open presents, Grandmom shows up with grits and sausage balls and the egg bake or quiche is out of the oven, so I have one with brunch. And maybe just a little one for my afternoon snack. . . . . and one when I wake from my Christmas afternoon nap. . . . I’m sure you get the picture. I absolutely love these rolls!
I also love that it’s part of our Christmas tradition. We have had to change some traditions over the years, but this recipe is flexible enough to travel (they once traveled in pre-bake mode in a RV from Florida to Atlanta), be made in advance (most years) or be frozen (one year when we were in Breckinridge until Christmas Eve). I can’t remember a Christmas morning when we didn’t have caramel rolls.
I usually make the dough for the rolls on the 22nd or 23rd of December and then leave it in the refrigerator. The dough is “punched” down once a day (it will continue to rise) and on the 24th I roll it out and place the rolls on top of caramel. It then all goes back into the refrigerator until about two hours before the time we want to eat them on Christmas morning!
You know I”m not a great morning person so there is a trick or two involved for us to have these warm, delicious rolls on Christmas morning. It’s all in making the timing work for your schedule.
Here are the basics:
Bring to boil one quart milk (I use the microwave). Stir in 1 cup sugar, let cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, melt one cup shortening (Crisco) and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Dissolve one package of original active dry yeast in ¼ cup of warm water. Add one tablespoon of sugar and stir. Set aside and let yeast begin to rise.
When milk mixture is lukewarm, stir in yeast mixture. Then mix in four cups sifted flour. (You MUST use flour that you’ve sifted – I had a serious fail one year when my sifter went missing! Luckily I realized it in the early stages and was able to start over.) Let this mixture stand one half hour.
Mix together 1 tsp soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 Tablespoon of salt and add. Stir in room temperature shortening. Add 10 – 12 cups of flour to make soft dough. Knead until dough is smooth.
Place in large greased bowl, cover and place in refrigerator. Knead or “punch” down twice the first day. “Punch” down once a day while kept in refrigerator.
Combine 1 pint heavy whipping cream, ½ cup butter and a 2# bag of brown sugar. Microwave, stirring frequently until mixture is smooth. Let cool and pour equally into three 9 x 13 cake pans.
Roll out dough on floured surface to desired thickness for size of rolls. Spread softened butter on dough and cover with brown sugar. Sprinkle cinnamon on all.
Roll up dough and cut in 1” rolls. Place on top of caramel mixture. Cover with light tea towel and let rise one hour. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes or until brown on top. Take out of oven, let sit five minutes then invert on tray covered with freezer paper.
Options for baking at a later time:
The wonderful thing about these rolls is that you can get them ready (roll and set on top of caramel in 9 x 13 glass cake pan) and put them in the refrigerator the night before Christmas. Just get up early enough to let the dough rise about an hour before baking them. I put them in the oven to rise – if you don’t have a proof setting on your oven, just turn on your oven for a couple of minutes and then turn it off. The heat should be minimal around 75 degrees for them to rise. You can also just turn on the oven light to generate some warmth. I cover the rolls with a tea towel as they rise.
One year I froze the rolls because we were traveling before Christmas. After placing rolls on top of the caramel in the baking pan, I wrapped the pan in foil and put them in the freezer. On Christmas Eve, I put the rolls in the refrigerator when I went to bed so they could thaw. Then I let the rolls rise an hour before baking them.
It’s really an amazingly flexible sweet roll recipe.