Growing up, cinnamon rolls were never really a thing I ate.
It was always my mom's cinnamon bread. Two huge loaves would emerge from the oven, oozing with hot cinnamon sugar on the inside. The best spot is the lower right corner which is both chewy and gooey from housing all of that sugar. The second best spot is the middle, for obvious reasons.
In my sophomore year of college I started my own bread making adventures. First, it was some basic sandwich rolls. If I remember correctly, they were kind of lumpy but I considered them to be a success. Then, I graduated to making sweet breads. But, I never went all the way to make cinnamon bread. I always end up making cinnamon rolls or monkey bread because it's easier to handle smaller chunks of bread rather that two large loaves. It's also a sacred thing that my mom makes.
Now I'll eat cinnamon rolls but not some sugar-coated monster from Cinnabon. They must be deliciously soft and not too skimpy on the sugar and cinnamon. Frosting is optional but it does add a nice touch. And they're double the fun to make, especially in a Christmas tree shape, though mine turned out to be a fat Douglas Fir-looking thing.
I think I'm more obsessed with the swirls than the actual tree shape.
They're just too beautiful.
Winter time in California is the best time to make bread. It's cold but not freezing so the bread can rise slowly. Plus, it's an excuse to turn on your oven. Like my Chocolate Swirly Princess Leia Buns, this bread is also a sweet dough with sugar, milk and eggs. And it is also very soft when stirring and kneading. You want to see the layers in the dough as it rises. That's how you know you'll get lovely soft layers in your cinnamon rolls when it comes out of the oven.
You also want more cinnamon sugar mixture than you think. Don't worry if it falls out when you cut it into the rolls, just sprinkle it back on top.
This Cinnamon Roll Christmas Tree also makes a great Christmas breakfast. It can be cut and assembled the night before. Pop it in the fridge for the second rise and remove it at least 2 hours before baking. (i.e. while you're opening presents and going gaga at what Santa brought).
Alternatively, place the dough in the fridge after kneading. Remove it at least 2 hours before assembly time.
Dreamin' of more soft, fluffy cinnamon rolls for Christmas.
Cinnamon Roll Christmas Tree
Slightly adapted from the Christmas Tree Bread in Mary's Bread Basket and Soup Kettle
Yields: 1 18 roll tree // Active Time: 1 hour // Inactive Time: 3 1/2 hours - 12 hours