A sweet treat tied to Christmas memories old and new.

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Credit: Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Margaret Monroe Dickey; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Recipe Summary test

active:
45 mins
stand:
20 mins
chill:
4 hrs
cool:
1 hr 30 mins
rise:
1 hr
bake:
30 mins
total:
8 hrs 5 mins
Servings:
20
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"I was 17 the year my paternal grandmother, whom we called Big Mama, died," writes Cassandra King. "As the oldest granddaughter, I spent my time with her in the kitchen, learning the secrets of the unique recipes she brought from her Swiss heritage. That year, I'd learned to cook and wanted to surprise her with something different. I couldn't wait to show off what I had made: a cinnamony sweet bread that was shaped like a wreath and had a cranberry-pecan filling."

For Cassandra King, every time she bakes these warm, pillowy rolls, she's reminded of that last Christmas with Big Mama. King's Christmas Sweet Roll Wreath is proof that, "Whether joyful or sad, our sweetest memories live on."

Similar in flavor to a Christmas panettone, these homemade sweet rolls start with a buttery, lightly-sweetened, enriched bread dough. The dough gets stuffed with a very festive filling of cranberries, pecans, orange, and dark brown sugar. The filling is crunchy and tart, with floral notes from the orange peel and a caramely warmth from the cooked brown sugar. Serve these sweet rolls for breakfast or dessert, with a glass of milk or a hot toddy. 

Ingredients

Dough
Filling
Additional Ingredients

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Prepare the Dough: Stir together milk, butter, and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low, stirring often, just until butter is melted. Remove from heat. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until mixture cools to 120°F, 10 to 15 minutes. 

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  • Stir together sugar, yeast, and 1¼ cups of the flour in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add warm butter mixture, and beat on medium-low speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Add egg and ¼ cup of the flour. Beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes. With mixer running, gradually add salt and remaining 2½ ups flour, beating until mixture forms a stiff and sticky batter, about 1 minute. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Chill at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours. 

  • Prepare the Filling: Pulse cranberries, pecans, and chopped unpeeled orange in a food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses. Transfer to a small saucepan; stir in brown sugar and salt. Cook over medium, stirring often, until mixture begins to bubble around pan edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring often, until thick and jammy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool completely, about 1 hour. 

  • Turn Dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface. Divide evenly into 2 pieces (about 1 pound, 2 ounces each). Working with 1 Dough piece at a time, roll into a 14- x 7-inch rectangle. Spread half of the cooled Filling (about 1 cup) on top of Dough rectangle, spreading to edges. Starting with 1 long side, roll up jelly-roll style, and pinch each end to seal. Shape into a ring (about 7 inches in diameter), and pinch ends together to seal. Place ring, seam side down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Repeat process using remaining Dough and Filling, placing ring on a separate greased baking sheet. 

  • Using kitchen shears and keeping Dough ring on baking sheet, make cuts around 1 ring at 1½-inch intervals, cutting from outer edge and in toward center, leaving about ¾ inch attached at the center. Turn each cut section, in the same direction, to lie on its side with the Filling side exposed. Repeat process with remaining Dough ring. Cover rings loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place (75°F to 85°F) until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. 

  • About 30 minutes before Dough is finished rising, preheat oven to 350°F with racks in top third and lower third positions. Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Brush Dough rings lightly with egg mixture. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating baking sheets between top and bottom racks halfway through bake time. Do not remove from oven. Cool completely on baking sheets in oven, about 30 minutes.

  • Whisk together powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons of the milk in a small bowl. Add remaining 1 teaspoon milk, ¼ teaspoon at a time, if needed to thin glaze to a pourable consistency. Drizzle glaze over rings; let stand 10 minutes. Serve warm.

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