We got home from England last night, late. The first thing to greet us when we opened the door was our sweet Loki boy. It doesn’t get any better than that.
The second thing to greet us as we walked into our home was a sweet and lovely little Christmas tree and a box of ornaments.
When we moved to Europe this past summer, we made a choice not to bring our Christmas decorations with us. We have spent 12 years accumulating our decorations, and they are all very special to us; we were afraid to risk them on a transatlantic move. Instead, we put them into storage and resigned ourselves to a little less twinkle, not as much glistening, and a shortage of shine for the next three Christmases.
Much to our surprise, my sister decided this wouldn’t do, and planned a surprise Christmas tree for us. Although, this really shouldn’t have surprised me at all.
When I was a kid, probably about 13 years old, my parents couldn’t afford a Christmas tree that year. As I’ve mentioned before, my dad was very, very ill when I was growing up, and unable to work. My mom worked full time, but it was barely enough to keep us afloat.
This particular year, they told us that they decided not to get a tree, so that we could have more gifts to open. My sisters and I were really disappointed, but you could tell that my dad was on the verge of tears. Our disappointment waS mild compared to the sadness he was feeling.
Perhaps a Christmas tree is just a commercialized symbol that actually has nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas, but it was hard for him to know that we wouldn’t have one that year. Harder maybe because he felt he should be able to provide something so simple for his family.
They told us we wouldn’t have a tree before church one Sunday. Afterwards, my sister couldn’t let it go. She was driving by then, and she and I left church together, scheming, while our other sister went with Mom and Dad to distract them.
We had exactly $12 between the two of us, and we were planning to get any tree we could for that amount. We drove around all afternoon, visiting tree lots and department stores, looking for a tree that fell into our price range. As you can imagine, we had
little zero luck.
Finally, at the last lot we were planning to visit before throwing in the towel, we approached the guy running the place, and explained our situation. We asked if he had any trees for $12, and he said he thought he did. He took us over to a beautiful little tree, about five feet tall, and said that we could have it.
I’m positive this tree was more than $12, but I’m also positive that he didn’t care. He helped us load the tree onto my sisters car and tie it down, then he waved us away when we tried to pay.
It’a been about 20 years since that day, but I still look back on it when I need reminding of the goodness of humanity. I look back on it when I am missing my dad more than usual, and I remember the smile on his face, and the tears in his eyes, when we led him and my mom out to see the tree. Now, today, I look back on it and see it every time I look at the sweet tree standing in my living room today.
All of our Christmas trees over the years have been beautiful and special – the first one the Hubster and I got as a married couple, the first tree we cut done with the boys – but the tree we were able to give my parents that year glows the brightest of all, and this year’s tree is a wonderful reminder of one of the best Christmas memories I’m blessed enough to have.
In the interest of all things good, and paying it forward, I made you guys the perfect breakfast for Christmas – or any – morning! Hot, butter-y, sweet and spicy. That pretty much sums up hot buttered rum, and it sums up these cinnamon rolls. These are decadent and over-the-top (just what we like for holiday treats), but very, very simple, and easily customizable (I used rum flavoring in place of real rum, for example). Since they’re no-rise, you can either prepare to the point of baking the night before, and bake them in the morning. Or you can whip them up and make them from start to finish the day you’re serving them – they only take about 45 minutes from ingredients to the breakfast table.
Mixing these up nay takes about 10 minutes, and then you’re ready for rolling, slicing, and baking. I use a very, very sharp knife that I’ve coated in flour to cut my cinnamon rolls. It’s not really necessary, but it makes the whole job go quicker and smoother, so why not?
When you roll the dough for these, be sure to roll it tightly, so that you get a nice swirl, and to keep all of the filling neatlyÂ in the rolls.
While the rolls are still nice a hot from the oven, drizzle every last bit of icing over the top of them. There’s a bit of cream cheese and, some buttermilk, in the icing that keeps it from being too cloyingly sweet, so more is more in this case. Trust me.
Make sure that you thoroughly grease and flour your baking pan before adding these rolls to it. With all that spicy-sweet filling, these tend to stick without enough preparation.
Not that it makes them any less delicious.
I’m basically obsessed with these. They’re crisp and flaky on the edges, and soft and buttery inside. The mixture of the warm cinnamon filling with the smooth cream cheese frosting are exactly what a cinnamon roll should be. And then you add fragrant rum and nutmeg…I can’t even.
I froze these, rather than share them. That’s how good they are. The end.
Hot Buttered Rum Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 8 rolls
FOR THE FILLING
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
FOR THE ROLLS
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon rum extract or flavoring (or 2 tablespoons rum)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 more tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for filling and brushing the rolls
FOR THE ICING
2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon rum extract or flavoring (or rum to flavor)
To make the filling: Combine all of the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add the melted butter and stir with a fork until the mixture looks like wet sand. Cover and set aside.
To make the dough: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease and flour (or coat with non-stick baking spray) a 9-inch cake or pie pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the buttermilk, rum extract, and 3 tablespoons of the butter and stir until just combined. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead until the dough is smooth (it will still be very soft and a little sticky, but should be smoother and less lumpy). Add more flour, as needed, to be able to knead the dough without it sticking too much.
Flatten the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches by 8 inches. Pour 2 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter on and spread around with your fingers. Pour the cinnamon roll filling over the dough and spread it evenly, leaving about a 1/2 inch or so border around the outside edge. Press the filling down to sort of pack it on top of the dough.
Starting on the long side of the dough, roll the side up, pressing as you go, to create a tightly rolled log (be gentle, as this will likely stick to the counter a bit). Pinch the seam closed and lay the log seam side down. Cut into 8 even pieces, laying each one flat as you go. Gently press down on the top of each roll, then transfer them to the prepared pan. Brush with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.
To make the icing: In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth, and add the sugar and nutmeg. Mix until the sugar and cream cheese start to come together a bit. Add the buttermilk and whisk well, until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the rum extract. If the icing is too runny, add more sugar to reach the desired consistency. If it is too thick, add more buttermilk or rum (there’s on wrong answer).
Upon removing the cinnamon rolls from the oven, allow them to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes.
Pour the icing over the cinnamon rolls. Serve rolls while still warm.
These will keep in an airtight container for at least 3 days.
Recipe by Darla