They may not be the Frontier’s, but these Chai Cinnamon Rolls still check all the boxes you want in a cinnamon roll. They dough isn’t a complicated recipe; the rolls can rest overnight (so the morning you want them doesn’t have to be hectic), they’re loaded with warming chai spices, and they’re topped with a soft and sweet cream cheese frosting.
I’m very much a get-up-and-go type of person in the morning. I enjoy waking up early, taking a shower right away, making a caffeinated beverage, and getting my day going. So on Christmas morning, it’s really nice to me to just take it slow for once. We wake up early and spend hours drinking coffee and opening presents, and trust that no one would want to interrupt that to make an elaborate breakfast. But it’s still Christmas, so we’d also kind of want an elaborate breakfast...these rolls are the solution! You can prep the dough on Christmas Eve and let them rest in the fridge overnight. Then, on Christmas morning, you can preheat the oven, pop the prepped rolls in for a half hour, mix together a quick icing while people are refilling coffee (or prep that the night before too) and then let people serve themselves as desired.
Let’s talk about the process. First, combine the warm milk and yeast together in a bowl. You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, or just use a large bowl and a spoon, later kneading the dough with your hands. Let the milk and yeast rest for 5 to 10 minutes until the yeast starts to become foamy or even bubbly.
At this point, add the sugar, eggs, and 4 tablespoons melted butter and mix together well. Then, add in the salt and 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and mix together. The dough should start to come together into a smooth, slightly elastic ball, but if it’s too sticky, add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of more flour until it comes together. Knead the dough in the mixer or by hand in the bowl for just a minute or two until a nice ball forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest and rise in a warm location for 1 to 2 hours, until it doubles in size.
While the dough is resting, you can prepare the filling. Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter and mix in the brown sugar and chai spices: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, and black pepper. If you don’t have all of these spices or just want to keep these rolls classic, sub in equal amounts of cinnamon for everything. You can also grease your pan at this point, either with butter, cooking spray, or just by lining it with parchment. If you want to make 6 large cinnamon rolls, prep an 8 x 8-inch pan, if you want to make 12 large cinnamon rolls, prep a 9 x 13-inch pan.
Then once the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a lightly floured counter and roll it out to about a 10” by 20” rectangle. Any size around this will be good, definitely doesn’t need to be perfect. Spread the butter-spice filling over the dough evenly and go all the way to the edge. It’ll probably spill over the sides and be a bit of a difficult clean up, but it’s worth it!
Now it’s time to roll and cut the cinnamon rolls. As above, you have 2 options. For 6 rolls, roll the dough tightly from short end and cut into 6 even pieces. For 12 smaller rolls, roll from the large end and cut into 12 even pieces. In either case, tuck in the ends of the dough as you roll to keep all of the filling in. Then, place the cut rolls in the appropriate pan, covering with plastic wrap.
If you would like to bake the rolls the same day, place the pan in a warm location and let the rolls rest and rise for about an hour before baking. If you would like them the next morning, place the pan in the fridge to rest overnight.
The icing comes together quickly in a stand mixer or by hand, and you can make this ahead of time too if you want. Just place it in the fridge overnight with the rolls, and heat in the microwave for a few minutes before spreading over the baked rolls.
Merry Christmas Eve Eve, and hope you enjoy these rolls! This Christmas, and all year round.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes, plus rising time
Servings: 6 or 12 rolls
For the frosting
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