Man. I am such a dork.
This is awkward.
So, when I was visiting my grandparents last week my grandma and I got to talking about Christmas cookies…her favorite recipes and the recipes her mother used to make when she was a little girl in Minnesota.
It’s so amazing to me that despite their age, my grandparents are still so sharp when it comes to talking about the past! Once I got grandma talking recipes, she kept going on and on and ON about which desserts she served at dinner parties in the 60’s, how the oven temperature must be lower than what the recipe says or it “simply will not turn out”, and which flavor of mousse (dark chocolate or white chocolate mint) tastes best in meringue shells.
Seriously, Grandma? I can’t even remember yesterday. Where am I?
But back to these awkwardly dorky cinnamon rolls. While gabbing it with Grandma about mousse flavors and meringue, I happened to come across this cookbook shoved underneath a stack of old papers in the guest room:
Naturally, after seeing my interest in it, Grandma shoved it into my arms along with candy canes, gingerbread men, white chocolate chunk cookies, fuzzy socks, a box of white tea, new slippers and a perfectly washed apple to take home. Actually I’m lying. She didn’t exactly shove it all in my arms. She carefully set everything in a large “Save the Animals” reusable grocery bag so I could raise awareness on the plane. I love my grandma so much.
And once I laid eyes on the “Christmas Tree Cinnamon Roll” recipe in this little book, circa 1955, I knew it had to be shared.
Really, all you do is just make cinnamon rolls then press them together in the shape of a Christmas tree. You can just decorate with icing like I did OR you can go super duper fancy and “trim your tree” with candied fruit and nuts as ornaments.
If you do that, let me know.
These are tasty but are not the huge-in-your-face-30000 calories-size-of-a-plate cinnamon rolls that we typically eat today. They’re from 1955 after all! Portion sizes in the 50’s were smaller than they are today. So were people in the 50’s. Amazing.
Rather, these are mildly sweet rolls crackling with cinnamon sugar and perfect for a Christmas Eve dinner spread. I would actually go so far as to serve them on the dinner table rather than the dessert table!
Let me know if you make these—they’re a hoot!
Christmas Tree Rolls
recipe adapted from the 1955 Wisconsin Electric Power Company cookbook
makes about 18 rolls
1/4 cup warm water (about 100 degrees)
1/3 cup milk
1 (1/4th oz) package dry active yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon
2 heaping cups flour
additional softened butter for rolling buns (I just wanted to type “rolling buns”)
1/2 cup sugar + 1.5 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup powdered sugar + 2 tsp milk for glaze
Combine the yeast, warm water and a tiny pinch of sugar in a small bowl and let sit for five minutes till it gets foamy and bubbly.
Meanwhile, scald the milk over low heat (just heat until small bubbles appear all around the sides of the pot then take off heat). Add the butter, salt and sugar and stir until everything is melted and combined. Cool to lukewarm temperature then stir in yeast.
In the bowl of a KitchenAid (or just a regular mixing bowl), add the flour and lemon zest. Pour in the wet ingredients followed by the egg and mix on high for six minutes until soft and elastic dough forms. You can also totally do this by hand!
Spray a little cooking spray on your dough ball, cover the bowl with a clean dishcloth and place bowl in a warm area for 1 1/2 hours until dough has doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out dough into a large rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Smear softened butter all over the surface of the dough and sprinkle cinnamon sugar generously over butter. Roll dough up then slice into 1″ rolls.
Arrange rolls into a christmas tree shape on a lined baking sheet, using two rolls as the trunk. Cover with dishcloth again and let rise for another 45 minutes.
Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
Let cool then ice with powdered sugar icing.
**You could also “decorate” your tree with raisins, candied nuts or other candied fruit… go buck wild—it’s Christmas!