Children love to talk about Christmas. Or maybe it was just my third grade class. But as we sat on the bleachers in the music room anxiously awaiting our turn to share our favorite Christmas tradition it became quite clear, there is something so very special about the morning of Christmas. The day, I realize, means many different things for many different people, and for some people it means absolutely nothing at all.
I’m a big supporter of traditions. They can be started at any time, they bring a sense of belonging especially if the tradition is shared with others, and they act as the dots for which to connect a line through years of holidays and gatherings and memories.
Traditions can become extinct and fade away over time. Sometimes just the thought of tradition is too painful to bear and other times the tradition feels different when a loved one passes but is carried out in his or her honor. Traditions are dynamic, they can be started at any time and can be implemented or tweaked whenever the individual deems it appropriate or feasible. A milestone like that of a holiday can serve as a reminder to bake up a batch of Grandma’s cookies or have the whole family headed up the muddy hill, saws in hand to harvest the most perfectly unperfect balsam fir tree.
The term “letting the branches fall” can signify a time to sweep away the fallen needles and construct a wreath with the discarded branches. For others it’s a time to have some spiced eggnog with friends and family. For those who have an artificial tree this terminology may be completely foreign.
The tradition of baking cinnamon buns for Christmas morning is not uncommon as I learned that day in the third grade. However, it is uncommon in our household and it’s something I’ve always wanted to partake in. One year I tried waffles, another year pancakes, and some years the tried and true eggs and toast. But nothing has stuck, nothing has made it onto the landscape of our Christmas morning.
It’s never the wrong time to introduce tradition, but traditions require maintenance otherwise they wouldn’t be so reliable. In preparation for the start of a new tradition, I made up a batch cinnamon buns.
A cup of whole wheat flour allows for a nutty flavor and a crispy outer texture that preludes the soft and moist interior you except to find in a cinnamon bun.
Adapted from Food.com & Recipe Girl
For the filling you will need:
4 TBSP unsalted butter, room temp
1 TBSP ground cinnamon
1 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light works – or a mix of both)
For the dough you will need:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3 TBSP unsalted butter, room temp, cut into small cubes
1 tsp salt
1 TBSP baking powder
2 TBSP granulated sugar
3/4 cup skim milk
1 egg, beaten
For the frosting you will need:
2 ounces cream cheese, room temp
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3 TBSP skim milk – more to thin to a glaze if desired.
Preheat oven to 400F. Using butter or cooking spray, grease the muffin tin. Mix all ingredients for the filling in a small bowl, using a for to combine. In a large bowl whisk flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Use a pastry blender (or two knives) to cut the butter into the mixture. Add the egg and milk and mix until combined.
Lightly flour your cleaned work surface and roll the dough into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thickness. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on top, leaving a 1/2 inch edge. Roll into a log and cut into slices, size depending on how large or small you want the buns and how many you wish to make.
Add a little bit of the cinnamon sugar mixture to the bottom of the tins before placing the buns in for extra goodness. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Prepare the glaze by putting all ingredients in a medium bowl and mixing with a handheld mixer. Additional milk can be used to thin out the glaze. Additional powdered sugar can thicken it to a frosting. Drizzle or spread atop the buns and serve warm.