Stress Less at Brunch: Easy Make-Ahead Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
Breakfast and brunch are at the top of my list for the most challenging menus to plan and execute (with minimal stress of course which is always the goal). So many of the things we love for breakfast and brunch — eggs, toast, pancakes, waffles, and french toast just to name a few — taste best just after they are finished. And to make things even more interesting, many can’t be prepared much in advance so you’re stuck the morning of the meal prepping and cooking. Sure you can make batter the night before and keep baked goods warm in the oven. And of course a frittata or quiche are great solutions for eggs for crowd, but even so there always seems to be a flurry of last-minute dishes to finish for any morning meal. Given that stress-inducing reality, I’m always on the hunt for breakfast and brunch recipes that I can prep ahead and finish easily in the morning.
A Cinnamon Rolls Recipe Made for Entertaining
My most recent make-ahead, easy finish breakfast and brunch gem is a recipe for Almond Brioche Sticky Buns from Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen. Brioche, a butter-filled dough that is notoriously difficult to work with, becomes like putty in your hands thanks to an overnight rise in the fridge. You’ll be hard pressed to find an easier and tastier cinnamon roll recipe. Because of the overnight rise required for the dough you can’t decide the morning of the brunch to make these cinnamon rolls, but with a bit of planning ahead you can spread the work out over three days:
- Two days before: Make the brioche dough, let it rise for an hour, punch it down and then set it and forget it in your refrigerator for 18 -36 hours. You even make the dough in your stand mixer so the only thing working hard at kneading is your dough hook. Plan for about 30 minutes of active time and an hour of rise time.
- The evening before: Make the cinnamon sugar filling and the glaze then toast the nuts. Roll out the dough, spread it with butter and sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar filling, then roll and cut into cinnamon rolls. Pour the glaze into a baking pan then nestle the rolls into it for their final overnight rise. Plan for about 45 minutes of active time to get all of the pieces and parts mixed and put together.
- The morning of: Set the risen cinnamon rolls out for 30 minutes while your oven preheats. Cook, serve, and bask in the appreciation of those you’ve invited to your table.
You can condense this process down into two days by making the dough the night before then preparing and baking the cinnamon rolls the morning of your breakfast or brunch. But really, why do that when you can get an extra 45 minutes of beauty sleep or use that time to prepare some crazy offering like an individual omelet station (not really – I’m kidding). Also, you can vary this recipe to your heart’s content. I used orange zest and pecans with mine, but I think lime zest and some pine nuts would make for a fun flavor combination that would really surprise some folks.
I have to say this dough is some of the easiest I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve made a lot of cinnamon rolls in my time. Sure it’s sticky when you first move it from the mixing bowl to a buttered bowl to rise, but after that it’s easy to handle. After the overnight rise it rolls out and back up again into cinnamon rolls effortlessly. I’m now on the hunt for other recipes that call for brioche dough to see what else I can do it with it. I’m thinking monkey bread could be all sorts of fun and perfect for breakfast after a kids’ sleepover.
Keys to the Kitchen – A Great Addition to Any Hostess’ Bookshelf
As much a manual for your kitchen as a cookbook, Keys to the Kitchen is a new take on old classics like The Joy of Cooking and The Betty Crocker Cookbook, and akin to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, as a complete guide to being a better cook. While I missed meeting Aida when she visited Austin, I was lucky enough to get a copy of her cookbook and couldn’t start cooking out of it fast enough. The recipes are fresh and up to date, with plenty of tips and variations to keep you coming back time and again. The teacher in me also loves that she calls out exactly what techniques she’s teaching you in each recipe: Chipotle-Sweet Potato Hash with Poached Eggs and Avocado teaches you the basics of how to poach an egg while Plum Crips with Toasted Almond-Cornmeal Topping teaches you how to make a fruit crisp. Once you know what technique you’ve learned you can use it as you cook recipes from any other source.
I also like how Aida calls out gotchas to look out for so you don’t get tripped up by common kitchen issues. For the sticky buns recipe she warns that a lack of bubble in your yeast and milk mixture is a sure sign you need to start again with new yeast or a more temperate liquid. Better to find out before you make dough that won’t rise than after.
She also regularly calls out make-ahead tips for all of her recipes which, as you can imagine, just warms my pre-ahead loving heart.
And finally, because kitchen equipment is plentiful and often confusing, she offers illustrations and descriptions of key hardware you’ll need to complete a recipe.
Whether you’re a seasoned cook or just starting out, I have to say Keys to the Kitchen is worth adding to your bookshelf simply because it will help make you a better cook and learn how to make recipes, and their preparation your own.