Alright, alright, who’s ready for all the December festivities!? Now that Thanksgiving is out of the way, I’m full steam ahead on the holidays! Usually, my family enjoys homemade bear claws on Christmas morning. However, this year these insanely delicious, gooey Cranberry Orange Cinnamon Rolls may just edge them out! This recipe is a classic with a holiday twist. The filling is heavily perfumed and infused with orange zest, while the rolls are bathed in a tangy cranberry glaze. The tanginess of the cranberry balances out the sweet, pillowy-soft dough. That magenta glaze is undeniably pretty, too, so they have holiday festive vibes written alllll over them.
For my family, Christmas morning would not be complete in our house without a special, homemade treat. There’s just something magical about waking up to the smell of a freshly baked special goodie. Here’s how it usually goes down Christmas morning at our home: our entire extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents have a giant sleepover at our house Christmas eve, which typically means no one sleeps well. We (my sister, cousin, and I) wake up at a completely unreasonable hour, usually like 5 AM. Then, we try to wait as long as possible before waking up the rest of the house. We know to get the coffee going before daring to wake my dad. Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song is turned on and played on a loop, heat and fireplace blasting, then someone is appointed official present passer-outer. We huddle criss-cross applesauce style on the floor by the tree until the festivities begin. Somewhere in there, some kind of delicious baked good is slid into the oven and in the middle of present-opening, the smell wafts in to the living room and almost halts the gift exchange altogether.
Cranberry Orange Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
Ingredients (makes 12 large rolls)
- 3/4 c whole milk, heated to 110 °F
- 2 1/4 t active-dry yeast (1 package)
- 2 T granulated sugar
- 4 c all-purpose flour, or more as needed
- 2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk, room temperature
- 1 t Himalayan pink salt (or kosher)
- 1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
- 1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
- 1 c brown sugar
- 2 t ground cinnamon
- zest of 2 oranges
- pinch of Himalayan pink salt (or kosher salt)
- 8 oz fresh cranberries
- 1/4 c water
- 1/4 c orange juice, freshly squeezed
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 c powdered sugar, or more as needed
- pinch of Himalayan pink salt
Make the dough
Add the heated milk to the bowl of a stand mixer along with the yeast, sugar, and 1/2 cup of the flour. Allow to stand for about 5 minutes, until the yeast is slightly bubbly.
With the mixer fitted with the dough hook and the mixer on low, add in the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time and mix to combine. Add in the remaining 3 1/2 cups of flour along with the salt and mix on low until all the flour has been incorporated then turn the speed up to medium-high and continue to mix until the dough is a smooth, shiny ball, about a minute or two.
With the mixer running, add the butter, about a tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated, allowing each tablespoon to fully incorporate before adding the next. Let the dough knead on low for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and in one uniform ball. This will be a fairly tacky dough but if it’s still a little too sticky to handle, add another 1/4 cup of flour and mix again until incorporated and dough is smooth. Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise in a warm and cozy place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. I like to actually put a little piece of washi or masking tape on the side of the bowl at the level the dough is at so you can accurately gauge when it’s actually doubled in size. Much easier this way!
Make the Cranberry Puree
While the dough rises, make the cranberry puree for the glaze by combining the cranberries, water, orange juice, and orange zest in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes until cranberries have popped and liquid has reduced and thickened, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching on the bottom of the pot. Transfer mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, being sure to keep the lid of the blender cracked with a towel loosely covered over top since mixture will be hot to allow steam to escape. Alternatively, you could use an immersion blender if you have one. Transfer to a small bowl and allow to cool.
Make the Rolls
Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and set aside. In a bowl, make the filling by combining the softened butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and orange zest and stir until a paste forms. Set aside.
Gently punch the dough down with your hands and on a floured work surface, roll out to about a 12 x 18 inch rectangle. Using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the filling evenly over the surface of the dough, being sure to go all the way to the edges. With the longest end facing you, roll the dough up into a tight spiral. If you feel like the dough is a little too soft and warm to slice at this point, you can pop the log onto a baking tray and place in the freezer for about 15 minutes to firm it up.
Using a sharp knife, slice the log into 12 equal rolls, about 1 1/2 inches wide each. Arrange the rolls into the buttered baking dish, leaving about 1/4-1/2 inch of space in between each. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise again until doubled in volume, about an hour.
Preheat oven to 375 °F about 30 minutes after the buns start rising so it’s at temperature when the rolls are ready to go in. When rolls have doubled in size, bake for about 30-35 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden brown. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before glazing.
Make Cranberry Orange Glaze
While the rolls are baking, make the glaze by whisking together the cooled cranberry puree (you should have about a cup’s worth, but a little more or less is ok), powdered sugar and salt and whisk until a thick but spreadable glaze forms. Depending on your cranberry puree, you may need to adjust the powdered sugar accordingly to end up with the right consistency of glaze. It should be about the consistency of honey: thick but still drizzle-able. Drizzle over the slightly cooled rolls with the cranberry orange glaze. Enjoy!
These Cranberry Orange Cinnamon Rolls are perfect to enjoy on Christmas morning with your cup of coffee or even as a sweet treat for dessert. They’re also excellent for baking up a double batch and bringing a special delivery to your neighbors! For the dough, you can even make it the night before and let it have its first rise overnight in the fridge then assemble and bake them in the morning for a quicker prep time.
Looking for even more dessert recipes? Check out these:
- pumpkin nutella swirl tart recipe
- tahini frangipani apple galette with salted honey rose cream recipe
- spiced pear ricotta muffin recipe
- baked pumpkin doughnuts with bittersweet chocolate ganache