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Cinnamon baked goods are perfect for Christmas morning breakfast

Want the family to wake up on Christmas morning and exclaim, "It smells like Christmas in here!"?

Then crank up the stove and break out the cinnamon to make iced buns, coffee cakes and muffins. Serve them warm either before or after the gift-unwrapping extravaganza with hot drinks and strips of crispy bacon. Merry Christmas, for sure.

Augment the seasonal smells from the oven by floating a couple of cinnamon sticks in a pot of simmering apple cider (throw in a few cloves for good measure) and hanging a few more from the tree with bright red ribbon. In years to come, the sweet smell of cinnamon will be laced into their memories of Christmas.

The spice that comes from the bark of the cassia tree has long been associated with the holidays, but it also gets high marks for its medicinal properties. Recent research claims that just ¼ teaspoon can help people with Type 2 diabetes reduce blood sugar and LDL (bad!) cholesterol. Isn't it nice to know there's a benefit from indulging in one of nature's most wonderful products? Sprinkle ground cinnamon on your coffee or over your oatmeal in the morning for an easy way to get your daily intake.

There are two types of cinnamon, and the one used most commonly in the United States comes from Southeast Asia. That variety is strong and spicy. The other comes from Ceylon and is considered the true cinnamon. It is more common in English and Mexican sweets and doesn't show up much in American markets. It actually has citrus overtones and a more complex flavor than the cinnamon we are accustomed to. Its popularity in savory Mexican dishes — mole for example — makes sense because of the reduced sweetness. A teaspoon of cinnamon and ¾ of a teaspoon of chili powder stirred into a brownie mix destined for a 9- by 13-inch pan results in a dessert with a Mexican accent.

Don't want to fuss over baked goods but still want the house to smell like the elves set up their bakeshop in your kitchen? Make a stove-top potpourri by adding a few tablespoons of cinnamon or 4 or 5 sticks to a pot of boiling water. You can even add chopped apples for a more complex aroma. Even easier? Pick up a cinnamon broom at Publix ($3.99).

Today's recipes require you to break out the mixer and measuring cups. I think they are worth the effort, but I do know that some of you prefer to get some help from convenience items. In October, our Taster's Choice panel tasted new cinnamon products and gave high marks to BelVita Cinnamon Brown Sugar Biscuits ($2.99 for a box of five from Publix). While these aren't likely to make an impression with the kids, the adults might enjoy one or two with their Christmas morning cup of joe.

I have also had good results from the refrigerated cinnamon rolls from Pillsbury. If you would like to doctor them, scatter toasted chopped pecans over the top of the icing or even mix orange zest into the icing. There are other suggestions for embellishments at

If you have the time and inclination, I recommend the Cinni Mini Bun Bites recipe that accompanies this story. It's from Hedy Goldsmith's Baking Out Loud (Clarkson Potter, 2012). She is the clever executive pastry chef at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami. What I like about this recipe is that the cinnamon buns are small — the recipe makes 36 — so they fit nicely into a Christmas morning buffet with lots of other offerings.

The recipe is too involved for Christmas morning unless you want to miss all the action around the tree. When I tested it, I let the buns cool after icing and then wrapped well and refrigerated. I reheated the next day in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Delicious. If your family has a taste for the light buns produced by the dough that comes in the refrigerated tubes they might think something is amiss. This is a dense yeast bread dough and so the buns are heavier.

The family won't know what to make of Cream-Filled Cinnamon Coffee Cake. Is it breakfast or dessert? But they will hardly care once they sink their teeth into two layers of cinnamon cake separated by a rich cream filling. Besides the flavor, you'll get an "A" for presentation here. This coffee cake shows well.

Coffee Ripple Coffee Cake marries cinnamon and coffee, two natural partners. Bake it in a Bundt pan and then drizzle on a glaze that's also coffee flavored. I like this coffee cake to bring to a breakfast potluck or even to drop off at a friend's or neighbor's as a special holiday treat. It feeds a lot of people, especially as part of a larger table of food.

Cinnamon Apple Muffins are another tasty offering. Despite a longish list of ingredients, the recipe is simple enough for the kids to help with. Most of the preparation is measuring and mixing. This is another totable recipe.

Sometimes I like my cinnamon in liquid form so I make Mexican Hot Chocolate Shots With Spicy Foam. Don't let the word "shots" throw you off; there's no alcohol in the mix. The spicy foam, made by whipping slightly slushy evaporated milk, gets its kick from cayenne pepper. There's enough to serve eight people in 4-ounce demitasse cups. But if you do your math right, two of you can have a cupful.

Now it's not only smelling like Christmas, it's tasting like it, too.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8586.


Cream-Filled Cinnamon Coffee Cake

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

For the topping:

½ cup sugar

½ cup chopped pecans

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the filling:

1 tablespoon cornstarch

¾ cup 2 percent milk

¼ cup butter, softened

¼ cup shortening

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream, beating just until combined.

Pour into two greased and wax-paper-lined 9-inch round baking pans. Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over batter. Lightly cut through with a knife to swirl.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch and milk until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. In a small bowl, cream the butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and chilled milk mixture; beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes.

Place one cake on a serving plate; spread with filling. Top with remaining cake. Store in the refrigerator.

Serves 8 to 10.

Source: Taste of Home


Coffee Ripple Coffee Cake

1 cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons instant coffee granules

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the cake:

4 teaspoons instant coffee granules

2 teaspoons hot water

½ cup butter, softened

1 ½ cups packed brown sugar

3 eggs

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

¼ cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

For the glaze:

cup confectioners' sugar

3 to 4 teaspoons brewed coffee

1 teaspoon butter, melted

In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, sugars, coffee granules and cinnamon; set aside. For cake, in a small bowl, dissolve coffee granules in water; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the sour cream, applesauce, buttermilk, vanilla and coffee. Combine the flour, baking soda and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream mixture and mix well.

Pour half of the batter into a greased and floured 10-inch fluted tube pan. Sprinkle with walnut mixture. Top with remaining batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Combine glaze ingredients until smooth; drizzle over cake.

Serves 12.

Source: Taste of Home


Cinni Mini Bun Bites

For the dough:

1 cup whole milk

2 ¼ teaspoons (1 packet) quick-rising yeast

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 9 pieces and at room temperature

2 extra-large eggs, room temperature

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, very soft but not melted

For the icing:

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar

To make the dough, in a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until it registers about 125 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the top and mix until blended. Add the butter, eggs, granulated sugar and salt. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on medium speed for 1 minute, or until blended. Add the flour and mix on medium-low speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the flour is completely incorporated. Increase the speed to medium high, and knead until the dough is very smooth and elastic and pulls away from the bottom of the bowl (a little will stick to the sides), about 5 minutes. (This is a soft dough.) Scrape the sides of the bowl, scoop up the dough and shape it into a ball.

Lightly grease the sides of the same bowl and put the dough back in. Cover the top with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon for the filling and stir until well blended.

Lightly grease a 9- by 13-inch baking pan.

Scrape the dough onto a work surface, divide it into two equal pieces and wrap one piece in plastic so it doesn't dry out. Roll the dough into an 18- by 7-inch rectangle. Spread half of the butter for the filling evenly over the dough and sprinkle with half of the brown sugar mixture. Using your fingers, press it lightly into the butter.

Beginning on one long side, roll the dough, jelly roll-style, pinching to seal. Place the roll seam-side down on a cutting surface and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces. Arrange the pieces, cut side up, in the prepared pan in even rows. Cover with plastic and repeat instructions with remaining dough. Let rolls rise in warm spot for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

While the mini buns are rising, make the icing. Combine the butter, cream cheese and vanilla in a medium bowl. Beat mixture with electric mixer until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the confectioners' sugar and blend, about 2 minutes. Cover and set aside until ready to use.

When shaped buns have doubled, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 38 to 40 minutes or until they are puffed and browned. Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack and cool slightly. Serve warm with a smear of the icing on each bite.

Makes 36.

Source: Baking Out Loud by Hedy Goldsmith (Clarkson Potter, 2012)


Mexican Hot Chocolate Shots

With Spicy Foam

2 cans (12 ounces each) Carnation evaporated milk, divided

1 cup water

1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract, divided

½ plus teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, divided (optional)

Pour ½ cup evaporated milk into medium mixer bowl; place beaters into mixture. Freeze for about 30 minutes or until ice crystals form around edge of bowl.

Heat remaining evaporated milk, water, chocolate chips, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract,

½ teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted. Do not boil. Set aside.

Remove chilled evaporated milk from freezer. Beat on high speed for 1 minute or until very frothy. Add remaining vanilla extract, remaining cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Continue beating for 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture forms soft peaks.

Pour hot chocolate into eight 4-ounce demitasse cups and immediately dollop with foam topping.



Apple Crunch Muffins

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 eggs

1 ¼ cups sour cream

½ cup butter, melted

1 cup chopped tart apple

For the topping:

½ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons cold butter

In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sour cream and butter. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apple. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups one-third full.

For topping, combine the walnuts, flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle about two-thirds of the topping over batter. Top with remaining batter; sprinkle with remaining topping.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Serve warm.

Makes 12 muffins.


Cinnamon baked goods are perfect for Christmas morning breakfast 12/18/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 3:30am]
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