A Healthier Christmas Morning

Every Christmas morning for as long as I remember, my mother would wake up early, head down the stairs and into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. My siblings and I would line up at the top of the stairs in our pajamas, youngest to oldest (later line-ups would include various significant others, husbands and wives), sleepy-eyed and hair astray, and wait impatiently until she gave the signal letting us know it was okay to tromp the rest of the way downstairs and gather around the Christmas tree. While we’re all a little too old now to still believe in Santa Claus, our stockings – hung by the fire, of course – were always filled with a few extra trinkets from ole’ Saint Nick. After presents were opened, coffee enjoyed (now often spiked with Kahlua or whiskey) and the requisite (bad/terrible) Christmas morning photos were taken, mom would bring out whatever special Christmas breakfast she had planned that year. Sometimes these were rich egg casseroles, decadent French toast, Christmas breads and fruit or something unique she had attempted from a recent magazine…all of them delicious.

This month for Heart of the Matter (HotM), we asked for decadent, yet heart-healthy recipes from you. My contribution is a slight adaptation of a Cooking Light recipe I posted here some time ago: Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns. While it’s not our Christmas morning breakfast this year (I’m planning on a grits, cheese and egg casserole instead), these buns would make an excellent holiday breakfast, tasty enough to please any palette and nice enough even for guests (or, ahem, breakfast in bed)…just make sure you start them early or even the day before, as they take a long time since they have two rises. But the effort is well worth it. The dough is soft and sweet, the caramel sweet but not cloyingly so, and the nuts add a perfect contrast in texture. There is butter in them, but each roll has a relatively small amount, and they’re fairly low in fat (only ~5 grams of fat, with only 1.9 of it saturated). I also used brown rice syrup in place of corn syrup, since this natural sweetener is proving to be a better bet for healthy eating in recent research studies. One roll is perfect with a big, steaming mug of coffee and some seasonal fruit on the side (though if it is for the holidays, maybe two wouldn’t be awful…). I had to throw a Hawaiian twist in them of course, and ended up with Caramel Macadamia Nut Sticky Buns.

Caramel Macadamia Nut Sticky Buns, makes 16 buns
Adapted slightly from Cooking Light

* 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
* 3 tbls butter
* 3 tsp brown rice syrup
* Cooking spray
* 3 tbls toasted macadamia nuts, chopped
* 1 package dry yeast
* 1 2/3 cups warm water (100° to 110°)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (about 23 1/2 ounces)
* 1/3 cup granulated sugar
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 2 tablespoons butter, softened

For the caramel, combine brown sugar, butter and brown rice syrup in a saucepan over medium heat; stirring frequently until the butter melts. Continue cooking until mixture thickens and becomes smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; pour into the center of a 10-inch round cake pan. Quickly spread caramel onto pan bottom. Sprinkle with macadamia nuts and cool to room temperature. Lightly coat sides of the pan with cooking spray.

To prepare dough, dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in salt. Add 5 cups flour to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); adding enough of remaining flour only to keep the dough from sticking to your hands as you knead. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place 1 hour or until doubled in size. (If you can press two fingers into dough and the indentation remains, then the dough has risen enough.) Punch the dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.

Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside. Roll dough into a 16 x 12-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface; spread 2 tablespoons of softened butter over dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Roll up rectangle tightly, starting with long edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends). Cut into 16 (1-inch-wide) slices. Place slices, cut sides up, in prepared pan (rolls will be crowded). Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375° and bake for 20 minutes or until the rolls are a light golden brown. Cool in the pan 5 minutes on a rack, then place a serving platter upside down on top of pan and invert onto the platter. Serve warm and sticky, with coffee and love.

5 comments from you:

Debinhawaii said...

They still look so decadent! It's a nice touch that they are a bit better for you than your average sticky bun and heart healthy too!

angelica said...

Ooh, they look really nice!

...and Happy (belated) Christmas!

Michelle said...

That is if you can only eat ONE... ;) (I always have to have two! But then I just remind myself, it's less fat than a candy bar! And better for you too - no weird stuff!)

Whitney said...

Wow! Those look amazing, thanks for the recipe!

Michelle said...

Thanks, Whitney!