My Christmas Morning Breakfast Rule (and 5 Ways to Keep It)
When it comes to Christmas breakfast, I have one unbreakable rule: Christmas morning is for grown-ups, too. Just because you’re a grown-up it doesn’t mean you should get stuck at the stove flipping pancakes, or finishing an elaborate egg casserole. Christmas morning should be a surprise and a delight to you too, just as much as the little ones.
But you also want Christmas morning to feel special and delicious, right? I come from a family where cinnamon rolls were absolutely required, and my mom was often found assembling them morning of.
Let’s handle the breakfast dilemma this year, a year when more of us than ever will be cozied up with just us and the little ones, no grandparents or cousins in the house. I want to give you a plan—nay, several plans!—for the most delicious, most special Christmas breakfast, one that lets you feel the magic too, no matter your age. From make-ahead buns to simply ingenious oven pancakes, ready for the Christmas spread of your life?
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First off, before we get to the cooking: let me suggest up-front that this is the year to make sure you have something bought locally on your Christmas table. If you can afford it, a pie from a local cafe, cinnamon rolls from the small bakery, or some other special treat from a business you would like to see survive this hard winter is the way to go in a year when local restaurants are struggling like never before.
With that in mind, here are five ideas for ways to add a little more magic to an already magical morning—one that should be fun and relaxed for you as much as the kids.
1. Make your sweet special thing — but make it ahead.
My family is all in on cinnamon rolls, and they of course need to be warm and fresh out of the oven. But this is a long job for a Christmas morning. So I never make my cinnamon rolls (or cinnamon roll wreath) on Christmas morning or even the night before. Instead, I make the rolls the weekend before, and freeze them. You can freeze cinnamon rolls and other yeast sweets a couple different ways:
- Par-bake then freeze: You can par-bake the rolls until they are set and fully puffed, but not yet brown then cool, wrap, and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then bake at 350°F uncovered until they are warmed through and freshly browned. Advantage: A quicker baking time.
- Fully bake then freeze: Some bakers prefer to fully bake and frost their cinnamon rolls and then cool and freeze. To warm, put the still-frozen rolls in a 250°F oven for 20-30 minutes, covered with foil. Advantage: You don’t have to thaw first!
Both of these methods can work for any rich yeast treat like monkey bread, cinnamon rolls, and the cinnamon roll wreath that I love.
Cinnamon not your thing? I have a soft spot for these Sticky Lemon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze. They also are wonderful to make, bake, and freeze.
If yeast and rolls and all that aren’t quite your speed, but you still want a luscious sweet treat, a sweet breakfast casserole or baked French toast is also a great way to go. Once again: prep a day or two ahead, and leave in the refrigerator then bake while opening presents. Easy-peasy, oven-squeezy. Here are a few of my favorite sweet bakes but remember that any bread and custard-style French toast casserole can be prepped ahead.
2. No short-order cooks on Christmas! Make pancakes in the oven instead.
Now let me stop for a second and acknowledge that while I am from a cinnamon roll household, my husband on the other hand grew up with pancakes as the Christmas morning treat. If you and yours also desire something to pour sparkly maple syrup over, may I suggest oven pancakes, baked in a sheet pan (but still buttery as all get-out). A Dutch baby and its glorious puffy dome is also a very good option for those who crave pancakes without the stovetop toil. Hot tip: Either is amazing when sprinkled with these famous sweet cinnamon chips.
Both call for batters that are extremely quick and simple, and a quick bake time. I suggest mixing the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately and refrigerating separately overnight for a 1-minute morning-of whisk-up.
3. Yes, you should have some protein. (But again, make it ahead!)
While I love sweets, not everyone associates a sweet breakfast with Christmas morning; after all, there’s plenty of candy in those stockings already. (My children specifically requested these.) So yes, you should have something savory and protein-forward on the Christmas breakfast menu, even if your children don’t want it. It will satisfy you and make a nice early dinner for the kids when they collapse around four p.m.
But once again, just to drive it home: make your eggs or bacon ahead of time. This is another place the casserole can shine. I love this fancied-up “ham and cheese” breakfast bake, but it does have bread in it. For something that lets the cinnamon rolls or pancakes shine as your carb du jour, I highly recommend a slow cooker breakfast casserole that you start the night before. This one is really classed up with a touch of mustard, red onion, sharp cheddar, and fresh spinach. It’s a fresh, bright scramble that kids love too.
Other savory, eggy, satisfying casseroles that can be prepped a day before then slipped into the oven while gifts are opened:
For a make-ahead bacon, you just can’t go wrong with Millionaire’s Bacon, a peppery and sweet bacon that is to grown-ups what chocolate gelt is to the kiddos.
One last idea for a strong protein moment: Breakfast deviled eggs, with cream cheese and everything bagel seasoning. They’re fantastic finger food. Top with lox for a complete meal.
4. The most important food for Christmas morning is fresh fruit.
Yes, even over the cinnamon rolls and the kicked-up egg casserole, fruit is both a symbol (do you know why we put oranges in stockings?) and a refreshment among all the excitement. I buy sacks of clementines this time of year, peel them ahead, and put them out in bowls near the Christmas tree. So refreshing!
But the most Christmas-y fruit of all, if I can get my hands on it, is the persimmon. I meet lots of people who just don’t buy and eat these and that’s something to fix. Fuyu persimmons are in season right now and I can usually find them at Whole Foods or Asian groceries. (Fuyu persimmons are the squat, flatter persimmon; not the elongated and squashy Hachiya, which needs to be eaten pulpy-ripe.) Persimmons are an amazing fruit, and incredibly child-friendly. My kids eat them like candy. Fuyu persimmons can be eaten while crispy or slightly soft, and either way they’re very sweet and mellow, with no off-putting acidity to pucker little mouths. You don’t have to peel them; their crispy skin is part of the pleasure. There are no seeds to cut out. They’re not juicy or messy. They are simply the perfect fruit, and so joyful in color.
5. The right drink sets the mood.
We are pretty relaxed about sugar in my house, but we don’t do many sweet or sugary drinks. So a treat like hot cocoa or mulled cider (which can be made in the slow cooker with practically no effort) not only makes the house smell festive, but really feels like something special. My kids also love it when I buy them a sparkling juice like Martinelli’s Sparkling Blush—it’s so fun and grown-up to drink it out of a fancy glass with breakfast.
For the grown-ups, toast your good preparation (and all your present-wrapping prowess) with something special. My Cubby colleague Laura says that her mother’s family had a Christmas morning tradition of Gin Fizzes: an old-fashioned treat of gin, orange blossom water, and egg whites—shaken until frothy. (Laura confesses she has not kept up this tradition.) A simpler but still festive tipple would be blood orange mimosas, or a pitcher of this make-ahead breakfast sangria. And of course, the ultimate make-ahead drink is boozy eggnog (it takes five minutes and is an epic treat).
Whatever you drink or eat, I hope your Christmas morning is very delicious, and magical for you as much as the cubs.