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15 Traditional Breads and Rolls to Bake This Christmas

Revive old Christmas traditions or start a totally new one!

There's nothing that gets me in the mood for the holidays like an involved baking project. Cookies are great and all, but the energy exchange of working with a living yeasted dough connects me with centuries-old traditions in a way that makes me appreciate what the season is all about.

Christmas breads and rolls are often rich with eggs, butter, sugar, and dried fruits: all ingredients that were once highly valued and in short supply. Heck, given how inflation has affected the prices of baking staples, it still holds true today.

<p>Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas</p>

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Making time and setting aside a grocery budget for elaborate loaves and buns is truly worth it. A few hours in a warm kitchen conjuring up sweetness and light delivers the restorative magic that we're all looking for underneath the flash sales and shopping lists. It's why these recipes have such timeless staying power.

Stollen

Sally Vargas
Sally Vargas

This rich, fruit-studded stollen will transport you to a German Christkindlmarkt. Contributor Sally Vargas has made this every year since forever. "We always open one present each on Christmas Eve accompanied by a glass of champagne for the grown-ups, and a slice of stollen. At some point, I started making smaller stollen to give to special friends, too." The rum-soaked dried fruits help make stollen quite age-worthy; you can make it up to two weeks ahead of serving.

Get Recipe: Christmas Stollen

St. Lucia Buns

Elise Bauer
Elise Bauer

Across Sweden, households and villages celebrate St. Lucia Day on December 13 by having a young girl don a headdress with lighted candles and serve these saffron-scented buns. They always have an S shape; to make them extra Swedish, pick up some pearl sugar from IKEA and sprinkle them over the egg wash before baking.

Get Recipe: St. Lucia Saffron Buns

Povitica

<p>Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm</p>

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

Like many regional American recipes, povitica appears in communities with high concentrations of Eastern European immigrants. Povitica itself originates from Croatia. It's swirled with a spiced brown sugar filling that gives it an impressive cross-section once sliced.

Get Recipe: Povitica

Orange Breakfast Rolls

<p>Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas</p>

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Orange juice and orange zest imbue these tender and sweet rolls with a sunny character that brightens the longest days of the year. Let them rise in the refrigerator overnight and wake everyone up to their enticing aroma as you bake them fresh for the morning.

Get Recipe: Orange Breakfast Rolls

Swedish Tea Ring

Elise Bauer
Elise Bauer

A Simply Recipes reader shared this recipe, which by this point is at least 60 years old. She makes it on Christmas Eve, and claims "This is the day all distant relatives and many friends decide they want to be Swedish." You can shape it in the wreath as shown, or instead create a braid.

Get Recipe: Swedish Tea Ring (Coffee Bread)

Panettone

Sally Vargas
Sally Vargas

Panettone can be a challenging recipe, as it's so rich with eggs, butter, and sugar that it's almost more of a yeasted cake than a loaf of bread. It's also a multi-step affair, but this recipe comes with a baking schedule and plenty of tips so your planning and execution can go off without a hitch.

Get Recipe: Traditional Panettone

Caramel Apple Monkey Bread

Elizabeth Stark, Emma Christensen, Irvin Lin, Elise Bauer, Megan Keno, and Cindy Rahe
Elizabeth Stark, Emma Christensen, Irvin Lin, Elise Bauer, Megan Keno, and Cindy Rahe

Bits of fresh apple add a little brightness to this uber-rich monkey bread. I recall money bread being a 1980s phenomenon, perhaps called that because its unstructured form invites messy communal pulling apart. Assemble those little balls of dough in a Bundt pan and douse them with caramel before baking.

Get Recipe: Caramel Apple Monkey Bread

Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread

<p>Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas</p>

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

A loaf of cinnamon raisin bread from the store was a coveted treat when I was young. I'd sneak a slice and pull the swirl apart and eat it without even bothering to toast it. Using an eggy brioche in this homemade version delivers something more akin to a pastry. Enjoy it fresh with butter on Day 1 and make it into French toast on Day 2.

Get Recipe: Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread

Chocolate Babka

Cambrea Gordon
Cambrea Gordon

Fans of Seinfeld know that chocolate babka is the superior babka to bring to a dinner party. Babka is a gem of Eastern European cuisine brought to the States by Jewish immigrants, but the blending and blurring of traditions is in itself a tradition come the December holidays. Plus, this chocolate-laced babka is so delicious it's just begging for an excuse for you to bake it.

Get Recipe: Chocolate Babka

Overnight Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas
Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

The tangzhong method of cooking a little flour and milk together before adding it to the dough delivers rolls that are pillowy-soft and incredibly resistant to going stale. But I doubt these will last long enough for you to test that out.

Get Recipe: Overnight Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls

Poppy Seed Kolache

Elise Bauer
Elise Bauer

For years, readers have loved baking these yeasted pastries filled with a sweet and rich poppyseed filling. Kolache are part of many Eastern European cuisines and have lots of variations. You can use canned filling or make your own with our recipe.

Get Recipe: Poppy Seed Kolache

Danish Kringle

<p>Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon</p>

Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

My grandfather used to bring home boxes of Entenmann's danish pastries at family gatherings. I put a slice on my plate only to pick off the drizzle and leave the rest behind. Such finicky behavior won't happen with this lovely kringle, which is filled with buttery almond paste and boasts a tender and rich dough.

Get Recipe: Danish Kringle

Raspberry Jam Sweet Rolls

Cindy Rahe
Cindy Rahe

Let's say you have a pantry full of fancy jams that you received as gifts. Here's a great opportunity to crack one open and showcase it in these soft, jam-filled buns. Blueberry, blackberry, or even fig jam would be equally wonderful in this recipe.

Get Recipe: Raspberry Jam Sweet Rolls

Bee Sting Cake

<p>Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm</p>

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

In Germany this yeasted cake is known as bienenstich. There's honey in the dough and the pastry cream filling, plus the crunchy almond topping. You can make the pastry cream up to three days in advance, but assemble the cake on the day you serve it.

Get Recipe: Bee Sting Cake (Bienenstich)

Cinnamon Sticky Buns

Elise Bauer
Elise Bauer

Simply Recipes founder Elise Bauer saw this recipe in Oprah magazine many years ago. It's since become the internet's go-to sticky bun recipe. The recipe calls for letting the dough rise in the fridge overnight, but you can do it all in one long day if that fits better with your schedule.

Get Recipe: Cinnamon Sticky Buns

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