Monday, April 15, 2013

Anyone Can Make Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Something about the April snow flurries and the fact that the heated seats in my car have been running since October is starting to get me down. Saturday morning the gray sky greeted me like a kick in the pants, so to cheer myself up and stop drooling at the cover of this month's Food Network magazine I put into action the laborious process of making cinnamon rolls.  Just kidding! It's not really hard, it just takes something that is not my number one skill: patience.  I have talked to several people who are intimidated by baking with yeast, but much like a Sunday morning, it's really easy.

My grandma writes in her cookbook that she starts all her baking early in the morning so that things that have to rise have ample time to do it.  But this recipe allows for overnight refrigerator rise time, which is great because I love cinnamon rolls but not enough to wake up at 3 am.

So Food Network had a recipe this month, but I'm going to give you my grandma's because I made both recently and I thought my grandma's dough was much nicer to work with.  Grandma makes enough to feed an army (or a church congregation as the case may be) so I broke it down to 12 rolls, which your family will devour in one day, trust me.

Step 1.

First things first: the YEAST

put 1/4 cup warm water (about 100-110 degrees) and 1 packet of yeast and a pinch of sugar, set aside.

Melt in a small saucepan:
1/4 cup sugar
1 t. salt
1/4 cup of butter (half of a stick)

Now add, 1/4 cup milk. Warm slowly on stove- don't boil.

OK.  Now mix 1/2 cup milk and 1 egg.  Add the milk and egg to the salt, butter, and sugar mixture on the stove.  Once it is coolish (grandma's word), add the yeast mixture.

Finally, put about 3 cups of flour into a large bowl (or Kitchen Aid Mixer), add the liquid to the flour and mix.  Now the fun part! Knead, knead, knead.  I usually whip it around on high in my mixer for a couple of minutes.  The dough should be smooth and not too sticky.

There are two tricks to making yeast breads, and they both involve the yeast. The first thing to remember is temperature matters.   You always warm the liquid to about 100-110 degrees.  If you don't have a thermometer--have no fear, just use your senses. It should feel hot to the touch but not scalding.  Once you have the temperature right, add the yeast and a little sugar and then (tip number 2) leave it alone for at least 5 minutes.  The sugar helps the yeast do it's yeasty thing. You should see the yeast begin to get frothy.

Once you reach this step you have mastered the art of yeast breads and it's all downhill from here.

I started this late afternoon on Saturday because at this point you can throw the dough in the fridge until the next morning.  Hurray!

Fast forward to Sunday morning, lie in bed as long as you can until "Mama, mama" turns from a delightful coo to a frantic squawk.  At this point, fetch baby, change her and make your way to the kitchen to get these cinnamon rolls going.  If your lucky the wake up call will be around 6:15 so you have plenty of time to roll out your rolls.  Because, people, much like the zombies, these rolls will rise again...

Step 2.
Roll out your dough into a nice big rectangle.  About 10 X 18 inches. I used a ruler, whatever, I'm a teacher.

Slather the dough with softened butter.  I used about 4 tablespoons (but the Food Network called for over 1 cup, so use your judgement).

Mix 1/3 cup sugar with 3 tablespoons cinnamon. Spread liberally over the dough.  Roll dough tightly the long way and slice into 1- 1 1/2 inch pieces. I usually make practice marks in the dough to make sure I have 12 even slices. Place in a greased 9 X 13 inch pan.

Step 3.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again (about an hour).  Here's what grandma says about it:

"Rolls like a warm spot, not hot, for rising.  I sometimes wrap up the cookie sheets and put them in the car.  Sometimes I wrapped them up and put them in the sun on the desk in the bay window, sometimes I put them on a chair near the radiator. Those dog days of August are perfect for rolls if not for the baker.  Rolls like it warm and humid."

Step 4. 
We are almost done.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned.

While the cinnamon rolls are baking, mix up a quick frosting. I usually end up tweaking the liquid or sugar in this to get a nice consistency.
1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 T butter
splash of vanilla

Frost the rolls while they are warm.

And Viola!  You have made cinnamon rolls. In my family, we ate over half the pan on Sunday morning and felt pretty pleased with ourselves about it. While they are not difficult to make, it does take some patience, but something about the whole process makes the end product seem special. I like that I'm making something for my family not exactly healthy, but utterly wholesome.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Break Baby!! How To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

For this spring break I hopped on a plane with nothing but my bikini and a good book in a backpack in search of a righteous beach and a minty mojito.

Or I laboriously packed my carry on with ten thousand things to entertain a toddler on a 50 minute flight to Ohio to visit my parents.

If I'm being a hundred percent honest I would prefer to do the latter, which is a good thing because that's what I did.  For the most part Callah was very good on the airplane.  I opted to hold her in my lap and save the $400 price of her ticket for a rainy day.  It was a bit difficult to contain her 18 month old enthusiasm from scampering up and down the aisle, but my bag of goodies helped in this area.

Tip #1:
Pack an outrageous amount of food.
Tip #2:
Raid the toy box...and buy a new toy!  I bought a couple new toys at Target in the dollar spot area and hid them until we were on the plane.

Tip #3:
Coloring book, crayons and stickers.  She wanted to pull the tray up and down a million times, so being able to put a coloring book on it distracted her from that activity.

Tip #4:
Patience is a virtue.

On the return flight United kindly put us in a row with an empty seat.  Callah buckled and unbuckled the seat belt an average of 5,000 times on that flight.  When all was said and done we only had one meltdown and the flight was well worth the fun visit we had with my parents.

The FLU and an explanation for my absence

Three days laying on the sofa can make a person introspective.  Once I've exhausted the finite number of episodes of "Call the Midwife," there's nothing left but to think.  I don't do well with too much time to ruminate about life's imponderables, it has a tendency to blow my mind then make me anxious. I've always had a bent towards the melodramatic, from the age when skinned knees were akin to amputations right up to full mourning for a break up. It shouldn't surprise me, then, that when I have the flu I always without fail, think I'm dying. I tearfully tell my husband there is something very very wrong with me.  I pitifully ask for a glass of gingerale and an ice pack cherishing them both as if they were my last meal.

Something about this flu seemed even more pathetic. As I lay on the sofa fully immersed in my misery, I was aware that I had a daughter to take care of.  I heard her being brought home from the babysitter's and being given her bath.  I was forbidden by my germ phobic husband to have contact with her, so I waved at her as she was wisked off to have her diaper changed.  Perhaps most traumatizing was listening to her tears when she was being put to bed without our nightly nursing ritual.  I didn't have the strength nor the desire to pass on my germs, so I listened to her cry.

Being a parent makes everything just a bit more special and a bit more difficult.  Eventually the flu made it's rounds through our family.  First the projectile vomit of Callah where I spent two hours wiping the floor, Callah and me up and waiting for the next eruption.  She felt fine the next day, but by that time my husband was laid out flat for two days.  Remarkably that was the first such experience for us and although it was a rough week, we survived it and all still love each other.

The flu and spring break explain why I have been so remiss about posting on my blog lately.  I hope to get a few more posts and pictures of the last few weeks up shortly.  In the meantime, I plan to relish the spring and enjoy the health of my family!
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