The alt title of this post is The Best Cinnamon Rolls I’ve Ever Made.
When I was in second grade I borrowed a book from our public school library and proceeded to, when my mom was out of the house, make a loaf of bread. Being 8 or 9 at the time I’m certain the flour decorated the kitchen as though really fine glitter got tossed in the air. That started an adventure in baking that continues to this day. While writing these two sentences I had a little personal insight, I much prefer working on one food item at a time rather than on the multiple items for preparing an entire meal. I’m a cook to eat, rather than cook for pleasure kind of person. Baking though is usually one at a time, developing a thoughtful understanding of the process.
I decided a few weeks ago that I’d make cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. The more I bake, the more I learn about the process, the more I can sub things in and out with the understanding of how and when to do this to achieve a good, tasty, consumable product. Making sweet dough for cinnamon rolls is a little more involved as ingredients are added that effect how the yeast will produce the lovely gas that makes them so tender and tasty.
A few weeks ago at our local grocery store I found a new to me product that has a bit of rye sourdough started paired with the yeast, and is the equivalent of 1/4 teaspoon of yeast. This indicates a longer, slower rise. Which, had I read the package I would have added a little regular yeast to assist the rye sourdough yeast in doing its thing. As I started the dough I added turbinado sugar, half-n-half, one egg, and a bit of cinnamon & all spice. Then I looked at brown sugar stock and said oopsie! I didn’t have enough for two batches of cinnamon rolls, one for us one for our next door neighbors. I remembered that a quilter I know and love, Jemilia Hilfiger, makes her own brown sugar using white sugar and molasses. I checked her facebook page to understand the proportions and went to work, putting sugar in the bowl, adding molasses (just about a tablespoon), and started stirring and folding to get everything mixed together. The molasses adds such a richness and depth of flavor that I will never purchase store bought brown sugar again.
To the brown sugar I added a little over 2 tablespoons of cinnamon, less than a teaspoon of nutmeg, a teaspoon of cloves, allspice, and ginger.
Sometimes when I make cinnamon rolls I do a two rise process, the first rise, knead, wait ten minutes roll it out, let it rise again, and bake. This time, because time allowed, I did a three rise process, initial rise, knead, rise, knead, rest, roll out and fill, rise and bake. The batch with the rye sourdough yeast I put into the oven overnight for the third rise, and the batch with the regular yeast I put in the fridge to rise. The rye sourdough definitely benefited from the room temperature and the regular yeast worked well in the fridge. Christmas morning I woke up to beautifully risen rolls. Swoon.
Before I go further with the post I want to share a couple of things: first I took my time kneading the dough. Yeast dough has a feel when it’s kneaded well. I got there this time with a mixture of patience and determination and gentleness.
As I kneaded the dough I thought back to a journaling retreat I participated in years ago where we were given a hunk of clay to mold. It took a little bit to begin to work the clay as the clay was cold and not quite so malleable. Holding it in our hands to warm it was necessary to begin to warm the clay. As it warmed in my hands I was able to begin to shape it into something. The yeast dough has some similarities, it doesn’t need the warmth of my hands as much as it needs to be worked and rested in order to be shaped. While I used a rolling pin to make a rectangle, add the cinnamon/sugar mixture then roll it with my hands and cut it with a sharp knife the possibilities of shaping endless.
Both batches of cinnamon rolls were so good. The best I’ve ever made.
There are so many faith connections I can make here from both the First Covenant and the “Covenant Fulfilled” about the potter and the clay and a little yeast leavens the whole dough and how we are being formed, shaped, molded. How yielding to the Potters/Bakers hand will allow me/us to be shaped into our truest self. Instead I’m going to share two things, first how much I enjoyed the entire process of making these cinnamon rolls. There was a moment when I knew these would be good. Second is from Christmas Day Mass. While listening to the readings and homily the tears started down my cheeks as I had this moment of being overwhelmingly loved by God. We celebrate His birth as a human baby, from conception to his horrific death. The creche, the Crucifix, the Tabernacle containing the Eucharist, His very presence here with us now.
I’m going to leave you with this I can easily document my growth in quilting journey, I can give insights into my baking journey and how certain moments were key in that growth. My faith journey not quite so much. There are moments, times, long stretches of time when I just don’t even know if I’m growing in Faith at all. I can tell you Christmas morning, during Mass, in that moment, with those tears I am ever so grateful for the gift of Faith, I know that whether I experience it or not, I am loved by Jesus, by God, inspired by the Holy Spirit. I know that I’m being created, molded into the person the Father created me to be and that from this part of life to the next there is a process, a journey. Just like learning to work with yeast dough, to work with my sewing machines to get each to do what I want them to do, I get to learn how to yield to the shaping and forming process.