The strangest thing happened this past winter. We usually get off to a good start early in December with the whole Christmas Cookie Madness, usually no later than St. Nicholas‘ Day, simply because we’re peer pressured by the kids who insist that _all_ the other children already made some last weekend, and let us feel how deprived they are. Sigh.
This time it wasn’t like that. We only made a very few all time favorite gingerbread cookies and of course ‚Vanillekipferl‘, an Austrian specialty everybody in my family but myself seems a little obsessed with.
We did spend one Sunday baking things with my brother and sister in law and their 3 kids, which was great because they’re such lovely people, all the 5 of them. And my friends U. and Ch. baked with me one migraine-plagued afternoon. To be exact, it was them who did most of the baking while I was sitting there impersonating a vegetable in pain. They were awesome, and gave me a plate of their cookies to take home.
Those lasted until Christmas. I was really busy with last-minute assignments and a scary visit to the vet involving a blood test the result of which turned out to be my best Christmas present of all, phew! There was no time for more baking at our house, and guess what, the world kept turning anyway. Oddly, I didn’t gain an ounce over the holidays.
That came later, though ;-). During a long and dark January, my daughter was sick, and she was very sick again in February. By now, I feel I’m on my last leg. I am following through on the resolution to sleep more (I really am, N.!), but I still can’t seem to ditch the fatigue. Jeez.
So whenever I’m stuck at home a lot, moonlighting as Florence Nightingale – or as a translator, whichever way you want to look at it – I feel the urge to do domestic stuff. Clean out closets, sort through yarn stashes, hang pictures, de-clutter my desk… And bake. To me, baking is, with no advent competition involved, a great source of comfort.
One thing I make on a regular basis is the cinnamon rolls you can see below. If you play your cards right, they’re crisp on the outside, and sweet, gooey and buttery inside. They’re to die for when they’re still warm, you’ll see when you try them out, I promise you’re in for a treat.
You will need:
500 g flour
100 g sugar
150 g butter, softened or melted
1 cup of warm milk
1 pack dry yeast
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
From these ingredients, make a yeast dough. You may have to add more milk or a bit more flour as you go. Knead thoroughly. You’re aiming for a silky lump of non-sticky dough with a shiny surface. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour.
Knead again, until most of the fluffiness is gone, and roll out to a large oval shape approx. 3 mm thick on a flat surface with a rolling pin.
You will now need additional
50 g butter, softened
3-4 tbsp sugar to sprinkle with
cinnamon to sprinkle with
With a spatula, spread the soft butter evenly on the dough. Use more butter if you feel naughty, it’s certainly not going to hurt the flavor – but usually 50 g should be plenty. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. You want a bit of a pasty, sugary, cinnamon-y filling in those rolls. Starting on one side, roll up the dough evenly so you’ll get one long tube of dough. Cut in 1,25 cm thick slices. The pretty spirally pattern will become visible as you lay the pieces flat on a baking sheet layered with baking paper. Be sure not to put them too close to one another, as they’ll rise and grow some more in the oven.
Bake for approx. 20 min at 160 °C, and if you want my advice, don’t leave the kitchen until you’re done. It’s so easy to forget about these things, especially if children are around. I managed to ruin a whole batch last weekend, what a waste.
Within minutes, the sweet, buttery aroma will begin wafting through your house, just as addictive as the smell of popcorn. You shouldn’t be surprised if hungry neighbors come knocking, and that’s why I’m recommending this generous quantity. It’ll be enough even for a few surprise guests. And if you really shouldn’t finish them, stick your cinnamon rolls in the freezer to save them for a rainy day.
Variations of filling: Spread the dough with both butter and apricot or quince jam. I have tried plum too, but found it inferior to the other two – they just seem to work with cinnamon absolutely perfectly. Yum.
I’d like to leave you with a pic of a bunch of absolutely lovely snowdrops. I saw them in a neighbor’s front garden, and was in love! I absolutely need to put some bulbs in ours come fall, it doesn’t seem right only other people should have these precious little beauties on their lawn – right?
And to borrow the words of a show I don’t really care for, but bow to as a source for cool quotes – Spring is coming :-).