You might have noticed that my blog is very light on baked items. That’s because I’m primarily a cook, not a baker, and don’t have a huge sweet tooth. However, I do make a few exceptions. Yeast breads and rolls are one of them.
Amid the distruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s felt like a good time for making some of the comfort items I rarely make. Because this is a cooking blog, I’ll present the recipe in this post, but what I’d really like to do is to share some thoughts about change (and consistency) in this very strange time.
It’s been quite a different month than what I anticipated. At this time, my husband and I should be timing track meets for Saugatuck Public Schools, as we have done for many years. But schools are closed and sports are cancelled. Our son, Sam, should be going off every day to his physical therapy clinical at a Grand Rapids rehabilitation hospital. But clinicals have been suspended due to the virus, and his doctoral class is has been dealing with the uncertainty of how this will be handled and how it will affect graduation. So instead, he is stuck at home with us – all day, every day – working on his doctoral case studies, but otherwise with nothing to do due to the stay at home order.
Three weeks ago, Sam was planning on earning money bartending after May graduation until he took his licensing exam in July, and got a job in physical therapy. Now there is worry about when the Saugatuck restaurant he has worked at every break for five years will be able to open for dining in, and how business will be when they do. And, there is concern about how the PT job market will be until elective surgeries are allowed again.
A year ago, I was congratulating myself on retiring early and we were enjoying unprecidented growth in our retirement accounts. Instead, we’ve watched that growth melt away in a week and scrambled to move money to more conservative and safe funds.
With nothing else to really do except worry, buy groceries once a week, watch Coronavirus briefings, work out and take walks, it’s no wonder I have been drawn to baking. And gardening.
I’ve always been a gardener, as I like to grow a lot of my own vegetables and flowers. But I’ve never been able to put the time into it that I should. Until now. And I find it’s been greatly theraputic, not only in getting my mind off current uncertainties, but in showing me that there still are a lot of things that are certain.
Like the coming of spring.
As I busily clear dead growth and pull weeds in my flower beds, I become aware of the birds. The house finches are building a nest, as usual, behind the DirectTV satellite dish. A pair of bluebirds ducks in and out of one of our bluebird boxes. The tree swallows swoop and twitter as they start building a nest in another of the boxes. The phoebe sits on the hot tub cover on the deck, pumping her tail and “fee-beeing” in between building her mud and grass nest under the tractor port. A robin is busy on a nest in the rafters not far from the phoebe. And the barn swallows should be back soon to add to the avian neighborhood under the tractor port.
I take a break and take the dog into our woods for a walk. I notice the folded umbrellas of the mayapples sprouting through the dead leaves on the ground, and see the first spring beauties beginning to bloom. The bloodroots have buds, and should be open in a week or so, along with the Dutchman’s breeches and trout lilies. I hear the spring peepers chorusing from the swampy area at the back of the woods.
I channel my eight year old tomboy self and roll over logs, looking for salamaders. I find one (a red-backed) laying belly up, cold and unmoving. I pick it up, and very quickly the warmth of my hand brings the little creature out of its torpor, crawling suprisingly quickly through my fingers with its riduculously stubby legs.
I place the salamander carefully back under the log and take a look around. Nature’s on schedule, I realize. Spring hasn’t been cancelled. The larger forces of nature are consistent, and can be counted on. And I find that very comforting.
- Stand Mixer with dough hook and flat beater.
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 pkg active dry yeast (rapid rise preferred)
- 1/4 cup warm water (105°-115°F)
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 1/2 to 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/8 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 3/4 to 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- Combine milk, sugar, salt and butter in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool to lukewarm.
- Meanwhile, dissolve yeast in the warm water in a warm bowl. Add lukewarm milk mixture, eggs and 2 1/2 cups flour. Mix for 2 minutes at low (speed 2) in a standmixer with dough hook.
- Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, continuing on speed 2 until dough clings to the hook and cleans the sides of the bowl. (You may not need the full amount of flour). Continuing kneading with dough hook on speed 2 about 2 minutes longer. (Dough will be somewhat sticky).
- Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes to one hour.
- While dough is rising, place brown sugar, sugar, butter, flour, cinnamon and nuts (if using) in a bowl. Mix with stand mixer at speed 2 with flat beat for one minute, or until mixture resembles pebbles.
Assemble, Proof and Bake Rolls
- When dough has doubled in bulk, turn dough out onto a floured board, and roll to a 10 x 15 inch rectangle. Spread filling evenly on dough.
- Roll dough tightly from long side to form a 15 inch roll, pinching seams together. Cut into 10 1 1/2 inch slices.
- Place 5 rolls each into two greased cake pans.
- Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes to one hour.
- Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.
- While rolls are baking, combine heavy cream and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Cool over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat.
- Place cream mixture, 3/4 cup powdered sugar and vanilla in bowl. Mix with stand mixer with flat beater on medium speed (speed 4) until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if glaze seems too thin.
- Drizzle glaze on warm rolls.