I’ve been brewing for weeks, with nothing to say, only much to feel. Melancholy has always been good for my creative soul, and yet it seems in this season it paralyzes, rather than moves me. Each day I am lead on a melodramatic voyage, by which I see everything through the impossible lense of the present. I am left right back where I started, but with nothing tangible to hold, write, or at the very least, eat. It’s exhausting really, and I am left feeling robbed of the beautiful mundane that I was once so good at savoring, and celebrating.
Somehow, remembering that it’s November magically takes me out of this less than desirable state of mind, if only for the brief moments I reminisce about family tradition. Every November I bake my first batch of cinnamon rolls in preparation for the big bake on Christmas Eve. Maybe I like the excuse to eat them twice a year, or maybe my body and mind need to be reminded of this domestic rhythm that helps connect me to the women I never knew, but the blood that is always running through me. It’s as if these cinnamon rolls are my access to wisdom from my grandmothers. It’s as if this process of mixing, kneading, rising, baking, cooling, and frosting, whispers truth back into the gray. This morning I needed to be shaken abruptly, and held fiercely. I need to walk myself to tears, borrow brown sugar from a neighbor, and bake my way back into bliss. I needed to smother Octave in kisses, and eat three cinnamon rolls with her. Sometimes the little things can solve big things.
Makes 18 rolls
1 cup whole milk
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 1/2 tsp. yeast
3 1/2-3/4 cup flour, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
A few squeezes of fresh orange juice, or until you reach your preferred consistency
Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add milk and heat until it is slightly hot to the touch. Transfer butter and milk to a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Add egg and beat on low until combined. Add 1 1/2 cup flour, salt, yeast, and sugar. Beat on medium speed until combined well, scrapping sides of bowl if necessary. Add the rest of the flour and mix for 3-4 minutes until a ball of dough forms. It should be soft a pliable but not stick to the bottom or sides of the bowl. Add flour a tablespoon at a time if it seems necessary. Place dough in a large oiled bowl and let rise for 2-3 hours or doubled in size.
Rolls dough out into a rectangle the size of a large baking sheet. Using a knife spread softened butter on top of dough and sprinkle mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves evenly on top. Using the longer side of the dough, start rolling dough into the sugar and cinnamon and pinch dough as necessary. Leaving the seam side down, and with a serrated knife, cut dough into 3/4 inch rolls.
Place rolls in a buttered pan, leaving room for them to rise. Cover with seran wrap and place in the fridge to rise overnight. My mom always let her rolls rise overnight and I used to think a few hours would do the trick but letting them have a long rise is absolutely key to a perfect fluffy dough.
The morning you are ready to bake preheat oven to 375. Bake cinnamon rolls for 20-24 minutes. Make your frosting while the rolls cool for 10-15 minutes. Frost to your hearts content.