Recipe Week: Cinnamon Rolls

The first time I did one of these, I talked about panic spirals; you start thinking about something anxiety-inducing, which leads to another thought, and another, and’s a never-ending rabbit hole, hard to escape and altogether unpleasant. This past week has been a source of quite a few panic spirals for me; between thesis deadlines, graduation, and recent developments, there’s a lot going on. But a spiral is not unpleasant by definition; in fact, there are a fair few whose presence can make your day a whole lot better. Get out of bed, put on an apron, and dust off your quarantine stash of flour: we’re making cinnamon rolls.

A good cinnamon roll requires three things: a solid foundation, an immense amount of patience, and, of course, basic human decency. So we’ll do this in three steps, shall we?

1. Pour 7g of yeast into a bowl with 320ml of warm milk. Add 50g of sugar and let rest for five minutes. In those five minutes, try and understand that taking someone’s lived experiences as a personal attack is a well-documented expression of white fragility. As you watch the mixture foam up, think about the various constructive ways to respond to a viewpoint that you disagree with: commenting in a public forum, doing research on the topic yourself, and maybe, just maybe, questioning your lifelong biases when you’re exposed to new perspectives. Whisk together 512g of flour and a teaspoon of salt in a large mixing bowl, making a well in the center, and pour in your yeast mixture, an egg, and 5 tablespoons of a neutral oil (like sunflower). A neutral oil, like a neutral stance, should only be used in recipes that call for it, because if you were to use a neutral oil in a situation where a stronger “flavor” would benefit, your final product is going to end up tasting pretty bland. Slowly beat together your liquids and incorporate the flour a little at a time. Be gentle; if you use too much force, you might work yourself into a tantrum, and no one wants that. Calm down, drink some water, and take a step back when you need to. You know. Like an adult. Once it comes together in a shaggy ball, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour, or overnight. I’d personally recommend using this time to walk yourself through the concept that your experiences are not universal, and that the opinions and perspectives of others have value regardless of if you agree with them; you can really taste the difference in the dough after you do this! Now, admire your solid foundation: you have dough!

2. Roll out your dough into a long rectangle; the longer it is, the more rolls you’re going to get out of it. It works the same way with arguments; the more thought and effort you put into making them, the easier it is for people to engage with you critically instead of dismissing you and your viewpoint altogether. (No one wants underdeveloped, poorly thought out, unevenly rolled dough.) Spread 6 tbsps of softened butter onto your rolled-out dough with a butter knife. Mix together 100g of light brown sugar and a tablespoon of cinnamon, sprinkling this over the buttered dough. I know a whole tablespoon of cinnamon seems like a lot, but think of it as the nuance in your argument; without it, you really have no substance. Make sure you get the sugar mixture all the way to the edges; you don’t want any part of what you’re making to be doughy and flavorless. Roll your dough lengthwise and slice it with a sharp knife; as in all things, you want to avoid dullness wherever possible. Arrange your rolls in a greased baking pan and let rise, covered, for another hour. This is where the patience comes in. You could technically bake them right away, but it’s important to let the yeast develop further, so that the rolls can gain definition and depth. If you don’t leave room for this, they might deflate in the heat of the moment oven, and end up looking pretty pathetic.

3. Bake your rolls at 205℃ for 25 minutes, or until lovely and golden brown on top and your whole kitchen smells like cinnamon. Take them out of the oven and immediately brush them with melted butter, and then let them sit for at least 20 minutes so the rolls can rest and finish baking. After they’ve cooled sufficiently, you can mix together 100g of cream cheese and however much powdered sugar you’d like, alongside a squeeze of lemon juice and some milk to thin it out--you now have icing! Remember, though, that the rolls need to cool first, otherwise you’re going to end up with a gooey mess that won’t really look appetizing to anyone. Lastly, don’t force-feed them to people, especially not when they’re hot enough to burn the roof of someone’s mouth; any texture or taste will be lost in the face of all that unpleasantness. In fact, consider keeping them all to yourself. Remember, you’re well within your rights to bake your cinnamon rolls, but don’t assume that everyone around you needs to eat them. And, though this should go without saying, if people around you are making cinnamon rolls, don’t blindly insist that yours are better or more flavorful, especially not without tasting or even looking at theirs first. That’s the basic human decency part. Congratulations. You’ve made cinnamon rolls!