I was twelve when I first made cinnamon rolls, yet the trauma continues to haunt me as I wake up from cinnamon swirled nightmares in a cold sweat. I was naive when I attempted that project at that age. Having little kitchen experience I jumped into a realm of baking that was totally unknown to me and the resulting fractures on my psyche, like hard cracks running the length of old driftwood where the slightest touch will cause the whole branch to buckle and collapse, left me brittle and scarred.
Now you have to understand that my baking experience up to this point was making chocolate chip cookies with my mom. This was going to be the creation of a risen dough on my own. I didn't even know what yeast was. Yet here I was expected to make it eat ("The weird powder can eat?"), grow ("Why is the milk becoming all foamy?"), and rise ("I think we covered rising and yeast in sex ed?").
Furthermore, this would also require me to use a rolling pin, create a frosting, develop a filling and roll said filling up into the dough. The whole concept was foreign to me and I realized quickly that I was way over my head. The whole process took me hours, not including rising and baking.
The results were tasty. Ugly, but tasty. Yet I was left tired, pissed off, and haggard. I would happily stick with Pillsbury cinnamon rolls from then on out for the coming years. Easy and I found joy in that surprising pop the tube made which made me jump every time.
I would never, ever bake homemade cinnamon rolls again.
Now, at 26, I finally found the brass to give it another go. I had been nervous all these years to repeat what was stuck in my memory as horrid baking trauma, as if someone had scooped out my eyes with a baking knife, or flour-boarded me. The thought of attempting it again sends me into relapse where I would curl into a ball and rock myself into a corner. "No more rolling. No more rolling!" Yet, one must meet such fears with steely eyes and a Silpat.
This time I knew what to expect. I knew how to encourage my yeast. I knew how to coerce and cajole basic breakfast dough to the shape I wanted. I had the tools and the know how. I was going to go and make not cinnamon rolls this time, but maple pecan rolls. Something memorable. Something different to set this moment apart from the last.
However, we hit some snags ingredients wise. There was a lot of substitution; salted butter, low fat milk, almond and walnuts for there were no pecans (pecans are expensive and don't grow on trees... well, for free... near me...). Anywhose, one way or another it all worked out, and after a stern lecture Roommate and BF know to replace my baking ingredients if they use them or face my total bitchiness and naggapocalypse.
I was able to bam these out in the background while I churned out pages of my thesis. Each step a small respite from grinding research and quote hunting, while I tried to locate an appropriate pan to bake them in - my cake pans had not survived the fire - in my head I was constructing an argument for how recipes are a type of rhetoric utilized to construct identity and blah, blah, blah. (My writing this post right now is, actually, a study break.)
So the sticky buns turned out great. Much easier to do this time. I had gotten over my fear of sticky buns and the results were warm, sweet, with maple sugar dripping down your chin in every nut studded bite. They made the continuing research easier though the library won't be please that some of the pages of Michel Foucault's The Order of Things now stick together.
Still, if they saw these buns *insert joke* they would understand, as would Foucault. Plus, I think my twelves year old self feels vindicated for his earlier trauma. Sometimes one simply must face their baking fears by rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty.
(The recipe came from Cindy Mushet's The Art & Soul of Baking, probably the best baking book I have ever picked up. I encourage you to grab a copy. You will not regret it.)