Sticky Bun Trauma

Saturday, February 20, 2010

-Worth mastering.-

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.

-Bring it, sticky buns! I'll kick your maple glazed ass. (Or, uh, buns?)-

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.

-Not pictured: writhing black tendrils of nightmare fueled trauma.-

(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.)


  1. Oh Garrett! Those look wonderful. I was craving some fresh cinnamon rolls myself this morning, but much like your 12-year old self, I've been traumatized and backed down. I'm on my way to the store to buy the necessary ingredients now. Wish me luck!

  2. we have had joyful success with alton brown's overnight recipe - after a couple not-so-great first attempts. NO whole wheat flour at all - forget trying to make them healthy... and after we navigated the twenty different labels for yeast to find the kind AB wanted us to use... lol. but now they are a special occasion morning staple in our house :-) soooo yummy and so much better than the canned ones! somehow how unhealthy they are is a bit more justified when you make them yourself.

  3. Mmm, those look wonderful!
    I've never attempted cinnamon buns from scratch. I've always stuck with the kind you pop in the oven or the ones from Cinnzeo. But I bet homemade is the way to go, so you've inspired me to get baking!

  4. Well come on, Garrett, twelve year-olds can't do sh*t :) Kidding! For all I know you might have been some prodigy even then. Perhaps it was just the karma you needed to produce these coiled jewels of deliciousness today!

  5. Tender and soft and my favorite is the middle of a cinnamon rolls.

    I can smell them from here. Hi Garrett it's me Debby, formally "Olive, the Other Relish."

  6. Hilarious post! Now I want me a sticky bun... the problem with making a dozen at home is I then eat a dozen at home...

  7. Beautiful, mouthwatering photos. I haven't made sticky buns in a while and that is going to change soon. Mmmm! Also, I have had great success with Alton Browns as well, I add more butter, sugar and cinnamon then he calls for though. I love to be healthy, but sometimes you just gotta go for it!


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