Birthdays, cats and cinnamon buns

Ok, so a couple of months ago on a cold, wet winter day (I’m beginning to denote a trend here—is it always wet, cold and dreary this winter—YES!!) I celebrated another birthday.  Now I don’t mind the whole “another year older deal”, no problem with the aging process.  So it’s not that I dislike birthdays.  On the contrary I like birthdays—just other people’s birthdays.  I like to “do” and give to others.  It’s what I “do” and I do it with love and joy –for them.  But as far as me being on the receiving end—that’s hard.

I don’t know why that is really.  I think it must go back to the whole adoption issue…and of course I tend to blame everything on the adoption issue (that’s for another day).

For my birthday, as well as for the couple of days leading up to the big event, I get all flustered on the inside.  Kind of nervous, kind of depressed.  It’s not that I think the day is a national celebration—Heavens no…nor do I believe that I deserve some huge big deal made of it all. What I do believe and feel is that it is all a bit awkward.  Maybe I don’t feel as if I deserve any of the “hoopla.”

I find it a little crazy however that a large number of people, particularly this younger generation, think of birthdays as another word for National Holiday.  I had countless number of students who would actually lay out of school on their birthday as if all business and normal activity should cease in observance.  I even had colleagues (the younger ones again) who would get a substitute teacher to come in on their birthday or a family member’s birthday.  Why I wonder.  What’s the big deal?

Yes, by all means it is a day that should be acknowledged, as it is a day of celebration….. the celebration of you becoming you.  And I have been known to make a big fuss for my family and friends on their “special” day….but the world does need to come to a complete halt on a birthday—if that were the case, everyday would be a “holiday”.

Birthdays are nice diversions for the otherwise mundane day of work or classroom activity, giving everyone something to look forward to.  It allows for some fun and even silliness in both the workplace and the classroom.  Birthdays allow colleagues and/ or students an excuse to bring in a cake and ice cream.   I can remember when I was in elementary school when it was time for a classmate’s birthday.  Moms would bring in a cake, and those wonderful little individual ice cream cups—could life get any better than that at age 7?!  Celebrating and integrating the joy of birth and life into everyday life…now that’s what’s special!

But right around my special day, I get out of sorts.  And so this year was not different.

I wish to share with you what transpired on the eve of my special day—my birthday eve if you will.  I had a college roommate who extolled the virtues of birthday eve.  She said that on birthday eve, one could stay up or out until all hours doing as one pleased…I think this was her excuse to be able to come in at 3 in the morning on a school night, but I digress….

Here is a recount of my gloom and doom, looking back from my birthday to what was an interesting birthday eve………

“What a mess yesterday was!!”……. I had felt defeated by my okra pods—- Okra pods you ask??….the ones I was painting as Christmas ornaments– dried okra pod Santas, have you ever tried painting wee details on a dried okra pod??    Then there were my made from scratch, yeast and all, cinnamon buns (which as the Fates allowed turned out really good)…The disaster all began around 4 PM. I had decided to cut my losses after spending most of the day making cinnamon buns. That whole flour, water, yeast, knead, wait, knead some more kind of day.

The kitchen was covered in flour, dirty bowls, measuring cups, sugar, spices, etc.  I had left the buns covered on the counter to rise but they were looking exceedingly flat.  I was feeling pretty flat and defeated myself, as my “buns” were looking more like pancakes.  Spending all day on something just to have them not have the “magic” necessary to rise I saw as one more confirmation that baking was never going to be my thing.  It was a gloomy day and my mood was just as gloomy—and unfortunately now I needed to clean the d@*n kitchen so I could next start supper.  UGH!

What I really needed was to make some tea to settle my nerves. Unfortunately I glanced at Peaches (one of my most precious cats) making her way into the laundry room.  The tea must wait as I figured I’d need to go clean out the litter box when she finished, as I believe in keeping our world clean and fresh.

As I made my way in to do the dirty work  (scoop the poop as it is called) I noticed she had “missed” the box.  S*#t!!!!  Literally. Quite upset I clean up the mess and go back to clean the kitchen, by now almost salivating for my nerve calming tea, when all of a sudden Peaches goes flying past me literally dragging her butt on the ground like her a** is on fire. What the heck??!!

I had to chase her, in order to catch her, pick her up and for the love of God if she isn’t covered in poop……as is now my floor!!  AAGGHHH!!!  EEEooooo!!!!!!

I run to the bathroom holding her at arms length–mind you she’s certainly in no mood to be “handled” as her bottom is a mess and I’m now screaming and holding her like she’s a live time bomb.  I panic not knowing what the h#*l to do–had it not been raining I’d have taken her outside to the hose…. the tub, the tub will have to do!!

I’m holding her, screaming, turning on the water, shoving her under the running water, she’s not at all pleased, I’m screaming, and now searching for paper-towels, soap…anything to help get rid of all the poop—and I’m not talking just a tad as you should know she’s a freaking long hair…..AAGGHH!!

I’m holding her by the scruff of the neck waving her around like a rag doll trying to reach soap and kleenex, anything to help knowing I can’t dare let go as a wet, pooped covered cat would take off making more of a nasty disaster—-all the while as Percy (my other most precious baby cat) is sitting there on the side of the tub intently staring most likely praying “God please don’t let me be next”.  What is this act of bizarre baptism he must be wondering?

In and out of the steam of warm water she goes with me scrubbing her butt and tail—by now we are all soaked—she’s growling and panting— but oddly I know she knows it’s best because she could have bitten and scratched the living loving life out of me.  My 5 lb ball of fluff and fur comes out looking like a wet noodle—I go through 4 large bath towels trying to dry her enough to be able to finally let her go.

After the wash and rinse cycle of Peaches, I immediately go for the Clorox and scour the bathroom, disinfect the tub, launder towels, go all over the house looking to clean poop streaks on the floor, throw away rugs in the laundry room….  Needless to say the roast I was going to cook for supper had lost its window of opportunity.  Supper had to be a quick plan B—and now, knowing my time for nerve calming tea had passed because my husband was about to come home, I dissolve into tears…

I throw the d@#n cinnamon buns (which I must remind you I had labored over, working from scratch all day long) in the oven and hope for the best—

Blessed be—-after all of the disasters, the gloom, the nasty mess, they, my beautiful cinnamon buns, rise and bake to a luscious golden sparkly sugary hue of light brown…..there is a God in Heaven 🙂 (but I knew that fact already).

After all of that, I decided maybe my nerves could use something a little stronger than say, tea but I couldn’t even indulge in that area as thanks to the d@*n  “kill everything in your guts” pills I was having to take because of a previous virus which strictly forbid any alcohol…UGH!…Plan B, again, finally, time to have my tea…  and a plate of sugary glazed balls of yeasty goodness.  Yes, balls as my buns rose up quite nicely in the oven.  The magic of baking at work once again!

Was the birthday good?  Yes. Were the cinnamon buns wonderful? Yes!!  Did Peaches survive—yes and I chalk up such moments of bedlam to being a parent—be it human or animal, our “children” will always throw a kink in any day—and actually this particular kink helped to get me out of my birthday funk on this particular birthday eve!  Ode to a diversion!

Here is the recipe for the cinnamon buns taken from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

IMG_0835

Makes 8 to 12 large or 12 to 16 smaller cinnamon

–6 ½ tablespoons                 (3.25 ounces)              granulated sugar

–1-teaspoon                         (.25 ounces)                      salt

–5 ½ tablespoons                 (2.75 ounces)             shortening, unsalted butter, or

margarine at room temperature

    (I use butter of course)

–1 large egg                         (1.65 ounces)                  slightly beaten

–1 teaspoon or either           (.17 or .1 ounces)          lemon extract or grated lemon zest

(I used the extract)

–3 ½ cups                                (16 ounces)                   Unbleached bread flour or all-purpose

           (I used all-purpose)

–2 teaspoons                            (.22 ounces)                  instant yeast

–1 1/8 to 1 ¼                           (9 to 10 ounces)             whole milk or buttermilk at room temperature

or 3 tablespoons                  (1 ounce)                                powdered milk (DMS)

or 1 cup                                  (8 ounces)                                    water

    (I use buttermilk)

–½ cup                                     (4 ounces)                         cinnamon sugar (6½ tablespoons granulated

sugar plus 1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon)

 (I throw in raisins– soak in a little rum for a little kick)

Extras *White Fondant Glaze for Cinnamon Buns or caramel glaze for Sticky Buns

*Walnuts, pecans, or other nuts

*Raisins or other dried fruit, such as dried cranberries or dried cherries

1. Cream together the sugar, salt, and shortening. On medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and missing bowl and do it by hand)  (I just used my hand mixer)

2. Whip in the eggs and lemon extract until smooth.  Then add the flour, yeast, and milk.  Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball.  Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes. (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes  of which I did—knead), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky, but not sticky.  You may have to add a little four or water while mixing to achieve this texture.  The dough should pass the windowpane test (meaning when stretched it should be almost translucent) and register 77˚ to 81˚ F.  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment (or in layman terms let it rest and rise) at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

4. Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter, shaping and rolling out the dough into a rectangle by using a rolling pin.  Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin.  Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 13 inches wide by 12 inches long for large buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don’t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft the plump.  Next sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll.  With the seam side down cut the dough into 8 to 12 even pieces each about 1-¾ inches thick for large buns, or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 ¼ thick for for smaller buns

5.Proof (in layman’s term, let rise some more) at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly double in size.  You may also retard (aka stop the rising) the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 day pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof. (I just wouldn’t recommend this thought)

6 Preheat the oven to 350˚ F with the oven rack on the middle shelf for cinnamon buns

7.  Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes

8. Cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes then steak white fondant glaze across the tops while the buns rare warm but not too hot.  Remove the buns from the pans and place them on a cooling rack.  Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.

White fondant Glaze

Shift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and between 6 tablespoons to ½ cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved.  Ad the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.

*****If this all sounds too complicated, here is a link to the Joy of Baking’s recipe for Cinnamon buns, which includes a short video.  I did prefer however the Bread Baker’s Apprentice recipe as compared to the Joy of Baking but it’s whatever makes you happy

http://www.joyofbaking.com/breakfast/CinnamonRollsBuns.html

and I apologize for the odd format of the hard to read recipe as I couldn’t get my word doc to look right here in post form