Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Of Icicles and Icing
My friend Martha and I were watching some children being pulled in a horse-drawn sled on an off day from school, after we had received a reasonable 4 inches of white powdery stuff. This was on top of whatever was already on the ground, as it seem this is the first winter in a long time where snow is a constant, unmelting presence. Martha, who is in the grandmother phase of life, began to tell me how when she was a young school girl an Amish man would come to her school after a snow fall and bring the children home in his sleigh, much like the scene we watched. The sleigh even had bells. “You couldn’t do that today,” she said indignantly, “Someone would get sued or have to sign a paper or something!” Yes, point taken. And Martha’s school was torn down to build an outlet mall, so it couldn’t even be recreated under the best of circumstances.
During these bleak snow-scaped days I remind myself that in just five months I’ll be walking around the Kutztown festival with a homemade root beer in my hand while mumbling about the heat. Such thoughts offer me just the right amount of comfort in my chilly moments.
This past week I’ve been putting together my seed order while simultaneously reading canning recipes. The latter may seem woefully out of season until I tell you my strategy. The strategy is to work backwards on this one: Find out what I want/need to can this summer and then if at all possible, grow it. Of course, this is what I do to some extent every year, but there have also been times when I’ve been dazzled by pictures of plump, green, and even exotic varieties of vegetables only to grow them and have to figure out quickly how to use and store them. I love organizing, and I think planning is one of the things I like best about the whole garden/grow/preserve cycle. You get to devise and execute a whole three-phase project that will feed you for the coming year. You couldn’t learn these management skills in a business school! But of course there is room for creativity, too, and a little folly. It’s a lot like painting a picture where you never know what it will really look like until it’s complete.
However. I’ve discovered that many of the items we will really need to be preserving this summer are things we don’t grow (some fruits, for instance) so that means more space for experimenting and trying new things. How exciting!
I think a snowy winter day is a good day for cinnamon rolls. Wait, could there ever be a bad for these fresh-out-of-the-oven treats?
Cinnamon Rolls with a dollop of Cream Cheese Icing
Makes 2 pans of rolls
½ cup milk
1 ½ t. salt
½ cup sugar
¼ cup shortening (or butter)
1 packet yeast (2 ¼ tsp.)
½ cup warm water
2 t. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups all purpose flour
Heat the milk until it’s just at the boiling point, and then turn off the heat and add salt, sugar, and shortening. While the milk mixture cools to lukewarm, add the yeast to the ½ cup of warm water. We want the water to be between 90-110 degrees. Also add in 2 tsp. of sugar. Let the yeast mixture stand 10-15 minutes before adding it to the milk. Pour everything in a large mixing bowl and add the beaten eggs. While mixing on a low speed, add in 4 cups of flour. When flour is worked in, cover the bowl and let it rise until it doubles. Divide dough in two and use a rolling pin to roll each half out into a rectangle. At this point you can either brush with melted butter OR dot the dough with thin slices of butter. Either way works fine. Sprinkle generously with brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll up the rectangle from the long side, so you have what looks like a jelly roll. I use scissors to cut slices off and place in greased pie pans. Cover, and let rise again. When the rolls are just about touching each other in the pan, bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.
Cream cheese icing:
4 oz. (half a block) of cream cheese, softened
4 T butter
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream the cream cheese and butter in the mixer. Add vanilla and then sugar about ½ cup at a time until you reach the desired sweetness. Keep mixing until you achieve a creamy consistency. It doesn’t have to be perfect- this easy and forgiving icing will melt on top of your warm cinnamon buns to form the perfect topping.