Madwoman in the kitchen

If I ever started a blog about cooking, I would name it the same as this post. I like to cook and bake, and do both quite a lot. Unfortunately for my family, I’m very open to new things and willing to experiment with weird ingredients and techniques. To make matters more interesting, I almost never follow a recipe exactly.

As an over-educated liberal arts major with anarchistic tendencies, I see recipes as texts to be interpreted rather than prescriptions to be followed. This may be an admirable approach for cultural analysis, but it has serious drawbacks as a culinary philosophy. I do follow recommended measurements with baked goods, as the chemistry of baking allows a smaller margin of error than other forms of cooking, but most recipes serve me more as inspirational guidelines than as instructions.

Finding just such inspiration in a post by my dear friend Murphala at FlourWaterYeast&Salt, yesterday I made bread dough. From scratch. Yup. And I’m here to tell you it worked and was blissfully easy.

I cut the recipe she gave down to one-third, threw all the stuff in a bowl, covered it with a damp dish towel, and started making dinner. Things got busy after we finished eating – in addition to the usual chores and homework, we had to take down the tree (it was starting to get a little crispy) – and I forgot all about the dough until just before bed. I put a plate on top of the bowl and stuck it in the fridge.

Because of weather developments, we got an automated call from the school district at 5:45 informing us there would be a one hour delay. (I prefer the old method – just turn on the TV at my usual waking time – but I’m sure there are parents out there who really appreciated knowing about the delay at that hour.) I lay there trying to go back to sleep, and after a long while it occurred to me that I had both extra time and a bowl full of bread dough.

I rolled out of bed, turned on the oven to preheat, and pulled out my trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook. The cinnamon roll recipe gave me a general idea of how to proceed, and I was off. I dumped all the dough onto my pastry board and worked enough flour into it to keep it from sticking too badly. It was still pretty wet, so I flattened it by hand into a large rectangle rather than rolling it.

I slathered it with this too-soft buttery spread my sister left here at New Year’s, then sprinkled it with sugar and cinnamon. Then I rolled it up, starting from the long side, cut it into nine pieces, and placed them in a greased 9 x 9 pan.

I didn’t really have time to let it rise for 40 minutes and then bake for 30 minutes – I only had 60 extra minutes here, people! – so I reasoned that the dough, which was still quite cold, would rise okay in the oven. I turned the heat down from 375 F to 350 F until I saw it had doubled, at which point I turned it back up. It baked for a total of 45 minutes, until the tops split open and no longer looked wet inside.

For glaze, I took a little less than a cup of powdered sugar (all that was left in the box) and added enough sour cream to get the consistency I wanted. I spooned this over the hot rolls; it sizzled most delightfully when it touched the still-hot sides of the pan. By this point, the entire house smelled of warm cinnamon and the whole family was gathered in the kitchen, tongues lolling out of their mouths.

Here’s the post-mortem:

  • Because this was bread dough and not sweet roll dough, I should have used more cinnamon and a bit more sugar. Next time I will press it a little wider and thinner so the cinnamon is distributed more evenly when it’s rolled.
  • My theory about the cold dough rising in the oven seemed to work out okay. The dough was also very wet, which helped the end result not be too dry and bread-like. It also developed a slight tang overnight, but not so much that it conflicted with the cinnamon.
  • Next time I’ll only use half the dough from a batch this size. (That would also help with the cinnamon/sugar distribution.) I knew from the proportions in the cinnamon roll recipe that I should only use half, but when I grabbed the dough to divide it, the whole batch seemed to want to come out of the bowl at once. (It’s pretty sad when you can’t match wits with a glob of wet dough.)

So that’s what happened. You can see from the picture that I’m not a very good food photographer, but the result of this spontaneous experiment was edible and quite tasty, if not exactly what everyone had in mind.

I’ve been told I can try again, which is the greatest affirmation this madwoman can hope for.


9 responses to “Madwoman in the kitchen

  1. Yay!!! [insert dancing here] It looks like it worked great! I’m going try this. I think there are also some recipes in that book that involve sweetness, but i haven’t gotten that far yet. I think the dough is pretty versatile as is. I just baked the last two tiny loaves from my big batch last night to eat with french onion soup. Time to try some other varieties and cinnamon rolls sound so good right now!

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      I agree that this dough is very versatile; I can’t wait to experiment some more! (Keep my poor family in your prayers.) I was actually pondering how I could adapt this to make waffles…I’ll let you know if I figure that out.

  2. Oh, and I forgot to say– the biggest challenge I have given myself with discussing food on a blog and sharing recipes is exactly that–I’m a madwoman. I find it really hard to quantify things. I force myself. Because I know not everyone tastes and dollops and glugs and pinches. 🙂

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      And that’s why I won’t be hosting a cooking blog anytime soon. But I’m so awfully glad that you’re doing it. For the time being, I can live vicariously through you. 🙂

  3. The food blog is quickly becoming an outlet for other things… you’ll see. I can’t do food every day, I’ve found!

  4. And again. I need to get my comments all in one lump. Look what I found…try this one and let me know how it works out!

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      Thanks for the link! My little pea brain is working on how I can adapt the recipe…I’ve given the family fair warning that waffles are looming in their future.

  5. I came across your blog and found myself laughing out loud as I read your post. Let’s just say that your philosophy of cooking matches mine. I read your post aloud to my hubby who just shook his head as he can’t understand why I don’t just follow the prescribed recipe. Thanks for a fun post.

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one who cooks that way! I’ve been having loads of fun improvising with the bread recipe. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

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