My love languages are words of affirmation and baking. When my people are hurting, I turn on the oven. For sickness and ailments, it’s soup. Usually chicken & noodle or chicken & rice because I keep those ingredients on hand. Also, there’s a firm belief in Upper Sandusky that my MIL’s chicken noodle soup has magical healing properties because it’s the most delicious stuff ever. Because she is one of my most favorite people and I try to be more like her (because she’s a lot like Jesus), I’m trying to master her soup. Shhhhh. Don’t tell her.
When it’s a new baby, I go for Creamy Chicken Lasagna. It’s heaven in a casserole tin. It involves cream cheese. New mamas, no matter how many times around, need the richness and comfort of such a dinner, I simply believe it to be so. Also, my friend Kristen has cornered the market by perfecting White Wine Chicken, which is reason enough to have a baby. I kept having them while we lived in Findlay, but she didn’t deliver after Mr. M arrived, so we decided to call it quits on the baby making.
However, I lacked something in my arsenal for grief. I’ve not fixed many meals for those in the process of mourning. The fact that I haven’t needed to develop this piece of my baking love is probably a blessing, but I’m reaching an age where my peers are dealing with the loss of parents and other loved ones.
So this week when I heard that a death was eminent, and with my newly acquired ayurvedic framework available, I asked myself, “what opposes the bitterness of death?” What can I possibly make that will ease such a sting? I know, the short answer is – I can’t. So I went with the next best thing. Sugared carbs. And breakfast. Everyone wants to provide dinner, but we wake up just as hungry, right?
The cinnamon rolls weren’t an accidental decision. In my mind the entire day I was willing the family through my prayers, “though the sorrow may last for the night, the joy comes in the morning.” How I hoped for them to know and somehow live this truth. I thought, Is there a better way to meet the new day, one filled with hope for something better than what you just endured, than a sweet roll?
I turned to my Cinnamon Rolls, a recipe that has been in my family – my mother and grandmother, as well as my church family – for years. I grew up making Tea Rings every Christmas, cinnamon rolls left uncut but shaped into a wreath, typically decorated with pecans and maraschino cherries. However, I don’t think death is the time of tidings of merriment, so I sliced these babies thick in the pan by the dozen.
I finished with a cream cheese icing, thanks to my belief that cream cheese makes everything better – even when you’re dairy free. And butter. This was the first cream cheese icing recipe that didn’t make me feel like I was growing an instant cavity, so it was a win. Apparently there’s a mythical Maple Icing recipe that goes along with my Tea Ring, but it was not listed in the Wingfield Family Cookbook, so we’ll have to hunt for that later.
The day was a gift for me as much as I hope it was to the family. The long and cumbersome practice of waiting on the dough to rise (twice) and the rolling out and then rolling up provided me time to sit in these feelings in some way. I imagined baking my prayers into the rolls, as if layering my requests for God to grand comfort right in between the layers of butter, cinnamon and sugar. I rolled them up tightly and sent them away. It was the best I could offer.
So, here you go. May you also greet a season or a day with something sweet, filled with love. Or, even more so, may you bake it into your offerings for those around you.
Tea Ring Cinnamon Roll Recipe
(As made by the women of the Ridgeway United Methodist Church)
(This is a double batch. When I used to bake, this made 2 tea rings. I halved this yesterday and still got enough for at least 2 good sized tea rings. It is apparently dependent on how good you are with a rolling pin, and it seems my skills have progressed.)
(This dough also makes a spectacular sweet yeast roll. After the second rise, just make into small balls instead of the rolling process. Let rise and bake and get a classic dinner roll.)
(Boy, I love the parenthetical comments.)
In a glass measuring cup, dissolve 2 packages yeast into 1/4 cup hot (not boiling) water with 1 tsp. sugar. Let rise.
In your mixing bowl:
1/2 cup shortening (I think normal, healthy butter works just fine)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
Pour 2 cups boiling water over this mix and let stand until cool.
Beat in 2 eggs.
Stir in yeast mixture.
Add 4 cups flour and mix.
If using a kitchen aid mixer (and you should be), add 3-3 1/2 cups flour gradually with the dough hook. For old schoolers, knead in the flour. Here’s where it gets tricky – you have enough flour when it’s s not too sticky to handle. It should largely remain on the hook when you pull it out of the bowl. My grandma Cella would say it’s ready when “it just feels right.” Sorry about that description. It’s the best I can do. Here’s what the professionals say about this.
Put into a large, greased glass bowl and let rise until doubled. I let mine rise in my microwave (DON’T TURN IT ON!) because it keeps the warmth in and I don’t really use it for anything else. It took approximately 2 hours.
Punch down dough and divide into sections. Roll out a section into a thin rectangle on a floured surface – I give it a few kneads first with the flour. Melt approximately 1/4-1/2 cups butter and spread over the surface. Mix approximately 3/4 cups sugar with a tbsp. or so of cinnamon (these things are all about preference) and sprinkle evenly over the butter. Gently begin to roll up the long edge, jelly-roll style.
Cut into 1-2 inch cinnamon rolls and gently place into a greased pan with each roll on its side so that you can see the swirls. Give plenty of room in the pan, these will double in a second rise.
Cover and let rise, about 2 hours.
Bake at 350 for 12 minutes or until golden brown.
Save one for your husband, but give away the extras to your neighbors, otherwise they’re dangerous to have laying around your house.